I’m going to start with a caveat; I LOVE Lucky Chip. I’m pretty sure Ben is some sort of actual burger genius, and I’ve been eating his creations ever since they started selling them out of a van in Nettle Market last year; a bunch of friends and I would make the pilgrimage as often as possible to that car park in East London to illicitly gorge on salty, messy burgers christened with film star names. I remember my first well, it was so aggressively seasoned I spent all night guzzling water trying to flush it through my system, and yet I couldn’t wait to return. Those superbly juicy mouthfuls were disturbingly addictive and even when I was in danger of losing feeling in my extremeties last Winter, I diligently trotted over to feed my habit. I always find myself torn between ordering a classic or risking trying one of the weekly specials; the crazy sounding surf and turf that was the Bill Murrey is never going to be my thing, but a venison, stilton and blueberry gin jam Rudolph Christmas special was a winning decision. Those beetroot onion rings, the best in London, those truffle cheese fries, my first taste of tater tots…. *eyes glaze over dreamily*
Earlier this year they moved inside, taking over the kitchens of the Sebright Arms, cue much excitement as we were able to indulge not only in burgers but booze too, and in the warmth. It was still in the arse end of nowhere (for me) but the burgers themselves were just getting better, seasoning seemed to have calmed down and I enjoyed many, always with their incredible chilli cheese fries and in great company. For various reasons I never blogged Lucky Chip despite their fast rise to the very top of my favourite burgers list; I don’t think of myself as a burger blogger per se, most LC evenings are rather booze hazy, all my photos are fuzzy and dark etc etc etc. and then a new venture was unhatched and I decided to hold off and combine my thoughts.
I think it was around May that whispers started about Slider Bar; a promised Soho location filled me with glee, the prospect of awesome burgers in central London utterly thrilling. We were told the opening was iminent, and the burger loving contingent of London collectively held its breath. And held it, and held it some more…and eventually had to let go for fear of expiration. The process of opening and sorting out the kitchen at their new home in The Player appeared not as fortuitous as its namesake. After many false starts, I don’t think I was alone in thinking it was all a game of smoke and mirrrors, what was really going on? So when they surreptitiously opened a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t quite believe it. I also couldn’t make it for various reasons and so an early evening meeting in Soho became the perfect oportunity for a bit of Slider Bar action.
The entrance is nondescript to say the least, and I managed to miss the discreet Sliderbar sign above the door to The Player, going on address alone, but walk down narrow steps and you enter a dark bar with seating to the left, and HURRAH a ‘sliderbar’ neon sign, I am in the right place then. I tentatively take a seat, then feeling uncomfortable go to the bar to see if I’m supposed to actually be seated. I’m thoroughly ignored by staff as I hover, luckily a friend spots and rescues me, inviting me to complete their table of four underneath the hallowed sign, thanks Burgerac!
A quick scan of the menu reveals it simply ALL needs to be tried, so we blithely order a couple of sharing starters, carefully choose our individual ‘sliders’, then sit back and wait. Eventually, after watching many little burgers bobbing saucily past, our starters arrive; two exciting looking trays loaded with condiments and ingredients. I dive into the Chicken Bucket first; a tall cup filled with deep fried chicken pieces that are juicy and tasty with a crispy coating, we smother them in chicken gravy from a squeezy bottle and dunk them in an incredible creamed corn dip, a little crowd of nuggets turn out to be filled with molten cheese, these also get the creamed corn treatment.
Our Pulled Pork Taco tray looks even more curious, pork is held under a glass dome filled with smoke, we ”oooh” as the glass is lifted and meat is released in a waft of aroma. We stuff soft steamed tacos with little piles of tender pulled pork, plenty of pickles and douse with the accompanying squeezy bottle of sauce. The meat is not quite Pitt Cue perfect on its own, but comes alive with that sauce, an isolated taste of which reveals a bourbon sweetness, spices and fruit; genius. We retain the little bottle for perking up our next course (not that I’m expecting it needs perking up). A re-read of the menu reveals that sauce to be creamed soda BBQ.
I hadn’t planned on stopping for long, but there’s only so long you can make one Negroni last and it becomes apparent we’re going to be here for some time, so I’m forced (no really) to order a glass of wine. Our mains (you get a choice of two ‘sliders’ from an extensive list with fries for £12.50) do finally arrive and they’re unbearably cute; perfectly scaled down Lucky Chip classics. I’ve succumbed to a bout of bad planning, a rarity for me, but having ordered the pulled pork burger, I immediately regret my choice when one of my companions goes all rapturous over his El Chappo. Damn. I smother my pulled pork with that magical sauce and tuck in, it is lovely but I’m at this stage craving a burger.
The little cup on my tray could be a dip, but I’m wise to this trickery, forearmed with Twitter knowledge, I know it’s a palate cleanser, a sort of lemonade float. I find it strange at first, not quite convinced my palate needs cleansing, but the more I sip the more I like, it’s like lemon meringue pie in a glass, all frothy and zesty. My royale with cheese is more like it, I immediately whip out the slice of tomato and try and take my time to enjoy it’s miniature perfection, fries are tiny too, tasty, salty and crisp. I can’t help wondering why on a menu of ‘sliders’ Ben hasn’t put an actual slider on the menu, there’s much talk of these (originating from White Castle; a very thin patty steamed with onions and bun) at the moment, with every mini burger in London being anointed the title, and yet the closest I’ve found is the lovely mini burger at Mishkins.
There’s no way I’m leaving without trying the dessert burger, I’ve seen numerous pictures of it and I’m fascinated, the other option is a build your own sundae, working along that same do it yourself theme. As with the burgers, I find myself thoroughly delighted with the whole CUTENESS as it arrives nestled in it’s own little takeaway box, looking exactly like it’s counterparts. I find myself slightly dissapointed by the experience, although visually impressive I don’t think it’s quite there in terms of flavour/texture. The bun is a little insipid, sticking gummily to the roof of my mouth, an ice cream patty coated in chocolate powder should be the star but sharp rasberry sauce and peach ‘cheese’ dominate in a brash peach melba assault. Although I’m told the ice cream is top quality Tahitian vanilla I wouldn’t have guessed, the texture is granular and icy rather than creamy, and the flavour undetectible through the barrage of fruity accompaniaments, the chocolate element is lost in the mash up.
Now, I’ve no problem waiting for burgers, I’m used to queueing for my Lucky Chip fix, The Sebright even has a traffic light system for more organised ordering and waiting. I’m more than happy to linger in the Sebright, drinking and chatting to friends, but The Player feels less relaxed, there’s something about the venue that irks me, and two and a half hours is a long time to spend in an environment I’m not loving. It’s feels almost as though the neon blue lit bar is in one corner, doing battle with the neon red represented kitchen in the other. I don’t often mention price, but £12.50 for two tiny burgers and fries does seem excessive when you consider a full price Lucky Chip burger is around £7. Having said that, there is a huge element of fun running throughout the menu and I do LOVE playing with my food, and the food is good, it’s also unbelievably delightful and really nothing short of brilliant, as I expected.
I want to love Slider Bar so much and yet I’m left feeling slightly disheartened, out of pocket and craving a full sized beauty. No doubt I’ll return for more of those beautiful, juicy little miniatures when I’m not feeling so famished, they are after all perfect drinking companions and would make a wonderful lunch when out shopping. I’ll stop waffling now…
I just long for the day Lucky Chip opens a stand alone bar or diner to work their magic from.