I was sitting at work in the 3pm slump, trying to decide what to eat for dinner. I mulled around some healthy choices (nothing exciting) and then Erica U came to the rescue with a heads up about a Burger Bear pop-up going down in Peckham called Only Beats and Burgers. Done deal!
I’ve realised I usually only go down to Peckham for pop-ups, the last being Frank’s Campari bar in the summer (here’s hoping it makes a reappearance…assuming summer ever does). And after taking almost 40 minutes to get there from Charing Cross, I remembered exactly why I don’t bother too often.
Anyways, on to the event! Burger Bear, run by yet another burger slinging Tom (seems to be a common burgermaster name!), has been getting a lot of press in the Twitter universe and I’ve been looking for a chance to add it to my BurgerQuest. I made the trek down, managed to get lost, and finally found myself standing outside a slightly abandoned Peckham Palais. I think this is normally an indie gig venue, but for the night they had converted the top floor into something that must have been decorated by the set designer of Austin Powers while on an acid trip. Definitely quirky but also entertaining and strangely welcoming.
As the name might suggest, there is a bit of a bear theme to the place with all the burgers being “Bears” of a sort. Your standard Burger Bear is a classic cheese burger and you can upgrade it to an Angry Bear which takes your classic and then douses it with sauce from the Ribman. Let’s be honest, the Ribman’s sauce gives burning napalm a run for its money when it comes to heat and staying power so this would be a truly Angry Bear.
Next up (and my choice) was the Grizzly bear which is your classic Bear topped with double oak smoked bacon and a healthy dose of bacon jam. Yes, that’s right, bacon jam. It’s a special concoction developed by Tom and gives a great sweet, spicy, and just a little salty backing to the burger. It’s delicious, so damn good that I tried to buy a jar then and there but was sadly told I’d have to order online. Which is exactly what I’m going to do after I finish this review. I can see it going brilliantly with brie, added to a caramelised onion and cheese toastie, or in pretty much anything. The bacon is smoked once at the butcher where Tom sources it, and then put through a second smoking process by Tom to really bring out the smoky flavour. Combined with a tender beef patty and some lightly pickled veggies, it’s a great combination with the smoky bacon, sweet bacon jam, and acidic veggies all balanced incredibly well.
The patty was a slight disappointment. There was nothing particularly wrong but I found it a bit overcooked for my taste (medium-well rather than medium-rare) and lacking any definite beefy flavour. It was still juicy and I’m undoubtedly biased based on my excellent patty experience recently at Bar Boulud. That being said, at £7 it’s a helluva better deal than Bar Boulud when it comes to value for money.
The last bit on the menu is the Greedy Bear which is roughly a double Grizzly. It’s not for the faint of heart but the taste is so good you can probably knock it out without pausing. I had a bit of food envy that I didn’t order that but probably for the best. The chips offered with well cooked with crispy shells and fluffy interiors. Burger Bear serves it up with a spare bread bun in case you feel like making a chip butty too. The buns doesn’t appear to be anything special and manage to last about 2/3rds the way through the burger so it’s a bit of a messy event by the end.
Drinks were provided by Redchurch Brewery (Hoxton Blonde, Gold, and Stout) with my pick being the stout for its dark chocolate and coffee flavours that were a great match with the burger. I also tried a Shikari Snakepit lager but I’d have to say the name was better than the taste.
Overall, an excellent evening and I’m very happy I got to try out Burger Bear. In the London rankings, I’d say it’s a better offering that the average London burger. Judging it by its street food peers, I’d put it my top 5 (the others being Kimchi Cult, Patty & Bun, Mother Flipper, and Bleecker St). Great job Tom (I’ll forgive the epic wait for the food given the unexpected number of people) and I’m looking forward to trying the Angry Bear next!