ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hard and Fast day

Today has probably been the hardest fast day since I started doing the 5:2 diet over seven months ago.

It comes a couple of days after my birthday, so I've been drinking beer and eating cake and doing other things that I'm well entitled to do 'because it's my fucking birthday'.

But for some reason it's been particularly hard fasting today - all I've had is a little tub of flavourless cous-cous and a soup that tasted like watery mushy peas. Ugh.

It's been unsatisfying to the point of starvation, and I literally feel hollow and empty. Bad times.

I feel like beer, burgers and chilli cheese fries that burn my mouth.

Basically, I feel like another visit to Lucky Chip burger now, having belatedly discovered their full gorgeousness on Tuesday night. God, that would really hit the spot right now.

Oh yes, sit down my children, and I shall tell you a tale. A tale of aged beefy goodness. And fries.

Damn Van


The Lucky Chip burger van probably showed up 18 months or so ago, possibly longer, and despite hearing good things I never got around to trying them.

Note the Lucky Chip menu on the wall...
They now boast a residency at the Sebright Arms, but again, I've been finding excuses not to bother. Too far away, don't know the pub, indifferent past experiences when pubs take on burger residencies and so on...

But, it turns out that it's actually a bloody good burger and a decent little pub as well.

Could it be? Could it be that this is the mecca I've been dreaming of for so long?!? A proper pub with good beer that also kicks some serious arse in the beef department?

The answer is: Yes. Yes, it is.

Well, probably.


Where the fuck?


The Sebright is a little backstreet boozer in a silly part of East London, sort of in betweeen Hoxton and Bethnal Green. And Cambridge Heath. And Shoreditch, come to that.

It's ironic that so many places for good food and drink are in silly parts of East London these days. I find myself constantly going to 'places I never go to', if that makes sense. Whether the exact location of this pub technically counts as Hoxton or Bethnal Green or whatever, it definitely falls into this category. It seems to draw in a few Hoxton Hipsters, but the fixtures and fittings look like they came from a 1990s Wetherspoons disposal.

But they have a modest but balanced line up of cask beers from the newer London breweries - including the East London Brewery 'Orchid Mild', which I'd not had before and, of course, they have lucky chip doing the food.

It's that menu again!
The menu is simple and the food comes served up messily on little polystyrene plates and cardboard baskets. And it comes up quickly too. Almost fast-food quickly. In terms of low-rent presentation, it almost out-MEATliquors MEATliquor. Almost. The traditional pub decor raises it above the sleazepit, I think.

My only menu-based criticism is that the menu itself (a rather cool retro diner design) is just pinned up on the wall by the bar rather than on the tables where you're sitting, so it's hard to take time to decide what to have without looking like a confused mong-hound.


I didn't realise until after we'd eaten, for example, that a range of rather nice looking dips and sauces were available. Oh well, there's always next time.

What we did eat - and there was a lot of it - was bloody fucking awesome though.

Nice to meat you, Mr. Chip

They do a range of burgers, reasonably priced and most of which include various combinations of cheese, sauce, bacon and salady bits and bobs. Various celebrity-themed specials come and go and we tried the 'Kevin Bacon' as well as the 'Royale wit Cheese'.

The single most important thing with a burger - and the thing that so many places just can't be arsed with - is the quality of the beef.

So many burgers are tired, dry, bland, leathery, gristly, overcooked, overseasoned, and too full of filler to be anything special. Indeed, most people in this country have probably never tried a really good quality burger.

A bite out of the Kevin Bacon
Lucky Chip is in the exclusive club of those who 'get it'. The meat is aged and full of flavour. It's juicy and unctious, with the texture of, well, proper beef. They serve it quite rare by default which is as it should be, and they pair it up with other good ingredients to deliver a huge shot of flavour.

The Kevin Bacon, on a plain brioche bun with minimal vegetation was my favourite of the two.

The beef is great, the bacon is great, and even the goopy 'American cheese' is rather nice.

The mustardy, ketchupy burger sauce mixes with the gherkin slices to create a flavour that's sort of reminiscent of childhood trips to McDonalds - where I haven't eaten for many years - but, crucially, much, much higher quality.

Imagine a Big Mac, but made with really good quality rare beef and condiments, and you're half way there. (Whoa-ho, living on a prayer!)

The Royale came with a lot of salad and sesame seeds on the bun, but was otherwise another bacon cheeseburger essentially. Why wasn't it quite as good? Possibly because the 'special sauce' didn't have quite the same tang as the mustard-ketchup combo in the Kevin Bacon.

Look at that! Just look at that!
But it was still - and I cannot emphasise this enough - astonishingly good. These are quite possibly the best burger in London and without a shadow of a doubt the best burgers I've ever had in a proper English pub. By a big fat well-hung mile.

It's on a par with the really good brewpub burgers on the other side of the Atlantic.

We also tried the cheese fries and chilli cheese fries, which do exactly what they say on the box and come up in hearty portions.

The chilli fries would be a decent meal in themselves and the chilli - made with beef and pork - is fairly hot and full of slices of green chilli. (Little tip: Eat your burger first before exposing your tastebuds to the heat!)

There's other shit on the menu I didn't try but definitely will in the future - a 'Filet Oh Fish', hot wings and hot dogs, not to mention the other burger options.
 
If you're in the Hoxton area, Lucky Chip is serving from 6 to 10 PM at the Sebright Monday-thru-Saturday, and between 1 and 6 PM on Sundays if you fancy going for some burgers after church.

It's not often I eat and drink somewhere that I genuinely consider a game changer, and if Lucky Chip were just a burger van on the mean streets of Hackney, or if the Sebright Arms didn't do great food, I might not be gushing on about how brilliant they are.

But in combination it's good quality burgers and great real beer which has long been something of a Holy Grail for me.

I'm starting to think about pubs for this years B-V Pub of the Year awards now, and the Sebright Arms has given me some hearty food for thought.

It might be that the Lucky Chip residency doesn't last long so get the fuck over there!

Where to find it

Lucky Chip @ The Sebright Arms
31-35 Coate Street,
Hoxton E2 9AG (map

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