Mr Porter Eats
The Best Burgers In The World
From the West Coast of the US to New Zealand’s North Island, seven hamburgers that are flipping great
Truffled Mayonnaise And Perfect Egg Burger. Photograph courtesy of Burger Table
I ate my first burger when I was seven. I remember it so clearly. My mother took me to the local Wimpy in London; I can still taste that first bite of a quarter pounder with cheese. It was the moment a lifelong passion for the hamburger was born, which culminated in a book, The World Is Your Burger, and the opening of a burger restaurant in Sydney called Bite Me Burger in 2007.
Since then, while working in conceptual design for brands such as Walt Disney, LVMH, Pepsi and various hotel groups, it’s been a mission of mine to root out the world’s best burgers, and it’s been my privilege to travel the globe to find them.
The idea for the book first came to me when I was eating a burger, naturally. I started thinking about the variety, the history, the huge number of people to whom the burger means so much: childhood, friends, family. It’s something around which to come together, something to enjoy.
It has been a genuine labour of love. Here are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Umami Burger, Los Angeles
Photograph courtesy of Umami Burger
Self-taught chef and wine expert Mr Adam Fleischman opened Umami Burger, a small restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, in 2009. He was intrigued by the fifth flavour, umami, a pleasant savoury taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, which occurs naturally in food such as beef, certain mushrooms and parmesan cheese, while travelling around Europe.
Mr Fleischman figured that if he could work out how to build the most umami burger ever, he might be on to a winner. He developed a sauce – based on East Asian hoisin, using kombu and soy sauces – and also worked out that a dust made from dehydrated mushrooms would amp up the umami, too. He added roasted tomato, shiitake mushrooms, onions sautéed in star anise, a homemade parmesan frico (a sort of crispy wafer), and a Portuguese bun that contained a little milk. This was the first Umami Burger burger.
Mr Fleischman’s approach was based in asking not what the burger was, but what it could be, moving it away from traditional approaches of cooking. And it worked. By 2010, the venture had grown into four venues. By 2016, there were more than 20 across the US.
Bleecker Burger, London
Photograph courtesy of Bleecker Burger
Bleecker Black Burger
Bleecker Burger was set up by corporate lawyer Ms Zan Kaufman, who named the place after her favourite street in Manhattan. While working in New York City, she tasted the best burger she had ever eaten, at East Village burger joint Zaitzeff. She was so impressed with the taste that she started moonlighting there in her spare time. Kaufman knew then and there what she was going to do. Leaving her previous career behind, she moved to London, bought an old van, and converted it into a food truck.
Bleecker Burger – which has twice been voted best burger in London by Time Out London – serves a variety of burgers including the Blue Burger, Bacon Double Cheeseburger and the Bleecker Black. Ms Kaufman says, “There is zero compromise with our ingredients. Burgers are all about the beef. We use rare-breed, pasture-fed beef from small farms in the UK. It comes to us from the geniuses at The Butchery in Bermondsey, where it’s dry-aged for about 40 to 50 days, giving it an intense, beefy flavour. The finishing touches: a sesame seed bun, scratch burger sauce, and good old American cheese.” In addition to the food truck there are locations in Victoria, Old Spitalfields Market and Canary Wharf.
Gordon Ramsay Burger at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
Photograph courtesy of Gordon Ramsay
Mr Gordon Ramsay’s third restaurant in Vegas is monumentally popular – and little wonder when you read the menu. At the gourmet end, you find items such as The Hog Burger, Hell’s Kitchen Burger, American Burger and Truffle Burger. These are the favourites in this 200-seat restaurant. What makes them stand out? Patties are cooked over an open flame using prime cuts of meat made of beef short ribs and brisket, then basted in Devonshire butter. Perhaps only a talent like Mr Ramsay could have found a way to add duck breast, English cheddar and a fried egg to a burger.
Executive chef Ms Christina Wilson says, “We’re orchestrating 1,400 covers a day here. The Strip is so competitive, and Vegas is probably unlike any other place on the planet with so many decorated chefs. I think there were 60 openings on the Strip in the past year. But we are still doing some of the highest numbers.” In September 2016, Gordon Ramsay Burger sold its two-millionth burger.
Burger Table, São Paulo
Photograph courtesy of Burger Table
Truffled Mayonnaise And Perfect Egg Burger
For years, chef Mr Manuel Coelho tried numerous blends, production processes and cooking methods to discover the perfect burger: the ideal balance, juicy and soft and grilled on charcoal. Initially, he decided to share his recipe with other burger lovers in a private room in his Italian restaurant – it had one big common table with only 26 seats. His guests loved it and so the idea for Burger Table was born in 2015.
His philosophy was to keep it simple: only one blend, only beef, and guests can choose a range of toppings (including poached egg and truffle) at a fixed price. All ingredients are the best available and everything from bread to ketchup is prepared in house, assuring the unique taste and quality. The bread is a brioche-based recipe, with or without almonds on top.
The Butchers Club Burger, Hong Kong
Photograph courtesy of The Butchers Club
The Butchers Club Burger
The Butchers Club Burger is based in Tin Wan, Hong Kong, and specialises in dry-aged beef. Its focus is on “high-quality ingredients, prepared and presented simply”, as executive chef Mr Aarik Persaud explains. “Our entire company is built around the practice of dry-aging beef,” he says. “We treat our ingredients with the utmost respect and like to do as little as possible to them.” The signature item is a dry-aged Angus beef burger with maple-glazed bacon, aged cheddar and caramelised onion burger sauce, but the Double Happiness is also huge, and hugely popular: it’s a double patty, with double cheese and double bacon, all encased in two grilled cheese sandwiches.
Mr Persaud, from Canada originally, explains that “hamburgers are something you grow up eating in North America”, but that The Butchers Club’s development of burgers was more of a necessity: “We began to import our own beef for our steakhouses and were forced to buy the whole animal. We used the primary cuts for these restaurants, but needed something to do with all of the lovely secondary cuts such as chuck, rump and brisket. Opening a burger place seemed only natural.”
As Persaud wisely says, the burger is “one of the simplest and most basic meals, yet one of the most comforting”.
Burger Liquor, Wellington
Photograph courtesy of Burger Liquor
Burger Liquor came about, says general manager Mr Dan Haydock, when “a group of well-established Wellington restaurateurs had an opportunity to bring to fruition a concept that was simple, fun and different from what they had succeeded in before”. That idea was top-range burgers and booze, delivered fast and with enjoyment.
One of the most popular is the Smokey, which features the same patty and cheddar, but augmented with lean (streaky) free-range bacon, double-crumbed onion rings, nam jim (Thai dipping sauce) and mayonnaise in a brioche bun. The onion rings make a crisp, exciting side as well, but the blow-out side is Jalapeño Poppers – pickled bell peppers stuffed with cream cheese and mozzarella, then crumbed and fried, and served with sour cream.
Despite the wide variety of burgers it sells, Burger Liquor appreciates the simplicity of “just good ingredients in a tasty bun”. This approach draws in a variety of customers, “from hungry and cash-strapped students to corporate types, families, couples, friends, and solo diners. Basically, just lovers of good burgers and good hospitality.” It’s not hard to see why Burger Liquor, a baby at only three years old, is making its mark on the Wellington scene.
Dirty Bones, London
Photograph courtesy of Dirty Bones
One of Dirty Bones’ signatures is The Burger, a 6oz aged-beef burger with black treacle bacon, gorgonzola sauce and pickled jalapeños, finished with baby spinach and garlic aioli. Also in demand are the Double Dirty Fries, which come with the house barbecue sauce, cactus salsa and pulled pork to almost make a meal in themselves. The Dirty Bones chefs are prepared to innovate, too: they once produced a burger smeared with Welsh rarebit and melted under the grill for a customer, then realised it was so good that they made it a signature dish.
“The burger is seemingly timeless. It transcends all menu snobbery,” says Mr Panchal, who recently added Cheeseburger Dumplings to the appetiser menu for those who agree that one burger course just isn’t enough. As for Sulkin’s thoughts on the burger, they are simple: “I’m not into sharing. It’s a crime to cut a burger in half.”