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Filtering by Tag: Joe Allen

Joe Allen Burger with cheese and bacon


£8.50 with cheese and bacon. It's not the most beautifully presented plate of food you'll ever see. But it's so damn pleasing, who cares?

I've lived in London for 17 years and I've only recently had the distinct pleasure of discovering Joe Allen's off-menu burger. And what an absolute joy it is!

Joe Allen is a basement bistro tucked away in a side street of Covent Garden's most southerly edge. You either know about it or you don't – rather like its burger which doesn't appear on the menu. You simply ask your waitress and she tells you that the legendary Joe Allen burger is served to taste and you can have cheese and bacon with it if you so wish. It's my personal belief that you should always have the JA burger with both cheese and bacon. I've found it minimises the potential for regret.

The restaurant itself is quite large but nevertheless cosy, being the opposite of brightly lit, with exposed brick walls covered in illustrated theatre posters from both London and New York shows going back to the mid 60s - which is when Joe Allen opened his first restaurant in New York. The London restaurant has been forging its excellent reputation since 1977. The tables are very simply set with paper tablecloths and paper menus and in the evening there's a guy playing a piano next to a defunct but still impressive jukebox. The service is friendly and informal. Unfussy, relaxed bistro vibes.

Now then, if there was a burger beauty pageant, the Joe Allen burger probably wouldn't be allowed to enter, let alone have any chance of winning. It's not a conventionally good looking burger. But actually, this is part of its enormous charm. Rather than concerning itself with what it looks like, the Joe Allen burger is all about what's on the inside: a really juicy, plump meaty treat comprising a coarsely ground, unseasoned 100% sirloin steak patty – that's only about three inches in diameter but at least an inch thick – smothered in melted cheese and just the right amount of perfectly grilled smoked bacon, served on a suitably sized soft glazed bun with no frills, just a thick cross section of white onion and two spears of pickled gherkin on the side so you can add what you want. I like a ring or two of onion and all the gherkin in there for maximum flavour.

Another thing to note is that there's also no sauce in the burger – but simply ask and Heinz ketchup and French's american mustard can be brought to your table – as can almost any other bog-standard condiment you care to request.

The burger squashes down well and really the 100% sirloin patty is the star of the show - but as I mentioned, I strongly recommend you order it with cheese and bacon as they partner the otherwise plainly served burger perfectly – as does the ketchup, mustard, onion ring and gherkin spears that I like to add.

In summary, the Joe Allen burger has no pretensions or illusions of grandeur, which naturally endears it to me – and somehow ordering off-menu makes me feel like the burger has been concocted specially for me. Yes, it's undoubtedly delicious but beyond mere taste and texture, it makes me feel good. This burger is big on pleasure and light on guilt. Joe Allen, I will be back. Very soon. And as regularly as possible. Ad finitum. 


Joe Allen
13 Exeter Street
020 7836 0651