Friday, 29 March 2013

Patty and Bun, James Street, London & the Last Word on Burgers

Patty and Bun Smokey Robinson
I think it is fair to say that I have spent a fair amount of time talking to you about burgers. I really like burgers and there's definitely nothing wrong with that. Take the beautiful specimen above, The Smokey Robinson from Patty and Bun in London, the current kings of the burger, dirty junk food trend still going strong in the capital, but really yet to make an impact anywhere else in the country.

Patty and Bun was everything I wanted from a burger, it was juicy with wonderful depth of flavour, it had  good melted cheese, piles of onions and smokey relish and sauce, crisp lettuce, there was even some bacon in there somewhere. I used *many* napkins which is always a strong sign. I queued for it, in the rain. I wanted to eat this burger that badly. Not to forget the chicken wings, the smoked, BBQ sauce covered confit chicken wings. I queued for them too and they were filthly good. I wolfed it all down, chicken wings, chips, burger and all. The people on either side were sharing, my companion was hungover and barely touch his, I was in my greedy element.

I'd say it was one of the best, of all the burgers I've tried and these burgers roughly fall into two categories.

The filthy and the refined.

The filthy is something dripping with juice, required twenty napkins to manage, American cheese, maybe thinner double patties, mustard, mayo, onions, pickles. It is, dare I say it, 'dirty' food. Patty and Bun would fall into this category, as would MeatLiquor/market/mission. Something like this:

Dead hippie at Meatmarket

The refined is your more substantial burger, found in the 'proper' restaurant end of the scale, a thicker but still juicer patty, perhaps mature cheddar cheese, good quality bacon, glazed brioche bun, pickles and salad. Less of the grease, less mess but still plenty of flavour. My favourites I've found of these would be Honest Burgers in Soho/Brixton and Newcastle's own Broad Chare burger which can definitely hold its own with the London elite. For example:

The Broad Chare Signature Burger

The Honest Burger
I've made my own, the results which were never written up were rather impressive. More of a chopped steak burger due to my lack of mincer, it had char, was well seasoned and was a good combination of meat and fat (around 80:20 is preferable), it had pickles, good melty cheese and 'special sauce' and even the glazed sesame seed buns from the Hawksmoor book, a bun with no disintegration, which is the sign of a very bad burger bun indeed and lovely pillowy texture. Plus, shiny.

So, yes I like burgers. There are many nice ones out there. There's also plenty of shit ones, I've written about them too.

But for now, no more burgers. I think I've established my views on meat in bread, said the phrase juicy patty enough times and exhausted my meat based innuendos. Also there are plenty of other people writing about it (normally a lot better than me) if you still want your burger fix.

I'm just going to write about 'fine dining' from now on.  *goes to The Broad Chare for a burger*

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Review: Cal's Own, Chillingham Road, Newcastle

I want to write a blog post about Cal's Own, the new and incredibly good pizza shop and slice house on Chillingham Road. I really want to tell you how they're making authentic, top quality pizza and calzones. But I can't, because I've started watching Parks and Recreation clips on YouTube and now it's five hours later.

The link is basically, Parks and Recreation have a long running joke about how calzones are weird and the invention of a shop called The Low Cal Calzone Zone. So when the other half got a calzone this was all I could make jokes about while we were eating. Clearly I'm hilarious but the show is genius, i'll let you watch the show to find out more.

However, to get on to the rather more important topic, the pizza at Cal's Own on Chillingham Road is rather brilliant. In a slightly unusual spot, although with masses of potential given the amount of young professions and students in the area Chillingham Road has always been more at the fried chicken and greasy takeaway end of the food spectrum, and on a rainy and freezing Saturday night I did initially begrudge getting on a bus for pizza.

Now, I'd definitely do it again with no complaints, and that's saying something because I hate public transport.

A dimly lit and functional dining area with around 10 tables is flanked by a large prep area and huge firebrick oven. It's BYOB and there's 4 or 5 options on the menu and a couple of specials. Cal's Own know what it's doing and does it well, no fucking about.

Cal's Own menu
The pizzas are the real deal. I don't want to get into the metaphysics and semantics of what constitutes 'real food' but basically it's hand stretched, well made dough, with top quality ingredients, many of which are DOP and most importantly you can tell all of this when you eat it, cooked on firebricks at scarily hot temperatures. No pineapple or 'bbq flame roasted chicken' in sight.

I opted for the classic cheese pie (£9.00 for 14") which was everything a good pizza should be. Great charring and flavour to a nicely chewy dough, not too thick, not too thin and a lovely sweet tomato sauce.

Cal's Own Cheese Pie

The other half went for a calzone (£12.50) which comes filled as standard with mozzarella, ricotta, spinach, Granda Padano and two extras, in our case sweet fennel sausage and meatballs. Finished with fresh parsley and a dipping bowl of tomato sauce it was all oozy and succulent filling but still crispy and well cooked pizza coating. It was also huge.

Calzone at Cal's Own

We really didn't need to get pudding after these, especially as we were going out drinking. But not needing to do something wasn't a good enough reason to turn down a crazy, diabetic coma inducing layered chocolate cake thing with brownie, chocolate crumb, caramel, cheesecake and creamy topping (£3.50, I think). After two large pizzas this was definitely pudding to share, but god it was good.

With corkage for our beers (£1 per person drinking) pizzas and pudding the bill came to around £30, which isn't cheap by any means but felt like good value. The pizza scene in Newcastle, for a long time a rather barren landscape, seems to have got a bit more competitive in the last few months. I'll never stop loving Slices in the Grainger market, it is my number one lunch spot and it offers a completely different style of pizza so you can't really compare the two, but without doubt Cal's Own definitely makes a better quality (and probably better for you) authentic Neapolitan pizza. It's also fantastic to see someone who's clearly thought 'hey, why not open a really fucking good pizza shop because I'm sick of all this pizza express crap' and then actually gone and done it.

I'm swearing and being enthusiastic, you know it must be good. Go. Even if you have to get on a bus, it's worth it.

Cal's Own is at 207 Chillingham Road, you can reach them on 0191 276 5298 or on twitter @cals_own. Oh and they do takeaway.