Nick Buglione checks out Black Bear Burger
Climate change, cows and methane aside, Brixton’s love affair with burgers has a new suitor in town. Beating the well-worn path from start-up food trucking semi-professionals to “sit-down” diner, Liz and Stew of Black Bear Burger are the latest burger-making Village people.
Soft-launching at 50% off the night we pitched up, there was already a queue of instagrammy 20-somethings waiting to get into a somewhat ramshackle somewhat over populated wood shack and kitchen. Don’t come here for the wide-open spaces, come here to bump shoulders and bums with the staff and fellow diners. It’s all part of the fun, right?
You can’t just make a burger any more. The burger has gone artisan (sorry Jay Rayner) a while back. Black Bear’s take is all about the flavour and the provenance, apparently. The beef is aged on the bone and all the rubs and condiments and little picked things are made in-house.
After the standard lecture on Greta Thumberg and cows “farting” from my occasionally evangelical teenager, we got down to business. How’s their burgers? Black Bear, possibly as much to do with kitchen logistics as a desire for simplicity, have a stripped-down menu of burgers, wings and sides. Not a lot else. Black Bear’s extra topping to the menu is a series of ad-hoc smoking specials as they will be getting the smoker going. Smoke infused slow-cooked beef always sounds good.
Nearest we got tonight was my brisket burger, aged beef patty, cheese, beer braised brisket, garlic mayo and pink pickled onions. Mini-Greta somehow managed to shelve her climate concerns (she was hungry) for the signature Black Bear, cheese and bacon, garlic mayo and onion jam. Accompanied of course by fries and Camden Hells (for me).
The burgers were excellent. Oozingly moist, big patty (you can go double if you are in the mood), pleasingly smokey brisket, nice vinegar-piquant onions.
They aren’t messing around with brioche baps and fiddly bits. Man and daughter versus food. With wings. Another area where Brixton has a bit of a track record. Next table had ordered brisket spring rolls and chick nuggets, note for next time. Our wings came with blue cheese dip although there is a scotch bonnet hot sauce version which our waitress confirmed was possibly neo-nuclear fission. Buglione junior doesn’t do heat (yet).
I hope the “insta-influencers” on the other table liked theirs cold? Their extended tabletop iPhone photoshoot as their burgers go cold suggests how things look is more important than how they taste? I am old school. Food comes, eat it. Pretty doesn’t fill me up.
So, if you want to look at it that way, it’s your standard burger joint output (with a plant-based alternative to beef and chicken), in a more or less “expected” stripped down shack, all wooden tables and school chairs.
The wings are good, the hand-cut fries are OK but the burgers stand out from the everyday. Both burgers came in under £10. I imagine Black Bear really gets the wind in its sails when they start smoking away and the (super-friendly, super enthusiastic) service settles down.
Until then, if you like a burger, you are probably already on the way. Does Brixton give good burger? Is the Pope religious, does a (black) bear poop in the woods?
11-13 Market Row, SW9 8LD | blackbearburger.com | @BlackBearBurger