"Best burger restaurant in London, Time Out" - boasts an A-board outside Haché's Camden restaurant. I'd been keen to visit one of Haché's two London branches on account of this impressive accolade and also because Haché describe themselves as "burger connoisseurs". If you Google "best burgers London" Haché have ensured they pop up near the top of the list of found sites. So, they talk the talk - but can they walk the walk?
What it doesn't mention on the A-board outside is that Time Out bestowed that accolade upon the restaurant nearly six years ago – back in 2005. London's burger restaurant landscape has changed beyond recognition since then and so I wanted to put Haché's fare through its paces and see if the burgers cut the proverbial mustard in 2011.
Three of us visited on Saturday lunchtime and we each ordered something different. Ravi had a Falafal Sweetcorn burger, Pete ordered a bacon cheeseburger, (aka the Steak Canadian), so I opted for the Lamb Moroccan burger which, according to the menu, comprised "premium lamb hachéd w an exotic mix of spring onions, coriander and smoked paprika, served with a spicy harissa dip."
First things first, it came in a ciabatta bun - as all Haché burgers do. I'm not a fan, as they tend to be too floury and too, well, bready. A ciabatta bun also, to my mind, lends a burger a kind of pub sandwich aesthetic. Not sure that's quite the right vibe for a restaurant that claims to be a connoisseur of burgers. Anyway, Haché also serve their burgers with their lids slightly ajar, so you can get a nice view of the burger. The thing is, burger patties aren't the most aesthetically pleasing things at the best of times so I'm not entirely sure this is a good idea in general. It's particularly not a good idea to serve a burger thus if you've specifically asked its recipient (me) how they'd like the burger cooked (medium rare)and then completely failed to cook it to their specifications (charred on the outside). On the plus side, it's clear that the burger is of the freshly made and fashioned by hand variety. Which is promising...
Another Haché peculiarity is that they put the salad stuff (in this case, red onion, rocket and a slice of beefsteak tomato) betwixt the bottom of the bun and the meat. I guess they don't like to spoil the view of the burger I mentioned. I mixed some of the harissa dip that came with the burger and some Heinz tommy k and smeared the top of the lamb patty with it before adding the lettuce on the side and just a touch of mayo on top to afix it to the top of the bun. OK, now it's ready to eat...
The pick-it-up-and-bite test is good. I can squash it enough to bite it (the ciabatta bun thankfully isn't as ciabatta-ee as it looks) AND it tastes wonderful. The lamb patty is, despite its charred exterior, cooked very nicely indeed and is really tasty. Actually, it has a barbequed, from the tandoor, element to the flavour that is quite delightful. Charred exterior is forgiven. One should never judge a burger by its looks! The spicy harissa stuff I added to the ensemble has a really good kick - so much so that I can't taste the rocket at all. Perhaps a sprig of fresh coriander instead would have worked a treat, given the theme of the burger. Structural integrity isn't bad - but it's not great either. Two or three mouthfuls away from finishing it and it completely disintegrated. Which, of course isn't the end of the world, but I can't help feeling that I could have rustled up this burger at home or been served it at a mate's barbeque.
As well as our burgers, the three of us shared onion rings (£2.95) which were well battered and crisp, and two portions of fries (£2.50 each) - which tasted great, but were, on average, only about an inch long. Literally every single one! Not sure what that's all about but it's just not cricket. You also can't get barbeque sauce in Haché. And the waiter had no idea what a malt milkshake was. Très bizarre.
Haché, it seems, are committing the cardinal sin of blowing their own trumpet just a little too loud. Expectations and hopes were high. Disappointment was big. The result is that the whole experience seemed underwhelming and overpriced.
For a restaurant that covers its walls and website with quotes from favourable reviews, I'd expected so much more from our visit to Haché than it actually delivered. There are far more inspiring burgers to be had in London.
24 Inverness Street
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Nearest tube: Camden Town
Tel: 020 7485 9100