Folks, feast your eyes on this, the Admiral Codrington's 8oz cheeseburger. It's one of the finest burgers available in London right now, thanks to the Ad Cod's chef Fred Smith's tireless quest for burger perfection. Daniel Young of BurgerMonday recently announced he rates it among his top ten London burgers. Personally, this bad boy is in my top five. It's VERY good...
Before I tell you why I think the Ad Cod burger is worthy of the highest possible golden accolade of Burgerac praise, let me just explain a little about the place. It's a pub in probably the poshest, richest area of London. And when I say pub, it's hardly an old man's boozer. On the contrary, it's pretty plush. But don't hold that against the place. The Ad Cod is garnering a reputation for serving excellent food and, in fact, arriving for late Sunday lunch with some friends, I was pretty impressed to spot top UK chef Clare Smyth dining happily with a veritable bevvy of fellow chefs. The food must be good!
Above is the selection of nibbly starters we had to begin our Sunday afternoon feast. Here you can see Padron Peppers, Mini Sausages in a sticky honey and mustard glaze, a little jar of crispy pork crackling with a pot of apple sauce for dipping – and some Chilli Salt Squid with green chilli and coriander. All was exceptionally good - but the squid really stood out. The batter was light but crisp, and not overly salty. You could actually taste the perfectly cooked squid and the green chilli gave it the perfect amount of heat. Delicious!
Et voila. The Ad Cod burger. Served solo on a plate (the hand cut chips arrive under separate cover) it's quite a sight to behold! Three out of the four of us had ordered the cheeseburger (I fear my enthusiasm might be infectious) and we were all pretty darned excited to taste it...
The cut through reveals – not only a burger cooked confidently on the rare side of medium rare – but also a very carefully constructed burger. Look at the precise thickness of the cheese (a mild but impressively melty cheddar) and note the sliver of gherkin poking out. The gherkin hasn't been sliced into discs but rather sliced lengthways to provide better coverage. Also note the shredded iceberg lettuce at the bottom of the ensemble too. By shredding the lettuce and dressing it lightly in a grain mustard mayo, chef Smith has created a light crisp layer of lettuce that has enormous surface area which means the salad can actually hold any burger juice dripping down. Actually the burger juice becomes the dressing. This idea is a gazillion times better than simply plonking in a sheet of lettuce.
The thin and even layer of redness between cheese and top of the bun is tomato chutney. The bun is a Millers brioche bun, the exact same rich buttery bun used by Hawksmoor for their burgers. But it's the architecture of this burger that is really pushing my buttons. It's close to my own personal burger ideal. But what the heck am I doing? I need to taste it!
OOF, it's rare, it's beefy, it's big but totally biteable, and the thing delivers even flavour with every bite. In short, it's totally amazeballs!. Well worth the trip on a rainy Sunday.
Fred, the chef, is an extremely affable chap. He took the time to tell me a little about his approach to the Admiral Codrington burger patty. "The meat is approximately 50% rib cap trim, 25% chuck and 25% beef fat from the cap," he tells me. "So it's almost a rib burger! We use black Angus and our meat is sourced from Jack O'Shea [brother of Darragh] and dry aged inhouse at the Cod for a minimum of 28 days. However, I often have other trim from sirloins, rumps and hanger steaks, and little bits of this often make it into the mix. I always taste the blend and never stray too far from the basic recipe. I have also been known to source another Angus beef from Ballindalloch through Select meat which is closely connected to the East London Steak Co. There can be a lot of butchery involved in this burger!"
Fred actually makes his burger patties like Heston did in his In Search of Perfection programme a few years ago, devoted to making the perfect hamburger. He lays out all the strands of meat emerging from the mincer so they're all running in the same direction. These strands are wrapped tightly in clingfilm and chilled to form a big sausage of burger mince. This is sliced when cool to form the burger patties.
And what about the tomato chutney in the burger – is that homemade? "Yes, on both inner sides of the bun I add a homemade tomato chutney made with shallots, garlic, vinegar, sugar and lots of tomatoes all cooked down slowly together."
And the choice of bun? "I'm up and down on the Millers brioche bun but haven't found a viable solution that improves the burger. The St. JOHN bun is my favourite and I also like the meatwagon bun... My search is ongoing."
I love Fred's constantly experimenting and tweaking approach to his burger recipe. It means his burger can only improve! Did I mention that Fred is the chef cooking at the forthcoming Burgermat Show? Well he is. And if you think his Admiral Codrington burger looks good, he's actually developing something super special for June 27th. I, for one, can't bloody wait!
In the meantime, I might have to get back down to the Ad Cod for another one of these killer cheeseburgers!
The Admiral Codrington
17 Mossop Street
London SW3 2LY
Tel: +44 (0)20 7581 0005