Best Burger Ever!!!

Where is the best burger in London? This is an ongoing argument amongst the @ManDemVFood team.

The Photographer prefers @meatgram. Sweet Tooth can’t get enough of @dirtyburgerldn. The Manager thinks no one does better burgers than @fiveguysuk. Cheese Lover is obsessed with @pattyandbun. The Vegan 🙄 just craves any burger with real meat in it and not #quorn. And finally Pepper Man… Pepper Man took a random shopping trip to Reading, stumbled across @handmadeburgerco and ever since has been banging on about being “The best burger EVER!” whenever the ‘Best burger in London’ debate is re-visited, despite it being out of London. 😄

The rest of the lads had never heard of #handmadeburgerco or their alleged 40 varieties of #burgers.

There were only so many months we could keep ignoring Pepperman’s Handmade burger rhetoric, especially when he found out there is a branch in #Wembley. So The Manager and Cheese Lover reluctantly agreed to put Handmade Burger to the test and took a visit to North West London with Pepper Man.

However, if the burgers are no better than @mcdonalds Cheese Lover wants some petrol money for his long journey around the A406.

Did Pepper Man end up at the nearest petrol station with his hand in his pocket or is there another contender in the Man Dem V Food’s pursuit to find London’s best burger?

PEPPER MAN: It’s been a long time coming but the time is finally here. I’ve managed to convince the #mandem to travel a lil further out than they would like to and head to Wembley. What’s in Wembley they say? Handmade Burger Company. I went to their other branch in Reading a while ago and oh my gosh. BEST BURGERS EVER!! Yea I said it. I’ve laid my cards on the table.

I ordered the HBC Cheese & Bacon. The burger consisted of a single beef patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onions and BBQ sauce all sandwiched between what we were lead to believe was a fresh #handmade buttermilk bun. For a side I felt daring and opted for the newly added Mexican chips. These were thick cut like the ones you get in a fish & chip shop. The reason why they’re called Mexican chips is because they are topped with melted cheese, salsa, chipotle sauce, hand crushed avocado and jalapeños.

The chips were dead! Simple as that. I liked the idea of the cheese, salsa & avocado but in reality they didn’t do it for me. They were really thick so heavy going down and flavourless so adding the extra ingredients helped but not enough. The chipotle sauce was absolutely awful on them. My preference is fries over chips all day all day (Kanye) so i wouldn’t order them again.

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Now the burger, oh gosh, I had been looking forward to this all day. I dived in like Tom Daley at the #Olympics. My first bite had my eyes rolling back in my head like when you put a cotton bud in your ear and you hit that spot. The beef and bacon along with the BBQ sauce all went together perfectly. But hold on! After a few more bites, I realised this could have been a lot better. Maybe all the excitement got the better of me. Something wasn’t right. I started to think and I came to the conclusion that the chef ever so slightly over cooked the patty. It was a bit tough and chewy, it began to be a task to eat it. Jaw bones working extra hard to break everything down. This was a major disappointment as I was really plugging this place like It was my actual restaurant. I said it had the best burgers EVER… several times! That’s a massive statement, even for me. I hope the others still enjoyed theirs…

THE MANAGER: Pepper Man said “It’s the best burger EVER” and that I would be “overly full”. Hmmmm… that’s a lot to live up to but we shall see. From the menu several burgers and the Hipster chips sounded promising. Although it’s a burger establishment we also partook in a helping of chicken wings, I mean if they are on the menu why would you not get a portion.

So, the wings, apparently seasoned over a long period of time, and come in two different flavours, BBQ and Hot. It was at this point I saw a nervous gleam from the eye of Pepper Man, ah well!

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The wings were almost perfect! As much as I try to find a fault, I can’t. Beautiful texture and grade of chicken. It didn’t fall off the bone so that would suggest they were fried, also the slight, the ever so slight, crispness leans toward a fried wing. The sauces were amazing! In other establishments, it’s as if the wings are soaked in water before cooking or stored in a place where they develop an odd taste, but not these! They were fresh! With a taste sensation that I can only describe as intense, but not over bearing. I’d go back there just for those if the price was a little better, or should I say “pocket friendly”. 👀

The chips! One of the man dem accurately nailed it… “these are pub chips” and I’d have to agree, but in my case they were pub chips with shredded cabbage and a hint of some form of mayonnaise or burger sauce on them. For me, a waste of money, there was no reason for me to pay £1 more for raw cabbage and mayo, the chips were not even crispy man! Not one iota! I would even go as far as to say they were soggy! And not even hot hot either, even @Nandos chips are better!

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On to the Burger, I kept it simple and opted for the Cheese Classic and I can’t fault it, it wasn’t perfect, but I can’t complain, a thick beef patty, with lettuce and tomato (I don’t like tomatoes in burgers), original #HBC burger relish, mayo, red onion with a generous helping of what seemed and tasted like Swiss cheese. There was no option in regard to how I wanted the burger cooked, with that could it have been medium well to add to the flavour? Maybe, the burger bun was (as stated in the menu) #buttermilk which we were excited about, but for me #brioche buns have to be industry standard as they maintain the softness allowing for a perfect compliment to the burger and sauces. I wasn’t overwhelmed but I was definitely not disappointed, however, the Handmade Burger Co need to work on their chip man! Chat bout!

CHEESE LOVER: Pepper Man picked the American BBQ Bacon Stuffed for me (beef patty stuffed with Swiss cheese, topped with smoked bacon, HBC BBQ pit sauce, mayo, shredded iceberg lettuce & red onion with handmade coleslaw, topped with a gherkin). The buttermilk bun caught my eye, usually I like to keep things simple but his experimental ways have influenced me to open up my tastebuds. The only question I had for the waitress was about the Swiss cheese as I have never tasted it before. Her response didn’t instil any confidence, in fact she stated it wasn’t very nice lol.

Despite this place being called ‘Handmade’ burger I wasn’t able to make a straight swap and have cheddar cheese because the cheese is already inside the burger patty. Sounds more like ‘Ready made’ burger to me.

However, the waitress was very accommodating and suggested slightly tweaking the burger patty thus allowing me to change the cheese.

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The burger itself reminded me of #Pogba. It was trying to be the best burger but instead was a young pretender with lots of potential. The ingredients were sourced from a high quality vendor, visually the burger could sit alongside the big boys, but two things let it down. 1. The buttermilk bun was too tough. I will be sticking to brioche in future. 2. The patty was slightly overcooked. Hugely disappointing and if Handmade Burger wants a seat at the ‘Best burger in London’ table they must train their chefs to be consistent!

All I will say about the chips is don’t bother, probably the worst chips I have ever had at a restaurant.

If I was in Wembley buying furniture at @ikea I would pop in for another burger, but based on this experience I would not trek around the A406 just to visit here again.

OVERALL: The service we received was pleasant, honest and efficient. We couldn’t ask for more. S/O to Kristina (our waitress) excellent job. The atmosphere was calm, but with it being Wembley, we assume that on an event day the place would be heaving with people. Unfortunately, the burgers were a slight let down; over cooked is never a good thing when you’re choosing the “best burger” in town.

However, this shouldn’t deter you from giving this place a try. With over 40 different variations of burger on the menu, there’s something for everyone. Pepper Man did state he had never been to the Wembley branch and his views were solely based on the Reading branch. Looks like he’ll still have to fork out for some petrol for a road trip for the mandem to go to Reading to redeem himself.

That might reduce the banter but Pepper Man is still going to get it in the neck for this one… well, until someone else pipes up with another burger place that is. Anyway, the ongoing best burger debate continues…

We give Handmade Burger Co an average but fair 4 out of 6 Man Dems.

http://handmadeburger.co.uk/

The Cat That Got The Cream

Ever scrolled through your @instagram page and realised to the outside world aka your followers, it looks like all you do is rave and take selfies in the gym? 

Well, the @mandemvfood lads were having a ‘digital strategy’ meeting, corporate jargon for; how many times a day should we post pictures on #Instagram 

Whilst checking our ‘engagement analytics’ basically how many people have liked our pictures at different times of the day, we realised that if you haven’t been able to tell from our page so far ( @mandemvfood ) we are carnivores with sweet tooths! We eat a lot of #burgers, #steaks, #turkishfood, #friedchicken and #desserts…

Now, #MDVF do not want to be stereotyped as only reviewing the cuisines mentioned above, we needed to get out there eat other types of food. So we got the props department to build a spin the wheel thingy like the one on #xfactor  and spun the wheel. What did we end up eating?

Pizza! A few of our followers have mentioned that @pizzaeast in trendy #shoreditch opposite #boxpark serves up a terrific pizza, so of course the #mandem had to find out if this was true or not.

FOOD: We all sat at the table and picked up our menus… The silence was real! No one had a clue what the pizza toppings were. Man had to get out phones to google each ingredient. It turns out most of the ingredients we didn’t know were just different varieties of ham. If you’re not a pork eater then maybe coming here for pizza isn’t the best choice for you.

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For starters we ordered the meatballs and of course some garlic bread. Like who has pizza without garlic bread? We tucked into the meatballs first which came as a 3 and were on the large side. They were smothered in a tomato sauce and topped with a little melted cheese which added to the flavour. They were a decent start to our meal.

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As the pizzas were individual servings the man dem have given their own accounts of the different pizza ordered.

Man Dem 1: I opted for the salami, tomato, mozzarella & chilli flakes pizza. When it came I was like “yea this looks alright” I tucked in straight away, it was only after the 3rd bite when the fire of the chilli flakes kicked in. I’ve never drank so much water in such a short space of time in my life. Every bite I took needed a glass of water, the pizza was spicy! Somehow I managed to finish the pizza and it was filling. Was it the best pizza i’ve ever tasted? No, but it wasn’t bad either. For me it missed the wow factor which I was expecting after hearing such positive comments about Pizza East. 

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Man Dem 2: After much deliberation over the menu I still didn’t know what most of the ingredients were so i played it safe and stuck to choosing ingredients I knew. I ordered the  ‘spicy sausage, mozzarella, broccoli and cream’ pizza. But erm wait a minute… “cream”… wha ya mean “cream”? Cue the waiter… “can you explain this pizza to me please bruv?!” Yes it was cream, as in cream you pour over your dessert or put in your coffee and that was in place of the usual tomato base! Hold on, I am supposed to be playing it safe here… “yeah change it for a tomato base please bruv!!” #phew

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I was dubious about the broccoli as a pizza topping and was in two minds about whether to take it off the order, even asking for it to be removed but changing my mind last minute instructing the waiter to leave it on. I thought I might as well try to keep some originality of this pizza given that I had already changed the base. MISTAKE!!! If you are not that adventurous like me, trust your instincts. Broccoli on pizza does not go according to my taste buds! Other than the broccoli I found the pizza to be quite tasty. However overall the pizza was nothing special, average! It can’t touch #pizzaexpress for taste and dare i say it even #dominos is better!! #gulp

The dessert, now that’s a different story! As mentioned earlier we love everything sweet! Being one of the more sweet toothed Man Dem in the group I had to at look at the dessert menu! Two items jumped out at me… the ‘cinnamon doughnuts’ and the ‘apple & blackberry crostata with mascarpone gelato’ aka apple & blackberry lattice pie with mascarpone ice cream. Man had to have the pie and the rest of the mandem succumbed to the pressure  and also ordered doughnuts for the table.

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The crostata was delightful! Made with light flaky pastry which had a crunchy sugar layer under the base of it ( nice touch #pizzaeast ) and proper chunks of apple with whole blackberries rather than the mashed up berry mess you would usually get on this flavour of pie. Excellently flavoured… sweet but not sickly sweet with an undertone of that fruity tang that is always nice in a fruit pie and then sparingly dusted with icing sugar. The gelato was smooth and creamy tasting like an ice cream version of a cheesecake topping with a hint of vanilla flavour. A very nice dessert! Compliments to the chef on that one!

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The flavour of the cinnamon doughnuts was just right. However they were extremely light and fluffy making them too airy. So much so that once you bit into one you came across an air pocket where you would be expecting to bite into more dough. The chocolate dipping sauce complimented the doughnuts well.

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Man Dem 3: So… I opted for the Veal meatball pizza, like Man Dem’s 2 pizza this also had a cream base. Rather than run from the cream like Man Dem 2 did just because it was a bit different, I jumped in studs first with a two footed tackle and took everything with me, cream base and all. 

The toppings away from the veal were basic, a cured ham, a mix of herbs and generous portions of what looked like cooked Parma ham, I was informed that is was actually prosciutto. Quite simply this pizza worked! Surprisingly the flavours complimented each other. I would have loved to say ‘perfectly’ but for my taste the ham, or prosciutto was a little too salty. However, for the price, could I have gotten better from Papa Johns? Hmmmmm, well that was the discussion we were having while waiting for one of the man dems drink which failed to appear, which leads us on to the service.

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SERVICE: Those of us that were on time were swiftly ushered to our seat, however, the late arrival had a little trouble actually speaking to someone to find out where the Man Dem’s table was situated. Was that because they were busy? Who knows! But we will say the service was of an acceptable standard, despite our waiter coming across like a rabbit caught in headlights, confusion over drinks was the main thing. Also maybe we are just getting old but the volume of the music at times was a little overbearing but by the same token made for a nice vibe and party atmosphere.

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OVERALL: If you are into the trendy scene Pizza East is the spot, it definitely felt like a place to be seen. This is an ideal setting for a group of friends to dine before hitting the local bars, in fact the music whilst eating puts you in the party mood.

However, if you are not trying to keep up with the trendies and just fancy a good ole pizza you can find tastier pizzas elsewhere even takeaway!

3 mandems out of 6

http://www.pizzaeast.com/

Levi’s Smokehouse – The return!

So the #mandemvfood phone pops off and to our surprise we receive a message directly from the @levismokehouse Operations Manager following our last review!! He wants a contact number… Uh-oh!! Seems like he wants to have words… Gulp!! Yes the #mandem were a little prang at first, are we in trouble?? Did we go too far with our review? Was it too harsh? Can we be sued? Lol Nah man we are @mandemvfood we stand firm by our words and we only speak the truth!! A phonecall later and we are invited back as personal guests of the management… Result!! People are taking notice!!

So the day is upon us and with the thought of giving them the chance to redeem themself the #mandem were enthused… Let’s go!

We arrive in the restaurant and are seated within 5 minutes… already an improvement!! We sit down and none other than the main man himself Mr Levi Roots is sitting a few tables away!! We later have the pleasure of him joining us, having a chat, sharing his knowledge and experience and giving us an insight into the concept and model of his “Rasta-raunt” and the way the food is prepared. Definitely one of the highlights of the evening!! Anyway, onto the food!

FOOD:

Starters… Following the abysmal chicken wings from our last visit, we had to order the
12 jerk chicken wings again (to compare to our last visit and to check whether last time was a one off or a constant) they were the same… wings with minimal sauce but with fresher, more succulent chicken. Still no hint of jerk flavour so unsure they should carry that name. Of course, we had to order the Bajan fish 6cakes again – still repping Barbados nicely!! And we also opted for the ackee & salt fish as an extra choice. We had high hopes it would be just how we remember it to be in the bright, warm Caribbean mornings on the veranda overlooking the ocean accompanied with Calaloo and some fried dumplings (bakes / jonny cakes on some islands) …how wrong we were!! Awful, We were so disappointed with the bland, flavourless dish it was almost like we’d been slapped in the face!! We actually had to ADD SALT and a little ketchup to give it more taste. Let us say this again… We had to ADD SALT to SALTFISH!
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Now we’re no expert on how to cook this Jamaican national cuisine, however we’re guessing they left the saltfish to soak way longer than they should have and then heated it up for far too long and dried out the whole thing.

Mains… This time round we wanted to try something different with the mains and with this visit collectively we would have tried most of the menu. Our mains were made up of the shrimps on a stick, the Martinique Coconut Chicken Curry, boneless leg of lamb, reggae reggae jerk chicken and Jamaican curry goat and a combination of rice & peas, plain roti, sweet potato fries and sweet plantain for our sides. Talking of sides, the sweet potato fries were a much better improvement than last time (previously over-cooked, almost burnt!!) and the plantain was exactly how you would want it… Sweet, soft and not too much oil!

13The shrimps on a stick although cooked perfectly fine, we feel needed maybe just a minute longer on the grill (for our palate). The flavour of the shrimp was simply average and we had to use the sauce from the Bajan fishcakes earlier to give it a little boost.

The Martinique Coconut Chicken Curry was a dubious choice because of past visits but we

14thought what the heck… You only live once!! It was well presented and colourful. It put a nice smile on our faces but the smiles were soon mixed with concern and confusion as it did not taste as expected. It lacked flavour and that oomph. It reminded us of those ‘when you try to experiment in your home’ type of flavours or when you make a dish for the first time and think “Next time I’ll put more “??” in… it needed something, but what that ‘something’ is we cannot say. It did not work for us and isn’t a dish we would try again. If this is how they make their curry in Martinique… Respect to them but we’ll stick to the traditional flavours on this one.

10When the jerk chicken arrived the first notable difference was that it was obviously freshly cooked, literally steaming. However, the dish still tasted more like a take on jerk chicken rather than actual jerk chicken. If the dish was listed as Levi Smokehouse chicken with sauce there would be no complaints. MDVF suggest making punters aware that it is smoked chicken, will reduce the number of complaints or install an authentic barrel to cook traditional jerk.

The lamb lived up to its previous review, maintaining its legendary status on the menu!

So…… last but not least one of the mandem opted for the traditional Curry Goat, as “more time when I’m at a family function, or when my Mum or Dad feel for it I’d be chowing down on this” (his words). Now the issue would be, due to us sampling so many ‘expert chefs’ cook this dish how would Mr. Roots’ take on it stack up?

Being the fair and honest bloggers we are, we cannot fault the curry goat. It came with rice and a side of roti. The portion size was nothing to be sniffed at. The cuts of meat were just perfect.

The taste was above average. In other Caribbean take aways, or restaurants the seasoning tends to be watered down, no kick, no pimento, no thyme, minimal black pepper but with this incarnation we were pleasantly surprised. The only thing that was missing was……… The curry powder seasoning! Now, we know many of you are thinking “WAIT, WHAT?” But in all honesty we assume this is Levi Roots’ take on the famous curry goat and not “my mum or dads version” that uses that curry power that gives more colour and definitely that authentic curry taste. Toned down for a commercial market? Maybe, but we can categorically state that you will not be disappointed with this dish!

The desserts were much improved from our last visit with a special mention going to the pineapple & chilli upside down cake… If you get nothing else on the menu, make sure you get this dish!

SERVICE:

We were served by several staff all pleasant and attentive. Our dedicated waitress knew the dishes well and was able to give professional and specific opinion about the items on the menu. Our only gripe is that the macaroni cheese we ordered didn’t arrive until near the end of the meal so we sent it back, but that was down to the kitchen, not the waiting staff.

OVERALL:

If you go to Levi’s Smokehouse expecting to get the tastes and flavours you expect at your everyday Caribbean take away or like what your mum or granny makes at home, forget it!! As Mr. Roots said himself during our chat “ah nuh yuh mudder or yuh granny mek it ah me mek it n is my take pon it!!” (Levi Roots) If you do visit this rasta-raunt bear in mind it is a ‘take’ on Caribbean cuisine rather than the more traditional dishes you are used to.

Following our liason with the Operations Manager and speaking with Levi directly we have a better understanding of how Levi’s Smokehouse is set up and what they are trying to do. It was explained to us that they are trying to bring Levi Roots’ take on the dishes we know and love and spread them to a broader audience. A visit to Levi’s is about the whole experience… from the moment you enter to the moment you leave. They want to cater for all palates, tastes and opinions and a leave visitors with a positive memory of how a Caribbean restaurant can be.

SCORE:

Based on the whole experience of the evening for our second visit we give 4 out of 6 mandems

http://caribbeansmokehouse.com/