So this happened last weekend…
It’s something to behold right? In fact there’s really no other way to describe it other than the name it’s been given… The Monster.
You can get your own beast of a cheeseburger at African Volcano, a Mozambique-style street food stall, situated in Maltby Street Market, Bermondsey, London. It’s run by Cape Town born chef Grant Hawthorne who is a master of, among many other things, peri peri sauces, marinades, and yes… extraordinary feats of burger architecture.
Now let’s begin our tale of one man’s epic battle with a burger more likely to finish him off, rather than the other way round.
There’s loads of great stuff available at African Volcano, and it was a toss up between the Dirty Streaker (cheeseburger with peri peri bacon) or the Dirty Porker (18 hr slow roasted pulled pork), but as I’m a sucker for a chef’s recommendation I asked for the Dirty Little Secret (cheeseburger with pulled pork on top). However when I enquired about adding some peri peri bacon to the mix, the wonderful lady behind the stand told me they can rustle me up something called The Monster, which would basically contain EVERYTHING.
So I waited and watched as Hawthorne and his staff busied away in the railway arch they call their weekend home, prepping burger after burger in front of me (mine would take a little longer, because gluttony).
And then I was finally given my off-menu item, The Monster. Whether that’s its official name I’m not sure, but my goodness it was a sight to watch being constructed.
Here’s the order of construction: Portuguese roll, layered with salad, tomato, gherkins, burger sauce, what looks to be a 1/2 pound patty, melted Emmental cheese, some confit onions, peri peri sauce, masses of peri peri back bacon, a huge mound of pulled pork, some crackling, topped off with a bun lid, which you can choose whether its been rested in bacon fat or the pulled pork. It’s held up by a wooden knife and a shitload of willpower. But remarkably… it stayed completely upright.
Now, a knife and fork should never be used for a burger, it just doesn’t taste the same, and you’ll never experience the filthy joy of feeling the burger juice run down your sleeve, but for this, there is no way you can pick this up. In fact after a couple of fork-fulls, I had to transfer half of it to another plate.
As for the taste… every component element is a winner. The burger was perfectly cooked, succulent and well seasoned. The Emmental cheese a perfect accompaniment. The bacon was soft and deliciously fatty, and although I normally prefer a crispier streaky slice, it was delicious. The pulled pork was again succulent and juicy. The Portuguese bun is essentially like a Brioche, but without the sweet cakiness, which probably wouldn’t have worked well here at all. However the star here is the peri peri sauce, which is a gorgeous balance of piquancy and spiciness.
But here’s the thing, it’s a big sloppy mess. And that’s my fault, I went absurdly big. All the other burgers on offer were equally impressive, but much more manageable. But as I’m a greedy swine, I ended up with two plates full of juicy burger/pork/bacon-ness, which tasted great, but was difficult to manage and didn’t have the same satisfaction of picking the thing up, biting into it and sampling every mingling flavour at once.
I will definitely be back, but will perhaps order something a little less ostentatious. But hey, if you’re in the mood for a mountaineering challenge this weekend!
SCORES OUT OF Five
Cheese & extras: 4/5