I’m endlessly fascinated by the American shelves at my local Tesco – ludicrously overpriced imported goods of a remarkably unhealthy nature. Every so often my curiosity gets so great that I simply have to try something out. It’s a patchy record so far.
These are disgusting. Sticks of sawdust glued together with some of the least punchy chilli seasoning that you will ever put near your face. I guess the consistency is somewhat like that of cheese puffs/cheetos, so maybe fans of those won’t hate them as much as me, but the flavour claims on the bag are a downright lie. I know extreme heat, and it is not to be found within this bag. Plus they were really bloody expensive, being a novelty imported item.
Lucky Chip is, by my reckoning, one of the most consistently excellent burger joints in London. Quite why it hasn’t grown in the way Honest, Patty & Bun or Meat Liquor have, I don’t know. But they have always given good burger.
However, the big standout compared to others is that they consistently produce burger specials that not only look good on paper and Instagram, but also taste incredible. Their World Peace Burger in collaboration with Bleecker Street was a work of art, probably the 2nd best burger I’ve ever eaten.
So the unveiling of their Christmas menu immediately grabbed my attention. The instagram picture of the Rudolph Burger, a deer-based offering, held it.
So a lunch date was set with a buddy, and in we went.
For me it was quite easy; a Rudolph Burger, and something else festive, so turkey nuggets jumped off the page. My friend went for a Santa’s Little Helper hot dog, chilli cheese fries & buffalo wings, which weirdly don’t seem to be on the above menu.
When the burger landed, it wasn’t the most beautifully presented thing in the world, but this is junk food, and I know how deceptive appearances can be with this stuff.
The wings and some cheesey fries arrived with it, with a mention that the rest would be with us shortly. Thus began a strange and confusing back and forth!
But first things first – the burger. I have to say, it was delicious. We were both struck at how little the burger itself tasted like venison as we know it, maybe that’s a product of it being minced and cooked burger style, but it did have a note of the gaminess you’d expect from that meat. The other fillings were generous in quantity and nicely spread throughout the sandwich, giving each mouthful a great balance of flavours and textures. The blueberry, blackberry & gin jam gave a lovely hit of sweetness and just enough acidity, which counterbalanced the stilton very well indeed. It was cooked to around medium, and even though there was a lot of juice flying around, the bun held together excellently throughout my demolition job.
The wings were decent – although that’s my verdict as someone who isn’t much of a wings connoisseur. I have to say that the pepper sauce was extremely good, delivering an excellent slap of heat to the tastebuds and having a nice thick, sticky, viscous character. They weren’t the meatiest wings I’ve ever had, and I’m not the biggest “on the bone” chicken fan in general, but yeah – these did what you’d hope, and I’d happily recommend them, although I’d have preferred a blue cheese dip to the more herby one we got.
So far so good, except for the fact they’d brought the wrong fries out, and no hot dog or nuggets. We pointed this out and they took the fries very apologetically, and promised the rest would be with us soon. And lo, the nuggets arrived.
The turkey nuggets were very enjoyable indeed – big, solid chunks of turkey breast meat, breaded and presumably deep-fried, and served with garlic aioli. Turkey being what it is, they didn’t have a strong flavour in and of themselves, but were well seasoned and the breadcrumb was pleasingly crunchy to the bite. The aioli could have handled a touch more garlic, but then I like to smash my tastebuds with a hammer with flavours and seasoning, and there was nothing really “wrong” with it, I’d just like everything to have more garlic in it really!
After a little while longer, the chili cheese fries and hot dog arrived. Look at how happy he is! This was a temporary pleasure, until I pointed out that his dog was missing it’s onions and cheese. Another quick back and forth later, and after much apologising and offering of refunds, a ramekin of lovely, sweet caramelised onions and a massive tray of grated cheese (it seemed to be something like a Leerdammer, which is great for melting in food like this) arrived.
I should note – the staff were all lovely, all this happened in a very friendly context, they offered refunds/free rounds of drinks against our protestations not to worry – it was a bit chaotic but it was mid afternoon on a Saturday, the pub was pretty quiet, I suspect there was just a slightly less-than-alert kitchen staff member nursing a hangover and taking their eye off the ball. It really didn’t spoil the experience, and they handled it like champs.
The fries were pretty good – not at the God-level of Meat Liquor’s incredible chilli cheese fries, which are possibly my favourite side in london, but these were sufficiently different to occupy their own corner of the map. The chilli contained both minced beef and pulled pork, and was very mildly spiced. The ample cheese was thoroughly melted within the mix, creating huge conjoined blobs of fries, chilli and cheese – to my mind, this was a happy outcome. I enjoyed the different textures from the two types of meat in there.
The hot dog was ok – obviously it was a bit of a cock-up how it was served, and that detracted from it. Having seen and tested the excellence of Dirty Bones’ hot dogs, this was a pretty poor effort really by comparison, although at a slightly lower price point – it didn’t look great, and tasted pretty meh. It improved hugely with the addition of the onions and cheese, and it was a perfectly decent frankfurter in there, but when you’re eating out you want something you couldn’t do at home – this, when it first arrived, looked like something I might drunkenly cobble together at home at 4am after a night out.
So all in all, a mixed bag as an experience, but a cracking Christmas burger at the heart of it. I’ve never had these service issues there before, and as I mentioned. they handled it all really well. The hot dog and sides ranged from mediocre to good – but I’d have no hesitation in recommending the Rudolph burger.
I was a latecomer to the Cheetos party. To be honest, I’m not sure they were even on sale in the UK when I was a wee little lad. We had Wotsits, which I’ve never been much a fan of, much like I’d never much cared for cheese Quavers.
However, Tesco’s recent experimentation with importing novelty American junk food introduced me to a salty snack that blew my tiny mind; Cheetos Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeño. I’ll review those another time.
So when I saw these for 39p (over a pound cheaper than CCCJ’s cost at Tesco), I had to investigate further.
Well, one thing is fo sure. Do not, repeat NOT, attempt to eat these without a glass of water to hand. Not because they are so spicy, although they do pack a relatively satisfactory punch for a mainstream snack. No. It’s because they form some sort of Cheeto-flavoured polyfiller amongst your teeth and gums, which no amount of internal mouth-wrangling will dislodge.
The individual Cheetos basically dissolve into the weird powder/paste they are presumably made from, making for a truly claggy experience. Maybe some people like this. I do not.
The flavour, mercifully, is reasonably pleasant, a gentle hit of chilli and a vague undertone of cheesiness, but overall I have no choice but to award a mediocre score, as I do not enjoy my mouth being turned into some sort of human concrete mixer.
I don’t really remember where I first heard about The Ribman, aka Mark Gervaux. I imagine it must have been not long after moving to London in 2011, as I remember making the trip from my flat in Camberwell to his stall at Brick Lane’s Sunday market. Whenever it was, and however I came to hear about him, I’m glad I did.
What I didn’t know at that time were the layers to his craft. As far as I was concerned, I was off to go and get some really tasty meat, eat it, and that was basically it. That’s how it is with most places. And let’s get one thing clear – the meat he makes is fantastic. I don’t know if it’s a phenomenon that has a name, but when I eat a really good meat dish, there’s this tingly mouth sensation I get, this explosion of the senses, it goes far beyond just tasting nice, it seems to emanate from the very roots of my teeth, from my cheeks, the roof of my mouth, saliva glands going into overdrive. This is a party with no door policy, everyone in that gob is invited, and they all want to get down. This is the sensation I get from The Ribman’s rib meat.
The main thing he serves is pretty straightforward – a rib roll. A big white bun stuffed full of pork rib meat, pulled from the bones and smothered in whatever sauce you prefer – either BBQ, or his own Holy Fuck sauce. More on the hot sauces later… It’s unfussy, unpretentious, and pretty much impossible to eat as a sandwich! I could try to describe how he makes his rib meat, but all I’d be doing is paraphrasing this video, so here you go. The standard goes for £6, or if you want to go all-in, you can get an absolute monster for £10.
Those of you who watched the video will have seen him making his hot sauces. I’ve said enough about the rib-roll, and these sauces deserve their own time. His signature sauce (the brilliantly name Holy Fuck) is just a magnificent example of how to do it. For starters, it is devilishly hot. Those who are not acclimatised to properly spicy condiments will struggle to get past this heat. Those who are, they are in for a treat. Holy Fuck is one of the best hot sauces I’ve ever had the pleasure of sampling, a wonderfully fruity complexity that you have to treat with the respect naga jolokia and scotch bonnet chillies deserve. Go over the top and you will be coughing and spluttering, get it right and you have an evolving experience in your mouth that takes you through to a warming, satisfying finish that stays with you long after you’ve finished eating, waves of chilli hitting you as your mouth discovers little pockets of chilli that have hidden away!
As well as this signature (which he once did as a frankly sensational bacon Holy Fuck, apparently sadly never to be repeated), he also makes the even hotter, and even more brilliantly named Christ on a Bike and Holy Mother of God, as well as an excellent Japanese influenced variant, Fuck Yuzu (which I think is probably my overall favourite). Christ on a Bike has 3 times the naga chillies as Holy Fuck, and Holy Mother of God is hotter still, so be warned – they will blow your head off! Many of London’s burger joints have taken notice – Ribman specials have been spotted in the wild at numerous outlets, either featuring his sauces or meat. The Honest Burger Ribman Special was fantastic in particular, but in truth there are few dishes that aren’t improved with a dash of Holy Fuck – it utterly transformed a Chicken Parma Burger at MeatMission, and I’d love to see someone do something with Mac & Cheese and his sauces… Maybe deep fried balls of Mac & Cheese with a blob of Holy Fuck in the middle? Come on people, lets make this happen!
Less celebrated than his sauces are his rib rubs. I’ve never actually used these for the prescribed purpose, although I hope to give it a whirl this summer. However, I have found a handful of uses for them, and tbh I could happily use it as a substitute for salt & pepper. A personal favourite is to cut sweet potato into wedges, lightly oil them, sprinkle liberally with the Holy Fuck rib rub, and then roast. They are fantastic served hot, even better when reheated a day or two later as they take on an extra crunch, and work brilliantly cold in salads and packed lunches. I also almost always chuck a nice big pinch in with a bowl of mixed nuts and seeds for giving a healthy snack some fire! I’ve not tried the standard rub, just the Holy Fuck one – I find the rubs a gentler heat than the sauces, with some more sweetness in there. The chilli seems to glow from your tongue, and isn’t as prone to hitting the back of your throat with a sledgehammer if you overdo it!
Speaking of hammers, as you might have noticed from the logo, Gervaux is a committed West Ham fan, and seems to be loving life in the Bilic/Payet era! He can be found knocking out his rib rolls at The Boleyn Tavern on match days, although I assume he’ll be heading elsewhere with the move to the Olympic Stadium that is on the way next season. He’s also a very engaging and entertaining Twitter user, and commendably forthright about the liberties some street market companies take with their traders – it’s good to have someone as prominent and respected as him holding the less fair operators to account given the explosion in popularity of street markets across London in recent years.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan, and I’m happy to offer my whole-hearted recommendation for what The Ribman is selling!