The BBIL search continued on Friday with a last minute decision to try Black & Blue just next to Borough Market. I was in optimum condition for a burger following a few after-work beers and was secretly delighted when Plan A, oysters and more fishiness at the estimable Wright Brothers, was somewhat oversubscribed.
Black & Blue is a mini chain with five restaurants dotted around the capital, Borough being the latest. I can't comment on the other branches but it looks like the menu is the same in each, and the website claims the same attention to style has been applied to each. If the other locations have been chosen as well as this one the future looks rosy.
With no less than four pubs within sixty seconds' stagger, this site was always going to reward anyone who could serve up decent quality fare. On a Friday night at about 9pm it was, as you'd expect, basically full, an informal queueing system in the bar area being operated by the friendly manager. Before long, Mark and I were shown to a table in the corner of a large and buzzing dining room. The decor is modern, stylish and unfussy, with the helpful addition of some large cows with words like "steak" emblazoned across their flanks in case you were in any doubt what you were about to eat.
The menu reinforces this with the words "a steakhouse" under the logo at the top, which is probably just as well, because steaks don't get over-stressed further down. They get their own section, fair enough, but with only five standard cuts to choose from it's not as if they've got out of their way to look after the cow connoisseur. There was also a claim that their beef had been supplied by the same trusted butchers for 30 years, which is a bit odd given how long the place has been open. Maybe the first of the chain opened that long ago? We asked, but got no reply.
No matter, we were there for the burgers. There were six of these on the menu, ranging from "classic" to "bacon and cheese" to "foie gras", curiously leapfrogging my favoured option, just "cheese". I successfully ordered it anyway (Mark ordered the bacon combo) and after sharing some foie gras paté to start (they were out of the mysterious "Flowering Onions") and while tucking into a perfectly sound Brouilly from a varied international list, we looked forward to the main event.
A mixed bag, to be honest. The meat was clearly fantastic quality and was cooked as ordered, in my case rare. But it hadn't any of the colour or crispiness you would expect from a really hot grill, especially not in a restaurant wittily calling itself Black & Blue. Mark specifically ordered his bacon very crispy. It wasn't. Chips were pretty good I thought, but the other accompaniments were no more than ordinary: OK bread, some twists of iceberg lettuce, a slab of beefsteak tomato, a bit of mayo and a single prism of gherkin sitting rather awkwardly on top of the rest. It's not clear how I was expected to get a taste of that in every mouthful (surely the whole point of a burger) but then again the burger was presented "open" so maybe I wasn't expected to eat it sandwich-style anyway.
Overall, though, the quality of the beef shone through, and was just about enough to make one overlook the quibbles. It's easy to see Black & Blue being a big hit with pub revellers, and this will probably be enough to ensure its success; with a little more attention to detail it might just woo the market foodies too.
Black & Blue, 1-2 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, SE1 9AF. 020 7357 9922.