Why can’t you get a good burger in London any more?

Suzie Neuwirth
Source: Flickr

There’s something very destructive and subversive currently sweeping its way through London – the death of the good burger.

For any true connoisseur, there is nothing like biting into a nice, juicy beef burger, but it seems restaurants are now doing their utmost to stop this.

Numerous eateries across London, including Bread Street Kitchen, Brasserie Blanc in St Paul’s and one very exclusive members' club, are now refusing to serve their burgers anything less than medium.

This wasn’t always the case. I’ve had some great rare and medium-rare burgers in the past, with not so much as a muttering about health and safety. Or any subsequent food poisoning.

So what happened? It all seems to stem from Westminster City Council telling wine bar and restaurant chain Davy’s to stop serving the burgers unless they took certain safety precautions last year. Some sensationalist journalism caused this to turn into an all-out ban and a rule change, which simply isn’t true.

Here it is straight from the horse's mouth: “Westminster City Council has never, ever, sought to criminalise or ban rare burgers. We have simply maintained that the preparation and serving of raw beef needs to be done to exacting standards to keep businesses and customers safe,” said James Armitage, the council’s food, health and safety manager.

Meanwhile, the City of London council’s advice is more specific: "We advise the cooking of burgers to 70°C for two minutes (or equivalent). This delivers a significant pathogen reduction which is sufficient to minimise the risks posed by foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes."

Mouthwatering. But still advice, not a ban on rare burgers.

Tower Hamlets council (which encompasses Canary Wharf) is a little more laid back in its response: "We do not proactively advise on the risks associated with the production of rare and low temperature cooked foods, however when Food Safety Officers come across this way of food preparation on inspection we use guidance from the Food Standards Agency to advise food businesses."

London councils all tend to follow the guidelines set out by the Food Standards Agency, who again, do not advise against rare burgers.

The responsibility rests with food businesses to produce safe food. If they want to serve rare burgers, they need to demonstrate that this can be done under proper control and in a safe way.

The overwhelming message is that restaurants can serve up their meat as raw as they like (I’ll save steak tartare for another blog) as long as it’s done in a safe and hygienic way.

Restaurants are not bound to ruin our burgers by any laws, they’re choosing to do it. So as the customer we must speak up and bring back our bloody burgers!