Pop quiz, hotshot. What's the best way to spend your birthday? Did you answer eating all the burgers? Then congratulations! You are correct.
Pub crawls are great, but you know what there aren't enough of? Food crawls. Matt and I decided that a burger crawl was something that needed to exist, so we made it happen. There are so many burgers that we want to try and not enough time to try them all, so dedicating a day to chomping through the best of the best seemed like an excellent idea.
Matt forbade me from getting involved in the planning stages, so although I knew we were having a burger crawl, I had no clue where we would be going. Actually though, he planned the day really well - I've put some top tips at the bottom if you want to organise your own. AND YOU SHOULD.
So, we'd decided we would try and fit in five burgers, but I was a little nervous about cramming all of those in throughout just one day. I mean, I didn't want to just be full and uncomfortable all day, and I didn't want to get up at the crack of dawn to get started super early. I really, really like sleep. But Matt had thought of all this, allowing for at least 3 hours between burgers and instead of us racing to the first place in the morning for a breakfast burger, we started out at home with this homemade masterpiece:
Burger 1 - The Breakfast Burger at home
We're looking at a sausagemeat patty, crispy bacon, mushroom, egg, hash brown, beans and a tomato on a brioche bun. It was the biggest burger of the day - just as well, really, as it was the only time all day that I was actually hungry. Super tasty though, especially the burger itself which was really juicy and flavoursome. Sometimes sausage meat in a breakfast bun can be a little, er, McDonalds, but Matt had actually shaped a burger out of sausage meat, and it really paid off. We weren't planning to eat again until at least 12, so this set us up for the day rather nicely.
Burger 2 (and 3, and 4) - Sliders at The Exmouth Arms
Presents opened and showers taken, we hopped on the train into London and then walked to our first stop - the Exmouth Arms, at Exmouth Market. Matt had discovered their sliders menu and thought it would be a great bet if we were not very hungry, as we could potentially share a plate, or only have one each. However, we got there and were both rather peckish and enamoured by the selection on offer... so we went for the whole three sliders each. No regrets!
I think three sliders probably equals one burger, so it's up to you if you count these as three or one (I vote three). I had the Jerk Chicken (with stewed plums and plantain), the Blue Brie (with flat mushroom and sage melt) and the Lamb and Feta Patty (with cilantro mayo), and Matt had the Jerk Chicken, the Cajun Catfish (with pickled cucumber and herb mayo) and the Beetroot Bhaji (with goats curd and chilli jam). We opted for more unusual options here, because we knew traditional burgers would come up again later in the day, although I'd quite like to go back and try their cheeseburger and pulled pork. And the lamb again, because that was fantastic. All the options here were SO good - I loved that they hadn't just gone for your usual selection and I really loved getting to try lots of different flavours.
After our sliders, we headed over to Kensington to go to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum. If you haven't been yet, book a ticket pronto - it's a breathtaking selection of photographs. I went last year too, and will definitely be going next year. It's on until the 30th August, so hurry!
Burger 5 - The Ari Gold at Patty & Bun
A few more hours on our feet had set us up nicely for stop number 3, so we headed over to Patty & Bun at James Street for the only burger on the list that we'd tried before. We had it at a blog event last year, and while it was really tasty, it left us both wanting more. I'm really glad he included it - as much as it was fun to go to places we'd never tried, I think that when it comes to a classic burger, Patty & Bun beats them all hands down. They have a small but perfectly formed menu, and do their burgers medium/rare so they're pink inside and ultra juicy - I needed at least four napkins! And it's got so much flavour. So often I find burgers can be topped with all sorts of incredible things but the meat itself is bland - there was none of that here. I think Patty & Bun might be my favourite burger in London. Yeah. I said it.
It was about 4pm at this point, and we were feeling surprisingly good. The exhibition had left us both a little sleepy, but a coke and a burger thoroughly revived us. Most burgers without sides aren't ridiculously big, and so at this point I was feeling satisfied, but not horribly full. Ideal for a burger crawl, basically.
We pottered over to Covent Garden for a quick drink and potentially an ice cream - I was hoping to go to the Magnum Pleasure Store but the queue was huge. Ha, I've just realised how dodgy that sounds. Magnum ice creams, not any other kind of Magnums. You get to add loads of toppings and I want in on that action.
Burger 6 - A Sweet Little Lamb Burger, Pulled at The Horse & Groom
Next stop was Shoreditch. Matt had done a search of the best alternative burgers in London, and one of the contenders was the Lamb Raan Bun at the Shoreditch branch of Dishoom which he thought would be a good choice, as I'm always raving about how good Dishoom is (except I still haven't taken Matt. Sorry Matt). Sadly our plans were scuppered when the queue was over an hour long - it was about 6.30 by this point and a lot of people had just finished work. But we'd walked past Pulled, a pop-up at the Horse & Groom pub with a menu of pulled meat and other tasty things, and decided to go there instead.
We decided to share the pulled lamb burger, which was really tasty - an incredible combo of sweet and salty. I loved the red cabbage and mint slaw, and the pomegranate seeds! We were tempted to order an ice cream sandwich instead, which is, after all, the burger of the dessert world. But we didn't. One for the sequel! We chilled out with a couple more drinks before walking the mile or so back to Monument.
Burger 7 - RHUBARB’S Handmade Beef Burger, Darwin's Brasserie at Sky Garden
Our final stop was the pinnacle of burgers - literally. Matt wanted to take us for the highest burger in London, so he went through a list of the highest restaurants in London. Duck & Waffle don't do burgers, and neither do any of the restaurants in The Shard... so Sky Garden at Fenchurch Street won out. Darwin's Brasserie is on the 36th floor and has incredible views over the city. We got there just as it got dark, I changed out of my scruffy Converse into some pretty flats, and so were greeted with all of the lights sparkling below us. My photos are pretty terrible because they include the reflections of the windows, so you're just going to have to go and see for yourself.
You can get to the Sky Garden for free, but you have to book in advance, however if you book a table at one of the restaurants you get entry and all the views as a bonus anyway. Darwin's Brasserie is a little expensive, but not horrifyingly so - as with most of these places, it depends what you have. The burger was a two-patty affair, and came with chunky chips. The experience was out of this world - it's such an incredible place, and I'd go back in a second to take it all in again - but the food didn't (probably couldn't) live up to it. The chips were a little tough, as if they'd been kept warm, and the burger was rather bland. I'm also just not a big two-patty fan. I'd rather have one awesome patty, every time. But to be honest, by this point, we were both exhausted and (unsurprisingly) not all that hungry, so my review of the burger may not be entirely fair as a burger that size was rather intimidating. I finished most of mine, discarding the bun and taking to it with a knife and fork, and I think Matt did about half of his.
The service was amazing though, and as I was wearing a birthday badge, at the end of the meal the waitress came over with a little cake and Happy Birthday plate for me, completely unprompted, which I thought was lovely (good cake, too!). I would definitely go back as there were a few items I'd like to try on the menu, but I think I'd sample the pasta instead next time. It wasn't the cheapest place in the world, but considering the amazing location, I didn't think it was that bad. Our burgers were £16.50 each, including chips, and they were huge - not horrifying, is it?
It's probably pretty obvious that we had an amazing day. Matt went to loads of trouble organising it all and did an amazing job. I felt absolutely spoiled rotten, and am fretting a little now about matching this for his birthday in September (I think I peaked last year). We finished up at about 11.15pm, and were absolutely exhausted, but were both surprised by not feeling AS terrible as we thought we might do. That said, all I wanted to eat the next day was salad! But it wasn't actually the gluttonous day I expected. Sure, we probably consumed five million calories each, but it didn't FEEL that way. Totally achievable.
If you're planning your own burger tour, firstly ABSOLUTELY DO IT. Secondly, I have some tips!
1. This isn't an eating competition, it's a chance to sample some great food. So don't put too much pressure on yourself to finish if you're full, and sharing burgers is totally allowed.
2. Discard the sides. They'll slow you down! Not having sides meant that I stayed at a steady level of "Yeah, I could eat..." all day, rather than feeling uncomfortably full.
3. Start early, finish late. That's the best way to cram two extra meals into the day.
4. Walk as much as possible. My Fitbit clocked up nearly 10 miles by the end of the day, which helped create a healthy appetite. Also made sure we were exhausted, though...
5. Do it on a Friday, or book the next morning off. I wish I'd done that. So. Tired.
6. Incorporate as much variety as possible. If you have five standard cheeseburgers in a row, you'll get bored easily. I had four different meats and lots of different textures. It meant I never got sick of burgers. I could totally eat another one right now. We may have bent the rules slightly on what's defined as a burger (we figured meat-in-a-bun counts) but who cares, it was tasty.
7. Wear comfy shoes (I went for Converse, although I did switch to a pretty pair of flats for our last stop) and stretchy clothing. Trust me on this.
8. Boozin' is absolutely fine, but beware what you drink. Things like beer or lots of fizzy drinks will fill you up faster.
9. Plan your stops beforehand so you have a rough schedule, and space the burgers out evenly. We worked to a system of a burger about every 3 hours, and it pretty much worked.
10. Wear a birthday badge, and maybe you'll get free dessert!
So where should we go for #SBVbirthdayburgercrawl: the sequel?