16 West 29th Street New York, NY 10001 (b/n Broadway and 5th; map); 212-679-1939; thebreslin.com
Short Order: In the tradition of the Spotted Pig, Bloomfield turns out another winning hamburger as well as a fantastic lamb burger
Want Fries with That? Comes with the superb thrice cooked chips
Price: Bacon cheeseburger w/fries, $17; lamb burger w/fries, $17
Notes: Bacon cheeseburger available in hotel lobby and via room service. Lamb burger available in dining room
One of the worst hamburgers I ever ate was from a burger van outside of Birmingham City Football Club in the UK sometime in the early 1980s. It was an injury added to an insult. My school had a friendly game with Birmingham City Football Club's junior squad and they meted us such a thrashing that even three decades later I won't admit the score. After the match we went to watch Birmingham's professional squad play Watford, a match whose outcome I have entirely forgotten. But not so the dreadful, greasy, hockey puck of a burger, laced with acrid, charred onions served on a stiff, merciless roll. I mention this because Birmingham is just about the last place I would expect the architect of not one, but three of the most brilliant burgers I have had to hail from.
That's exactly where April Bloomfield, chef of the Spotted Pig, The Breslin, and previously of the no longer open The John Dory (a restaurants whose rumored return I hope is imminent), comes from. And aside from almost single handedly rehabilitating the image of British cuisine amongst New York City foodies, she has also crafted two burgers that are amongst the city's best in the haute category and the first lamb burger I have ever eaten that didn't make me long for one made from beef.
The Spotted Pig burger is arguably the first burger to win an establishment a Michelin star. It has rightly received a lot of coverage here on AHT and Bloomfield would have been within her rights to just serve the same burger at The Breslin. But rather than resting on her laurels, she has created two burgers that take familiar themes and elevate them using top quality and ingredients and careful, deliberate construction. While many chefs resort to using extraneous ingredients, Bloomfield stays true to the classic architectures.
Take the bacon cheeseburger (available in the bar room and via room service for Ace Hotel guests). It comes with house made bacon and potato bun with cheddar cheese. The beef? The same short rib-rich blend made famous at The Spotted Pig but in a smaller 6-ounce patty and griddled rather than grilled. The resulting sandwich changed my mind about bacon and cheddar on burgers (or is at least served as the exception that proves the rule). I generally don't much care for bacon on burgers, finding that it masks the beef itself, and I prefer American cheese to cheddar for essentially the same reason. But the bacon at The Breslin is so good—crisp but with a meaty, tender inner core and a perfect amount of salt—and the cheddar—nutty and tangy—is layered so perfectly that they complement the sweet, steaky flavor of the patty.
The bun holds everything snugly and the synergy is deeply pleasing. Bloomfield doesn't waste your time with rabbit food; the burger comes a generous portion of excellent pickles (again home made) and her outstanding thrice cooked chips. Sure, the burger is pricey, but considering the ingredients are all top notch and you're in a trendy hotel where food always cost more, I think it is worth it.
Bloomfield's lamb burger is equally compelling. I wouldn't choose it over her beef burger, but you don't get the option if you eat in The Breslin dining room, which only offers the lamb burger. In a way I'm glad I didn't have the option or else I probably wouldn't have tried the lamb. It's a hefty, loose packed affair served on an unexpectedly soft ciabatta bread and topped with feta cheese and thin slivers of red onion. The earthy flavor of the lamb plays against the saltiness and creaminess of the feta, the onion adding a hint of sweetness.
Bloomfield has scored a burger hat trick between the Spotted Pig Burger and the two newer additions at The Breslin. These are admittedly expensive, by virtue of the location and the quality of the ingredients, but I think that the cost is more than justified. They are synergistic, thoughtful burgers that above all taste delicious. Gooooaaaallllll!