Is This London's Best Cheeseburger?
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The Compton Arms is a small, recently prettied-up pub down an Islington backstreet. Lovely in a low-key way, it's all low-beamed ceilings and tight angles, and a sliver of bench-space and window boxes out the front.
Thanks to the Four Legs kitchen takeover, it's also now home to London's newest destination burger. Not that they're making that claim. When we ask for recommendations from the menu, we're just told diffidently, 'the cheeseburger's good', and 'bit like a McDonald's used to taste when you were a kid'. Pundits and punters (including some rapturous word-of-mouth from N1 friends, and the three blokes at a nearby table, back for their third round of burgers in two weeks) tell a more extravagant story, of a cheeseburger so rich-yet-light, sloppy-yet-sophisticated, that it tramples all other London cheeseburgers into the dirt.
The four legs belong to Jamie Allan and Ed McIlroy, ex-Hill & Szrok and Bao. And they've turned The Compton Arms kitchen into far more than just a destination burger.
They also do whipped cod roe on toast, flecked with salt shards and with the softness, creaminess and salt all dialled up to mighty levels. They do burrata scattered with sliced black olives, gold oil puddling around it, and asparagus in XO sauce, silk-thin slices of shallots on top. And they do the unassumingly-named 'grilled gem anchovy capers', the single richest, filthiest thing to happen to a lettuce that we've ever had the pleasure of encountering.
That's what they're doing when we visit, anyway. The menu changes constantly — though we're assured the cheeseburger's going to be a fixture. (Assured by the pub's staff in a practised, reassuring way; there's no chance this is the first time they've heard that question with an undertone of panic.)
All dishes are shareable — including the cheeseburger, if you want to have space left to roam the rest of the menu, and you should want that — but the grilled gem is the only one that actually demands sharing. There's a roughly one-on-one ratio of sauce to lettuce: the richness and saltiness and gloopy warmth are mesmerising at first bite, a feat of endurance by the fourth; it's with equal parts resentment and relief we let our mate claim their half.
And that burger? It's a beaut. The perfect number of pickles, to wit: a shedload. That textural thing that chopped onions, oozy cheese and juicy meat do when they're smushed together. A brioche that sucks in meat juice like a sponge.
And yeah, if you imprinted on McDonald's as a kid then this burger's going to feel a lot like coming home.
A cheeseburger that's got to be one of London's best, in a pub that has to be one of London's nicest. Beat that, Maccy D's.
Four Legs at The Compton Arms, 4 Compton Avenue, N1 2XD.
Last Updated 21 June 2019