The Restaurant: Kua’Aina, 26 Foubert’s Place, London W1F 7PP
The Hungry Ones:
Gemma and Claire ordered: 1/3lb hamburgers with cheese and bacon, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, ginger beer, Sicilian lemonade.
It’s actually been rather a long time since I had a burger. I had planned to have a burger extravaganza during my Christmas trip to Southampton to settle up the 7Bone vs. Rockstone debate that I am currently embroiled in with my friend, however ate far too much festive food to even contemplate dinner out. This will have to wait for another time. On New Year’s eve, we were going to head over for a final BBQ at Will and Claire‘s before they leave their flat (and enormous BBQ behind), but rain and our hangovers prevented us from doing so. Going out for a burger, or indeed anything indulgent in January, is always approached with some kind of apprehension as almost everybody seems to be on some kind of diet, however it is probably the best time to go as there are fewer queues.
Kua’Aina was bumped near to the top of my list due to its close proximity to my office. I was also intrigued by the concept of a Hawaiian burger bar as there is little cuisine hailing from this little island state in London. A couple of years ago I heard rumours of a pop-up Hawaiian omelette bar in Penge, although I never got to see it for myself and suspect it may be an urban myth. The thought of pineapple and eggs together is almost too much to bear. Pineapple with savoury food is quite an explosive topic among foodies and many are very outspokenly in the ‘no’ camp. I have to admit that I am not entirely keen, although The Actress in East Dulwich does a pizza with black forest ham and chilli pineapple that I almost always order when I am there. I am also enormously partial to cheese and pineapple on sticks. Kua’Aina offers pineapple as a topping for their burgers, which I am not entirely convinced about, so steer well clear. Pineapple and beef?
Walking into Kua’Aina’s beach shack interior was an odd experience on such a miserably cold London day. Once seated in the bright basement with its bleached wood walls, you would almost forget that the monsoon was beginning outside and Carnaby Street was flooding. Foregoing the additional toppings of avocado and the pineapple, we opted for cheese and bacon burgers with shared sides of sweet potato fries and coleslaw. When the food came, the first thing I noticed was the entire slice of grilled onion sat on top of the patty. Cooked onion is actually a bit of a pain in the arse to bite through, so we wasted no time removing it and returning only a few rings to the top of the burger. I also did away with the enormous slice of beefsteak tomato, but this is only due to personal preference. The burger itself was quite nice – the bread, although not my favoured brioche, was fresh and the patty well seasoned. It was a little well-done for my taste, but was still succulent and far from being overcooked. I would have also liked some mustard and a gherkin. Speaking of gherkins, which is fast becoming my number one topic of conversation, I am quite fond of the large dill pickle on the side of the plate that some restaurants give you to crunch on during mouthfuls of burger. You could have added one at Kua’Aina for an extra £1.50, but if you choose not to or forget, what you get alongside your burger is a slice of carrot. A huge wedge of raw, peeled, bog-standard English carrot. Claire and I, almost in unison, picked them up from our plates uttering what the f*** is that? Seriously – A CARROT. Whilst we’re on the subject of side dishes, those were completely divided. The sweet potato fries were crispy, well-seasoned and very moreish but the coleslaw was a little bland. Despite these little snags, all in all it was a good lunch, it’s just too bad we had to make the modifications ourselves. A little heap of caramelised onions, a pickle on the side and a smear of mustard and it would be great.
And as Claire rightly said: “Lose the carrot.”