Old Street – for all its reputation for being at the centre of London’s entrepreneurial landscape – is not a pretty place. Yes, you might be able exit the tube station, thrown a stick and probably hit an iOS developer currently working on something ground-breaking and über cool (not that I’d advise doing such a thing, sticks can break break bones and all that), but it is basically a big stinking roundabout.
A few moments walk from Old Street Tube however, and hanging around until 2nd September is Red Market, occupying a dusty carpark behind some advertising hoardings, and a current haunt of a sizeable number of street food stalls. The guys behind the market have done their best to turn the place into something less of a draft wind tunnel and more of a form of urban beach. Well, there’s sand anyway. And table tennis. Oh and of course more hipsters than you can shake a stick at (shaking being far safer than throwing).
We were here to catch-up with Burger Bear who is currently resident there (having made a début up in Haringey Market a few months ago) and amongst the more recent entrants onto the London burger [cough] scene. It’s pretty early in the lifecycle of any start-up and the signs are pretty encouraging, because what they’re doing is sticking to the basics and for the most part getting them right.
The menu is small, but the is that result is that service can be easily managed by a small crew. A “Burger Bear” cheese burger and “Angry Bear” chill burger ordered, the cooking process would be pretty familiar to anyone who has watched a contemporary outfit at work; patties gently worked from hand shaped balls of blended-chuck before being cloched to keep the moisture level high whilst fusing the cheese and bun on top via the power of steam. Light brioche buns licked with a gentle cross-hatch of French’s Mustard & Ketchup
The result reminded me very much of Mother Flipper at a similar stage of their operation; competent and tasty but yet to find their own voice. Or perhaps, taste. Well, you know what I mean. Manuel and his crew have since kicked on through their stints at eat.st and Brockley Market to really improve every element of their product and service.
Burger Bear patties – probably as a result of me interrupting grill-man Tom to chat – came over-medium, but still packing a good deal of juice. Sure, I’d maybe say it was marginally under-salted, but I suspect that I’m probably in a minority who’d say so. The chilli jam in the “Angry Bear” came with a decent, but not overpowering, kick. The “Grizzly Bear” – with bacon jam and oak smoked bacon – remained untested on this occasion, but in principle at least, sounds like worth coming back for.
And it might not be grilled under a gazebo in a converted carpark, for Burger Bear are in the process of relocating from markets to a proper bricks and mortar location (fingers crossed their SE London plans come to fruition). For all the minor-bitching there is about street markets, their hipness, their inconvenient combination of queueing and British al-fresco dining weather incompatibility, they serve to transition nascent operations from ideas to fully-fledged restaurants.
A few moments from the much lauded “Tech Hub” with its ability to successfully incubate new high-tech businesses, Red Market – at least seemingly for Burger Bear – has become a [cough] “Grub Hub”.