The Restaurant: MEATLiquor, 74 Welbeck Street, London W1G 0BA.
The Hungry Ones:
Gemma ordered: The Dead Hippie, Deep Fried Pickles, Diet Coke
Katie ordered: Bacon Cheeseburger, Fries, Coke
It was never going to be a surprise that we would have an excellent burger at MEATLiquor, after all I have enjoyed these burgers many times before. In the old days from the Meatwagon, then at the excellent pop-up #meateasy, handily just around the corner from Goldsmiths College, where I was studying at them time. The following summer they sold their burgers from The Rye pub in Peckham, a short walk from my flat, before setting up in a more permanent home, MEATLiquor at the back of Oxford Street, close to my office. It is almost as though they pop up wherever I go. They have since set up restaurants in various other locations, which I have yet to try out, with the exception of the wonderful MEATMission in Hoxton where you can actually book a table. My inner planning-fiend rejoiced.
There are two reasons that I go back to MEATLiquor time and time again: I love the food and I love the atmosphere. ‘Dive bars’ are two-a-penny these days, and the phrase is almost as cringeworthy as when restaurants describe their food as ‘dirty’. Travelling around the US on a tour bus, I visited many actual dive bars with dirty food and, without being too crass, regretted it for days later. The fantasy, on which the inspiration for these venues is based, is far removed from the grim reality. MEATLiquor, however, seems to set itself apart from this. The interior is more Berlin squat than mid-Western roadhouse, and it does not rely upon lazy cliches to name its food, there is no ‘filthy’ sauce or innuendo-named cocktails, things just are what they are. Many others have copied elements from MEATLiquor (food served on trays, cocktails in jam jars, industrial kitchen rolls on the table instead of napkins) that are now almost de rigeur in all gourmet fast-food joints, but they still manage here not to look trite. I often take visitors from out of town here as I know that, no matter where they are from, they will not have anywhere like this: a dark and loud restaurant, open until 2am with outrageously strong drinks and the best burgers anywhere.
This is a hotly debated topic, but I do think that MEATLiquor has the best burgers in town. The patties have the exquisite combination of being beautifully rare in the middle and almost burnt around the edges, and are the most flavoursome patties I have ever tried. My favourite burger, the Dead Hippie, is essentially a double cheeseburger with two patties, a lot of American cheese, a ‘special’ sauce that loosely resembles a Big Mac sauce and, thank the Lord, pickles. LOTS OF PICKLES. It is impossible to eat one without using up several sheets of the kitchen roll, but somehow the burger doesn’t fall apart. You can put a half-eaten burger back on its tray and tuck into your sides without the risk of its components spilling out everywhere. Speaking of sides: I also almost always order the deep fried pickles with blue cheese dip and a side of chilli cheese fries. Both are excellent. In fact, there is little to fault about this place. The only real bugger is that if you turn up any later than 7pm you will probably have to queue, at the weekends, potentially for quite some time.