Ed’s Easy Diner

January was bleak, wasn’t it? If the weather isn’t bad enough, you probably don’t have any money to do anything fun anyway. If you do happen to find some beer money down the back of the sofa, then there’s no one around to spend it with because all the pubs are empty. And then – even on top of all that – you pile more misery on yourself, either through some lackadaisical attempt at a new year’s resolution, or – in my case – performing some emotional self-flagellation for crimes of gluttony, committed over the Christmas break. I could have easily have just given up booze, but instead I had to go all Billy-Big-Bollocks about it and give up two of my other favourite things as well, bread and cheese. Now, I know I have some previous for this self-inflicted pain, giving up bread for lent last year (which coincidentally we find ourselves in the beginning of now). This time round, however, I thought I’d spare you all the tales of bread-less anguish, and instead just not eat burgers for a month, give you a grumpy paragraph about it, and follow it up with a review of my first burger of the year. So here it is:

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Ed’s Easy Diner is another one of the stalwarts of the UK burger scene, opening it’s first restaurant way back in the 90s in Soho. Nowadays, their restaurants number 50+ and stretch the length and breadth of the country. The location I happened to find myself in was the Ed’s in Wandsworth, nestled in the food court of the Southside Shopping Centre. Ok, I know what you’re thinking, not the most enamouring setting for the first burger of 2016, but I was desperate. February 1st fell on a Monday this year. After the five weekends of January, I wasn’t willing to wait for another one to indulge my habit, and break my fasts. That Monday I just so happened to be working in Wandsworth so, coupled with the dearth of other quick lunch spots, lunch at Ed’s just seemed to make sense.

My first impressions of the restaurant was certainly that Ed’s looked the part. Despite it being in a shopping centre in South West London, you definitely get the feel of being in Diner somewhere in the states – the decor is on point. The menu design also fits into the theme, but my focus of the massive one sided menu was towards the Veggie Burger selection. Of the nine burgers on offer at Ed’s, two are veggie – the Cajun Vegetable, and the Chickpea & Quinoa – I went for the Cajun, served with an Ed’s Plate (fries, onion rings, and coleslaw) but upgraded to sweet potato fries, and for the burger to come with american cheese. All of this washed down with a root beer (breaking Dry January on a Monday lunch would’ve probably been a step too far).

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The burger itself looked pretty run-of-the-mill, a spicy vegetable patty with the usual ensemble of onion, tomato and lettuce inside a sesame bun. I found, though, that it ended up tasting a lot better than it looks. Quite often the main veggie selection of a long standing burger chain can be a bit safe, but this one wasn’t at all boring in it’s flavour. The bits of veggies peppering the patty were crunchy and fresh, and the spice, whilst not exactly hot, was at least present and subtly announced itself to the tongue. The one thing I rejected was my choice of american cheese. When deciding against the other options of Cheddar or Blue, I was picturing Jack cheese, instead it was of the fake looking, bright yellow variety. Going for the Ed’s plate was maybe down to my eyes carless regard for my stomach but I made my way through it nonetheless, the sweet potato fries and the onions rings faultless, whilst the coleslaw had nothing overtly wrong with it either. The root beer (one of my guilty pleasures) brought home the american diner experience.

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Ed’s Diner ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to an enjoyable burger experience. The sign above my table read: ‘Eat here once and you’ll always return’. Whilst always is maybe an overstatement, the offer that they give to new customers – free burger on your next visit with the purchase of any drink – means that you’ll return at least once – probably within 30 days. Other things, for example the slightly inflated prices, means I most likely won’t return that often. Whilst the time, day, and location may not have been completely matched up to when and where I’d normally find myself for a burger review, spending Monday lunch in Ed’s Easy Diner Wandsworth definitely scratched a couple of itches. Firstly, although barely goats cheese spread on toasted sourdough, the sesame bun and yellow gave me my first taste of bread and cheese in over a month. Secondly, and really the main reason, was that it provided a symbolic new beginning to the hope and wonders that 2016 might bring, now that those cold, dark, lonely days of January are behind us.

I’m ok, I promise.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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The Diner

Dalston, with all it’s hipster bars, vintage boutiques and nightclubs under corner-shops, is a blank place on the map for me when it comes to burger tasting. It’s not that there’s a dearth of gourmet burger joints in the area, it’s just that with Shoreditch being such a powerhouse of the London burger scene, Dalston gets left in it’s shadow. The question was: of Dalston’s numerous burger restaurants, which one to sample first? With a few independent restaurants, and kitchens in residence smattered around the place, it was actually the one chain restaurant that I decided to hit up first – the Diner (if only because it’s the first one you come across when walking up Kingsland Road from the south…).

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There’s a growing trend in the cooler retail and food establishments around these days that you’ve either got to feel like a club or look like a brothel. The Diner – from the outside at least – falls into the latter category. Once you get inside it’s a slightly more minimal vibe with big red bunkettes and exposed brick. As you sit down the first thing you’re presented with is a mind-bogglingly big beer menu, all overpriced and none on tap. Another disappointment was that my old favourite – the spicy bean burger, a burger I used to enjoy immensely when the diner first opened up a few years back – is no longer on the menu. What I did like, though, was that now there are now two different veggie burgers on the menu (out of 12), so I opted for the mushroom burger over the halloumi. For sides, Rach and I shared a portion ‘hanger fries’ (chips with fried onion, cheese and burger sauce), and some onion rings.

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The Mushroom Burger, served in a bun with aioli, swiss cheese, red peppers and basil, looked neat enough when it turned up. When I first bit into it, however, I was very pleasantly surprised. The combination of the garlicky aioli, fresh basil leaves and the jarred red pepper added a mediterranean twist to the already juicy and crispy breaded mushroom. At first glance I thought the burger might’ve been too small, but it turned out to be just the perfect amount. Just as well because the sides were indulgent, to say the least. The onion rings were delightfully crisp, big and full of big onion slices, but not at all soggy. The hanger fries were smothered in cheese and sauce and the crispy onion bits only added to the literally, and necessarily, finger-licking experience.

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The Diner may look like a bit of a dive from the outside, and maybe they have to ham up their already stylised decor for the Dalston store, but when it comes to the food they really deliver. The menu is big, the beer menu even bigger, but the burger menu stands out. If you’re going to Dalston and fancy a veggie burger but aren’t sure as to which of the small burger spots you want to sample, then a stop off at the Diner might not be such a bad shout after all.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8/10  

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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The Advisory

The Easter weekend brought a momentous occasion for the relationship of my girlfriend Rach, and I, as finally after over two years together our parents finally met. Another momentous occasion for the both of us, and one which I was slightly more looking forward too was the end of lent and with it, the end of our bread sabbatical. Keen to show Rach’s parents a piece of the local culture, we decided to have our meal at one of Hackney’s many burger joints causing a stir – specifically The Advisory – on Mare street. The Advisory first peaked my interest when I saw it on a list of Time Out’s best burgers in London, but I’d never had a chance to try it out – until now.

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The Advisory’s location on Mare Street is fairly unassuming, away from the main hub around Hackney Town Hall and nearer London Fields station, nestled amongst a few other restaurants and pubs. The restaurant itself is fairly small and, as a result, it’s probably wise to book in advance, which we did. Before we turned our attention to the food menu we had to decide on some drinks. Aside from the beer and wine menu, you are presented with a cocktail menu, and a list of alcoholic shakes. The Vanilla White Russian immediately caught my eye.  A chance to have one of my favourite cocktails in an even more indulgent form, was to good to pass up on. I went for the one veggie option the menu – the sweet potato, halloumi and avocado burger – whilst ignoring the spicy bean burger on the specials menu and, due to their being six of us, went for a selection of the sides including poutine, fries, onion rings, and mac and cauliflower cheese.

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When the burger arrived my first thought was: ‘have we ordered too much?’. This was one of the biggest burgers I have even been served. The fat homemade sweet potato patty with a thick slice of grilled halloumi and a few slices of avocado (as well as the other burger filling usuals) inside a thick brioche bun was certainly something to behold. With my plate filled with sides – minus the poutine, which sadly was made with a meaty gravy – it was time to get stuck in. The patty actually didn’t offer much resistance against my mouth, with the halloumi and gherkin offering a little. What this meant – also partly due to its sheer size – was that the whole thing kind of fell apart in my hand. Flavour-wise the burger was pretty tasty, the sweet potato delicately spiced, with a mixture of seeds and herbs running through, adding a bit more depth to the patty. In terms of sides, the onion rings where made in delightfully light batter, whilst my favourite – hands down – was the mac and cauliflower cheese, if not a bit gluttonous.

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Our family get-together meal was ultimately a success, parent and food-wise. The advisory didn’t quite live up to it’s top burger moniker but it’s certainly not anything to be scoffed at. My dad is a vegetarian too, and he went for the spicy bean burger special, but I think I made the right decision. The end-of-lent-nature may have got to me a bit making me go slightly overboard with food. In fact, I was probably even full by the time the food arrived, having necked half of my deliciously boozy – yet very filling – milkshake. In the end I had to sacrifice something and ironically, after more than a month of craving it, I took the bun off my burger and left the bread on the side as I polished off the finer elements on my plate. There’s always next time, eh?

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VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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