This week I ate a burger that cost £38. It was at new truffle-themed restaurant Sackville’s in Mayfair, and while it wasn’t the most expensive burger I’ve ever eaten – that dubious honour goes to Miami’s Bâoli which charged me $95 (£60) – it’s the most expensive I’ve had in this great city of ours.
“That must be the most expensive burger in town,” I thought. “Nobody would have the gall to charge more than £38 for a meat patty”. I was almost right. Chelsea restaurant Honky Tonk claimed to sell the world’s most expensive burger at £1,100. It featured a gold-leaf bun that brought to mind the Dome Of The Rock mosque in Jerusalem. Inside was a heady mix of Beluga caviar, lobster, duck egg and, presumably, the seminal fluid of the PR who dreamed it up. But when I called Honky Tonk to see if it was still on the menu I was told it was “just for the media” and never actually available to Joe Punter.
Harrods is usually a good bet for “most expensive in class” but its “Exclusive Tartufi&Friends” burger with foie gras, sweet onion marmalade, truffle fries, mustard, mayonnaise and fresh truffle only costs £36. The Playboy Club’s “Hef Burger” (a wagyu patty with truffle ketchup) looked promising at £51, but includes a glass of champagne that would otherwise set you back £15.50, which leaves the burger at a measly £35.50.
Bob Bob Ricard’s lobster burger with crayfish cocktail is £34.50, and I found a handful in the mid-£20s, including Bar Boulod’s “BB” at £24, which features beef patty, foie gras, short ribs, horseradish mayo, confit tomatoes and a black onion seed bun. Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill only charges £14.
Then I came across Claridge’s Tête de Moine (Swiss cheese) and Périgord truffle burger, which retails for a straight-up, hand-it-over, we-saw-you-coming £48. Presumably the waiters wear stripy jumpers and collect your money in a sack labelled “swag”.
So Sackville’s customers will have to settle for the second most expensive burger in town. It’s the sort of restaurant that the US does very well – a mix of laid back and expensive, reserved and ostentatious. Gauche-Luxe, if you like, or Trash-Chic. It’s the kind of place that, according to Tatler, invites Otis Ferry to its opening party; read into that what you will.
The upstairs restaurant is small and thin, although creative use of mirrors makes it look bigger than it really is. It has exposed brickwork, tables along one side and an open kitchen at the far end. A bell-jar full of fresh truffles was stationed next to my table, which the manager would later invite me to sniff. Downstairs, under a neon sign that reads “Accept the mystery”, is a speakeasy-style bar.
“We believe that truffle is such a unique and delectable product that we cannot leave it to be sparsely used in just a few dishes” boasts the menu. Not half – you notice the heavy fug of truffle as soon as you walk in. It’s a bold philosophy, given that truffle is decidedly uncool in foodie circles, and tends to overpower everything in sight. A case in point: a starter called Truffle Hunt – grilled mushrooms with truffle salami and truffle dust – tasted mostly of truffle, the salami and mushrooms only distinguishable by their texture. Heirloom tomatoes with baby spinach, toasted pine nuts and avocado – in pretty traffic light shades – would have been better had the tomatoes not lacked the juicy heft that usually makes them so delicious.
But it’s really about the burger – the £38 burger – and you know what? It’s delicious. Really, really delicious. The best burger I’ve ever eaten. The best burger I’ll ever eat. The Platonic ideal from which other burgers are drawn. It comes on a stark, white plate, a greasy sheen of truffle oil on the bun catching the light. Inside were two layers of pink, buttery wagyu steak – not ground into a patty – topped with springy, caramelised foie gras. Beads of truffle mayonnaise leaked from the edges. If M&S adverts are food porn, then this is the properly X-rated stuff that you can only get under the counter from a bloke in Soho. Last week I whinged about paying £39 for a plate of legs at Crab Tavern, but this is something else entirely. I mean, it’s an exercise in shameless consumerist pornography, but at least you can tell that love and effort and graft and meat and truffle and meat has gone into its creation.
El Pye ordered mille-feuille, which should be a sweet French pastry, but was in fact duck-egg, asparagus and truffle on toast (mille-feuille literally means one thousand sheets; your guess is as good as mine). It was perfectly nice – fluffy scrambled egg, liberal shavings of truffle (natch). I’d usually complain about charging £18 for egg on toast, but if you’re willing to pay £38 for a burger, you’re clearly not counting.
A side of truffle mac and cheese was excellent. Desserts of apple pie and “tequila lime pie” – a boozy key lime pie with popcorn inexplicably strewn on top – were both haunted by the lingering presence of truffle, although they would have been forgettable even without it.
That night I had truffle infused dreams. I flitted on the border of wake and sleep, plagued by the kind of aggressive indigestion that only a dangerously calorific serving of meat and truffle can trigger. I woke in the morning to the taste of truffle, which persisted until lunch. I’d go through it all again for that burger.
First published in City A.M.