As a food lover, I’m well aware of the many ‘best burger’ lists available on the web. But, almost without exception, the burgers in question are all beef! Many will cry at this point, “but it’s only a proper burger if it’s beef!” Well, I love burgers but I prefer white meat to red. If the choice is there I’ll usually plump for the chicken ‘burger’ (or sandwich) over the beef.
I decided to start making this list because a) I have sampled many of London’s burgers and want to try many more; and b) I thought it may be beneficial for those people, like me, who prefer chicken burgers to beef. This list will be updated as and when I try more burgers. Needless to say, suggestions and other opinions are welcome!
Gilded Chickadee, Stax Diner, £10.95
Burger: The basic ‘Chickadee’ burger — buttermilk-marinated fried chicken breast on Balthazar brioche with lettuce, tomato and pickles — sounded great. But upgrading to The Gilded Chickadee for additional mild cheddar, apple poppyseed coleslaw and honey mustard aioli took it to another level! The chicken breast was perfectly cooked: soft, white and juicy from thin to thick edge. Its buttermilk batter had a gorgeous taste of its own, though possibly could have been even better if crisper. Further decadence comes from the slice of creamy cheddar cheese draped over the fillet, and welcome freshness from the thick and juicy tomato underneath. The bright purple slaw looks fantastic and tastes it too. While only mildly tangy, the slaw’s poppy seeds give it a lovely flavour and add another facet to its satisfyingly crunchy texture. This blends beautifully with the subtly sweet honey-mustard aioli. And finally we come to the Balthazar brioche – a star in its own right. Glossy, soft, buttery and just sufficient for holding its diverse contents til the end. 9/10
Sides: Boardwalk fries, £2.95. A good-sized portion, enough for two non-greedy people to share and thus pretty good value. The name is misleading: they’re too fat to be fries, seem too soft to be ‘triple cooked’ as the menu states and actually remind me of chip-shop chips, in both appearance and taste (a good thing!). Skin-on and short-cut, our portion was perfectly seasoned and so tasty alone that ketchup didn’t even cross my mind.
Hot Chic, Patty & Bun, £8.50
Burger: A large and beautiful burger in a shiny brioche bun, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this. The star is a marinated buttermilk-fried chicken breast fillet, so generously sized that it dwarfed the bun. The chicken’s deep-fried coating is thick, crispy and deliciously buttery in flavour, most obvious in the crunchy, chicken-free nobbles at its edges. The chicken it contains is soft, white and juicy, providing a luscious contrast. Further texture contrast comes from the pile of crunchy pickled cucumber slices atop the fillet, as well as the tangy slaw underneath; the sourness of which complements the sweetness of the chicken and bun beautifully. The mayonnaise is garlic aioli, creamy and rich, of which there is just enough. The brioche bun is soft and thin: strong enough to hold everything together til the end, yet barely noticeable in each bite (as I believe buns should be). All in all a gorgeous burger, that replaces the simplistic indulgence of MEATliquor’s Dirty Chicken Burger with a delightful variation of tastes and textures. 9/10
Sides: Chips with rosemary salt, £2.50. Skin-on, rustic fries, some soft and some crunchy. Rosemary salt makes a delicious and very moreish seasoning. You get a big pot of them too, big enough to share between two people, as well as small pots of mayonnaise and ketchup — a thoughtful touch. The pot of chips and the sauces are well sealed with lids, so there’s no chance of spilling them in your takeaway bag!
Dirty Chicken Burger, MEATliquor and MEATmarket, £7.50
Burger: A taste experience that has proven unbeatable for deep-fried decadence. The chicken is beautifully white and tender, but more importantly it is battered and fried to create a thick, crunchy and very tasty coating. Oh, and it’s also HUGE. The chunky chicken fillet spills out of the bun’s sides, making it seem much bigger than MEATliquor’s celebrated but modestly sized beef burgers. The few accompaniments — shredded lettuce, sliced red onion and a luxuriously creamy mayo — are simple and subtle accompaniments to the real star of the burger, the ‘boulder’ of fried chicken. The white bread bun is nothing special but makes a good, soft container for the fillings. My second sampling of this burger in MEATmarket was not as good as the first — the chicken fillet seemed to have spent a little too long in the fryer, making its coating brown rather than golden, and it didn’t have enough lettuce or mayonnaise. Nevertheless, on both occasions I found the burger immensely enjoyable but too large to finish. First tasting at MEATliquor: 9/10; Second tasting at MEATmarket: 8/10
Sides: Deep-fried pickles with blue cheese dip, £3.50 (pictured). Incredibly fattening, incredibly delicious. The sourness of the melting pickle slices contrasted against the sweet crispy batter and the piquant, creamy blue cheese sauce adds up to a party in your mouth. Worth every single calorie.
Chicken Honey-Moutarde, Hache, £8.95
Burger: This burger arrived open, which served to show off its tempting contents: a big butterflied and grilled chicken breast, sweet cure bacon, melted mature Cheddar cheese, a huge dollop of honey-mustard mayo and red onion, tomato and rocket underneath. The chicken fillet was nicely cooked, although thin and awkwardly shaped. However, the chicken was overshadowed by the burger’s other contents, which created a good mixture of textures and flavours. The sweet cure bacon was thick, chewy and flavoursome, complementing the soft and buttery brioche bun. The honey-mustard mayonnaise was the best part — sweet, tasty, creamy and so generous as to drip out, but not so much as to overwhelm the other ingredients. These rich flavours were freshened up by the fresh and distinct salad of juicy tomato, crisp red onion and peppery rocket. Although the burger was messy to eat and fell apart a bit, its lovely presentation at the start and the different flavours in every bite made it feel more ‘posh’ than your average burger. 8/10
Sides: Sweet potato frites, £3.95, and beer-battered onion rings, £3.50. The sweet potato fries were nice but arrived only luke-warm and lacked seasoning. The onion rings were huge and coated in a thick, crispy and greasy batter — sinfully delicious!
Buttermilk Fried Chicken Bap, £6 (£8 with fries), Spit & Roast
Burger: The chicken is undoubtedly the star of this burger, as there isn’t much more to it. But what a star it is! Unusually for a chicken burger, Spit & Roast uses several chunks of brown meat rather than one breast fillet. This means the chicken has a delightfully springy and succulent texture, full of juice and flavour. The chunks marinated in buttermilk and deep-fried with the skin on (as far as I could tell) and this lends extra stiff crispness to the crunchy coating, which had a slightly southern-fried flavour. The chicken is slathered in a lip-tingling hot sauce, cooled down by a creamy coleslaw. The bun is nothing fancy, but its soft white pillowyness felt perfect against the crunchy chicken. 7.5/10
Sides: Fries, £2 extra. Thin, anemic and too salty, these were a big disappointment. Don’t bother.
Chicken, Honest Burgers, £8.50 (chips included)
Burger: The contents are simple: two pieces of grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and mustard mayonnaise in a brioche bun. For me personally, they were too simple. I prefer to have stronger and more varied flavours — something sour, sweet or spicy for example — as well as a bit of crunch for extra texture. That said, these simple elements were done well. The grilled chicken pieces, though lacking the extra flavour and juiciness achievable with deep-fried chicken, were large, white and tender, with a lovely honey-like glaze on them. The mustard mayo was creamy and tasty, and there was a lot of it too — so much that it was dripping and running down my fingers from the start. The large slice of tomato added very welcome juiciness and freshness, however the slither of lettuce was barely noticeable. The brioche bun was soft, thick and fluffy, but thankfully not too bready; it soaked up the mayo and chicken juices nicely. Overall, a soft-textured and fresh-tasting burger that’s nice if you just want something simple and relatively healthy. 7/10
Sides: The rosemary salted chips come free with any burger, you get loads of them and better still, they’re delicious! These are rustic, skin-on fries with a largely soft texture and a generous helping of rosemary-flavoured salt, making them quite addictive. Even so, the portion is so large that I couldn’t finish them! Heinz Ketchup and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise are provided in bottles on every table if you’re eating in.
Chicken Cheese Burger, Burger & Shake, £7.50
Burger: This seemed to me like a higher-quality McDonalds chicken cheese burger. The deep-fried chicken breast was soft and white but not especially big, and the light batter was disappointing in being too thin to be crispy. The bun was a standard toasted brioche, inobtrusive with a nice flavour, and the American cheese tasty. Unfortunately, these flavours were rather overwhelmed by the thick mayonnaise, of which there was just too much. The salad, also, was disappointing: the shredded lettuce fell out too easily and the single slice of tomato was too thin to be noticeable. This added up to the burger being very uniform in both texture and flavour. Like a fast-food burger, it was tasty but in an uninteresting way. 6/10
Sides: Large fries, £2.95, and an Ovaltini alcoholic milkshake, £6.50. Although fast-food-like in their long and thin appearance, these thin fries were pleasingly stiff and crispy, and not too salty or greasy. The Ovaltini milkshake, containing tequila, coconut, rum and malted caramel, was the best part of the meal! The alcohol is unnoticeable, leaving only an irresistible combination of caramel and coconut flavours, and its texture is luxuriously thick. It was fun to sip it out of a large martini glass, but in truth I would have preferred a larger serving!
The DCB, The Diner (Soho branch), £9
Burger: I was persuaded to order this by its gorgeous-sounding contents on the menu — buttermilk fried chicken breast, bacon, blue cheese, coleslaw and pickles — but I was disappointed. Mostly by the chicken, on account of it having a uniformly dry and chewy texture with very little of the buttermilk flavour and crispy coating I was expecting. Completely unlike the crunchy coating/soft chicken contrast achieved in MeatLiquor’s Dirty Chicken Burger. However, the DCB is somewhat saved by the chicken’s accompaniments. The pickles, purple slaw and blue cheese sauce (though not enough of it!) give the burger a lovely tangy sourness that works really well with the rich, greasy bacon (too fatty) and sweet brioche bun (too thick and bready). A tasty burger overall, but one that doesn’t live up to expectations. 5/10
Sides: Sweet potato fries, £3.50, hanger fries, £3.50, and macaroni cheese, £3.60. The sweet potato fries, which I thought I’d enjoy most, arrived only lukewarm, soft and quite bland due to having no seasoning or herbs. However, the hanger fries — shoestring potato fries slathered in burger sauce, cheese and smoked white onions — were addictively delicious. The similarly calorific mac & cheese was also very well done: very cheesy and saucy, with a crispy golden crust. Possibly the best I’ve had in a restaurant — definitely better than those I’ve had at Bodean’s, The Big Easy and Porky’s. Conclusion? Choose a side that’s saucy and/or cheesy.
Chic-Italia, Burger Craft, £8.50 for full size
Burger: As the name suggests, this is an Italian-themed chicken burger so the chicken is accompanied by Italian-style ingredients: buffalo mozzarella, parma ham, basil paste and blushed tomato mayo. Though lovely ingredients in themselves, I don’t think they all came through when eating the burger. The two crumbed chicken pieces, though quite small and thin, were nicely done — crisp and golden on the outside, soft and white on the inside. The mozzarella was pleasantly stringy and a great match for the chicken. The basil paste imbued each bite with a strong pesto flavour that, although nice in itself, rather overwhelmed the more delicate flavours of the burger’s other contents. The parma ham tucked underneath the chicken, for example, was unfortunately barely noticeable. Another drawback was that my particular burger didn’t seem to have much of the mayo promised, leaving it rather dry. However, as I only tried this burger in mini ‘slider’ size, I still endeavour to try the full size to see if that changes my opinion at all. 6/10
Chicken, Byron, £8.95
Burger: From the ingredients list — chargrilled chicken breast, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and tomato mayonnaise — you can tell Byron’s chicken burger is going to taste ‘healthier’ than your average burger. But I wasn’t prepared for just how disappointing it would be. The grilled chicken is flat and dry; and despite what the herby marinade would suggest, quite bland too. The spinach serves little purpose other than tasteless padding, and the red onion isn’t much better. The large slice of tomato is probably the best part, providing vital juiciness to make up for the nicely flavoured, but too-sparse tomato mayonnaise. The bun has a nice flavour but is too thick and bready. This burger is not unpleasant but, considering it is almost the most expensive on this list and comes with only a slice of pickle, it’s really not worth the money. 4/10
Sides: Courgette fries, £3.25. These make a delicious change to chips. Fried in a light batter, they are crisp on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside. An added bonus is that their high moisture content keeps them hot for ages!
Other: I wouldn’t usually mention it, but in interests of fairness I thought I should point out that Byron’s beef burgers seem much better than their chicken burger; and their white chocolate cheesecake with blueberries is gorgeous!
Big Daddy Burger, KFC, <£5
Burger: I deliberated over adding this, because generally I think of mass-produced burgers from global fast-food chains as incomparable to hand-crafted burgers from independent vendors. However, I found this particular burger to be exceptionally good for one of the former category. For a start, it is indeed big and satisfying. Being KFC rather than McDonalds, the chicken is good quality: a whole breast fillet of thick, white, juicy chicken fried in KFC’s signature tasty coating. The standard bacon and American cheese are present and correct, as well as a large hash brown that adds some extra stodge and flavour. The Daddies Ketchup and KFC’s signature mayonnaise are also worth a mention, for being plentiful and tastier than the standard ketchup and mayo in fast-food burgers. As with all fast-food burgers, the lettuce and tomato are wilting and insignificant, the sesame seed bun unremarkable but sufficient. The overall effect is that of a large, saucy and delicious mass, albeit one where no particular element stands out for either taste or texture. 7/10
Sides: KFC chips used to be thicker and less salted than those in McDonalds, which made them seem nicer and healthier. I don’t know when the change occurred, but they are now just as thin, floppy and dispiriting as McDonald’s fries. A very bad decision on KFC’s part. Boooo.
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2014. All rights reserved.