A single cheeseburger at the Electric Diner contains two patties; a double cheeseburger, three patties.
The George Osborne arithmetic is a Christmas gift to London from Brendan Sodikoff, chef/owner of Chicago’s Au Cheval diner. (Au cheval is French for “on horseback” or, in food parlance, “with an egg on top”.)
The Soho House group of restaurants and hotels took inspiration from – and then a partnership with – Sodikoff when it transformed the Electric Brasserie, beside the historic Electric Cinema in London’s Notting Hill, into the ElectricDiner, which opened on Monday. Its unfinished walls are as rough as the transition is smooth: Stripped of their romantic associations the French café-brasserie and American diner are accessible institutions both valued for their continuous service and rough-and-ready regional cooking.
Before I tell you what I think of the burger three caveats:
1) I can’t say how Electric’s single-cheeseburger-with-two-patties stacks up against its Chicago model. All I can do is compare photos and marvel at the family resemblance.
2) As a steakburger guy who likes chubby patties north of six ounces I am not the best judge of three-ounce ones that need to be tripled up to fill even Darcy Bussell‘s tummy.
3) Asking £10 ($16) for a diner burger with six ounces of beef, fries not included, is a bit much.
And you know what? I don’t care.
Electric’s single cheeseburger, stabbed and steadied by a steak knife in the back, is sensational.
The toasted glazed bun, a beauty if ever there was one, is so good a fit I suspect it is sourced from Savile Row and not, as I was told, Millers Bakery. The soft patties, expertly fried on what looks like a chrome flattop griddle, are deep-pink throughout, their crevices oozing red globules of fatty juice. With gooey Monterey Jack, Dijon mayo and dill pickle chips as their mortar the twin patties are as one. Single cheeseburger indeed.
The Electric Diner burgers are 3,963 miles better than the prototype burger the same Soho House recently created for its Dirtyburger shack. Even so they may not be the best thing the Electric short-order guys put on a burger bun. The bologna sandwich is so exceptional it should be signposted outside the Ladbroke Grove Underground station.
For the uninitiated, bologna, pronounced “baloney”, is the USA counterpart to the Italian sausage mortadella – mortadella di bologna. Usually purchased as cheap processed cold cuts and piled between untoasted slices of processed white bread the bologna sandwich is one of the horrors of American childhood. As an experiment my mother once sent me to school with a bologna sandwich in my lunch bag. Without a single bite or second thought I binned the sandwich and grabbed myself a slice of pizza so hot and so irresistible it burned the roof of my mouth.
Electric’s bologna isn’t like that bologna. It is a homemade and it is fried, leaving a delectably crisp skin on the outer surface of sausage. The sandwich’s overloaded composition might be what you’d expect from a deli counter in Chicago, a BBQ joint in Kansas City or even a street cart in Florence. Succulent, tender folds of thinly sliced meat are laced with the crispy bits, of which there can not be too many.
The Electric Diner bologna sandwich might not yet be on a par with the Wilensky Special, the fried bologna and salami sandwich classic at Wilensky’s in Montréal, or the New York homage to it, Mile End Deli’s Ruth Wilensky.
And you know what? I don’t care.
Electric Diner, 191 Portobello Road, London W11 2ED (map) – Tel: #44 (0)20 7908 9696