Having struggled a bit recently with getting the drive to update this blog regularly and keep up with the ever-impressive flow of writing that I see from other people, I’m overjoyed to find myself writing this post less than 24 hours after the meal that has inspired it.
Libertine Burger, you have restored my mojo. And for that, I thank you.
I’ve been drooling over pictures of Libertine’s offerings for ages. They’ve had rave reviews, won awards, garnered die-hard followers from all over the shop. I’ve made plans to go there in the past but have let myself down and allowed things to get in the way. But yesterday I put that right. And boy do I regret leaving it so long.
You see, there are good burgers everywhere these days. Street food’s popularity means you can get decent patties encased in good quality bread with all manner of interesting and imaginative toppings without having to look too far. Instagram is full of accounts dedicated to burgery amazingness, as are whole restaurants.
Yet still, somehow, not everywhere gets it right. Burger cravings for me come in waves. I’ll think about a burger for days and finally give in and have one, usually somewhere that doesn’t specialise in this simple yet precise art.
That inevitably results in disappointment, like the recent occasion where I found myself chewing through a burger containing a scarily fat patty that from the outside appeared fat and sumptuous yet once bitten into proved to be so devoid of moisture or flavour that it sucked all the saliva from the inside of my mouth and gave me jaw ache.
It’s all my fault. You wouldn’t go to a greasy spoon and expect them to knock up a great madras, so why go to a general place and expect them to excel at burgers? Instead, go somewhere that specialises in this centuries-old bringer of joy and messy hands.
Okay, enough of that. Let me tell you about the loveliness that is Libertine Burger. It can be found on Warwick Street in Leamington Spa – the same street that is home to my favourite butcher Aubrey Allen, the lovely Leamington Wine Company, The Tame Hare (which I’m still yet to review on this blog but will soon, promise) and plenty of other great food places.
It’s a casual vibe – exactly as you’d expect. The menu is simple – dry-aged beef burgers or buttermilk fried chicken burgers. Different burgers are labelled simply with numbers. There are specials. There are sides. There are dirty fries, deep fried pickles, corn dogs and milkshakes. Yes, there is everything you need for a devilishly indulgent experience.
I opted for the Number 25 – the trademark beef patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, ketchup, Frenchie’s mustard and pickles, but also with the addition of crispy smoked bacon, stilton and red onion jam. Yes, in hindsight this may have been overkill but a) it had been recommended to me by someone far more experienced in the world of burgers and b) I was slightly jaded from too much gin the night before and needed all the calories.
I’m no burger expert but I know what I like in a burger and I’m pretty sure it’s not a million miles apart from what the pros would say. The patty should be decent quality – so you can actually taste beef. So it has the texture of meat and not some kind of cost-cutting bulking agent.
The bun should be made of stern enough stuff to do the job it was intended for – to contain as much of the glorious innards of the burger as possible without falling apart and meaning that you either have to grasp the pattie with your hands and devour it like something out of 28 Days Later or resort to a knife and fork (that’s a tough choice, but don’t do the latter, it goes against the whole concept of burgers).
The toppings. Now then. In my humble opinion when it comes to toppings a good burger isn’t just based on the ‘more the merrier’ concept. That might look good on the ‘gram but it makes for a) confusing flavours and b) a ridiculously over-filled beast that you can’t get your mouth around at all, thus robbing you of the joy of grasping a burger in both hands, closing your eyes and sinking your teeth into it and all the carnal pleasure that comes with that.
These are all things Libertine have nailed. They use grass-fed, 28-day dry-aged beef and while I don’t purport to have such acute tastebuds that I’d be able to tell, what you can tell is it’s quality. The seasoning is right. It’s cooked well so it’s moist and juicy without being soggy in any way shape or form.
The bread doesn’t just do the job, it does it well. It’s soft but made of sturdy enough stuff that it can contain not only a patty but a patty with all the extra accoutrements that come with a good burger.
And the toppings. Well then. While some places chuck everything on willy nilly, it seems to me that the guys at Libertine Burger have thought about the combinations that they pile on to their meaty delights. My choice with its bacon, stilton and red onion jam, is the one for the people who love a rich, indulgent treat. I was nearly defeated to be honest, but I’m made of stern, saturated fat-loving stuff.
Others include the simple No. 4, ordered by my pal – a classic with crispy smoky bacon and perhaps my choice next time I go. Then there’s the No. 7 with house chilli and chimichurri, the No. 5 with the addition of bacon, deep-fried pickles and Pip’s hot sauce, both presumably appealing to people who like a bit of spice, and again, maybe something I’ll order next time.
The special when I went was a bacon-lover’s delight, with bacon, bacon jam, baconnaise and frazzles among its stack of toppings. It’s clear to me that they think about this stuff, they know what they’re doing. And they are a cut above the burger places that think a good burger is about piling as much on to a substandard patty as possible, with no regard to the actual flavours.
Of course, we couldn’t just stick to a simple burger and fries could we. The allure of sides like Buffalo hot wings with blue cheese mayo tempted us too much. And I’m glad they did. These were wonderful. Perfectly executed – crispy, tender, delightfully hot and spicy. How is it fair that somewhere that specialises in burgers can also turn out such great non-burgery goods?
If you’re wondering whether Libertine Burger is just a place for lunch or more of a casual venue, they do serve beers and other alcoholic drinks. They also do coke floats which, if you’re like me, is a winner in and of itself. It’s somewhere that’s cool, yet not so cool that geeks like me can’t go in there. The service is friendly, efficient, and informal.
I won’t go on any more. I think the fact I’ve posted this blog post within about 24 hours of visiting Libertine Burgers shows it was a hit. People far better than me have raved about it, so I’m allowed to as well. Because it’s merited. This is how to do things right. Quality ingredients, formed into brilliantly executed delights that don’t need foams, consomme, jus, sous vide machines, spherification or any of that other stuff because they’re fine just as they are.
I’m just gutted I’ve missed out on months and months of burger heaven until now.
We paid in full at Libertine Burger. They didn’t know I was a blogger.