MEATliquor occupies a hidden site back side of Debenhams’ Oxford Street flagship, its only tag a red neon sign that spells MEAT as if viewed through shutter shades. No matter. The bar-and-griddle is the first taxable address registered to the Meatwagon‘s Yianni Papoutsis and  Scott Collins, his partner at Meateasy, the back-pub pop-up his burger truck inspired. The mere presence of their burgers and cocktails is enough to shift London’s collective eatinerary to the grey corner of Henrietta and Welbeck Streets. Even the 73 bus is on MEATliquor deviation.

The Phil Spector of burger producers, Yianni spins Wall of Sound compositions of spine-tingling, yellow-cheese-dripping Americana under the neon glow of twtter. The bacon cheeseburger I tried yesterday at MEATliquor – £7 without fries (no great loss) –  leaked fatty juices from every crevice of its patty’s desirably crumbly periphery, lubricating the liberally seasoned surface for its bacon patty piggyback. With black highlights on the crusty shell and pink ones through the medium-rare interior this middleweight burger was transformed from pop-up to pinup.

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Problem was I didn’t see all this burger rauchiness, misshapen bun and all, until I returned home and looked at the flash photographs you see above. MEATliquor is bar/restaurant as fairground dark ride, a carnivorous funhouse of gothic surrealism in red and black. Upon entering it’s as if you’ve traded your shutter shades for super dark sunglasses when what you really need is night vision goggles.

When I think food truck-turned-restaurant I imagine an open fluorescent kitchen, as there was at Meateasy. You want to see the burgers sizzle. Here the griddle is out of view, either by design or necessity. The greater crime is not being to ogle the burger you’re eating. Darkroom lighting, however cool or moody, does it no justice. If only Papoutsis or Collins would hop over to Debenhams and pick up some high wattage bulbs.

MEATliquor is open Tues-Thurs, noon to midnight; Fri-Sat, noon to 2am