Dirty Burger

I knew before I entered that I would love it. So many hushed whispers of a secret place, an in-the-know restaurant unceremoniously dumped in the car park of a North London branch of LA Fitness. An insalubrious entrance hidden beneath a steel fire escape.

I entered with the same level of expectation and thrill as descending the stairs into a newly opened speakeasy. Yanking open the stiff iron fire escape door you come out into a small room. One central table, authentically strewn with copies of the bastion of the objectification of women, The Sun, and a bottle of HP sauce. Industrial stools are screwed to the floor and a wooden shelf runs around the perimeter. The toilet is in Pizza East, outside, in the cold, around the corner.

Inside it is horrible. Except that it’s not. And I don’t really understand why. Dirty Burger is housed in a corrugated iron lean-to. Literally, a lean-to. It overlooks the car park. It is heated ineffectively by volcanic red overhead lights. It shouldn’t work. It just shouldn’t. But it does. 


The menu is as pared back as it can be: cheeseburger, fries, onion fries. That’s it. Nothing else. To drink: milkshake, beer in cans, coke, lemonade. Nothing else. The milkshake was, delightfully,  more or less just melted chocolate ice cream. The burger isn’t posh. It’s not all big and Byrony. It’s small and greasy and riddled with a ketchupy-mustardy goo. The squashed brioche is soft and chewy. Inside is one slice of gherkin. Just one. And one slice of plastic cheese. It’s probably what the first MacDonald’s burger tasted like. No frills, no pretention. Just a burger. But one of the best I’ve tasted.


As your eyes gaze around you start to realise that it is rather nice really. The friendly, joyful service belies its appearance. The little details give it away: the bottle of Cowshed by the sink, the posh Victorian lemonade in the fridge and the coffee machine clad in corrugated iron to disguise its chicness.

It’s all an act.  But a very convincing one. It’s good pretending to be bad, it’s Ralph Fiennes playing Abel Magwitch, Oliver Reed playing Bill Sykes.

Forget Sewer Chic, we’ve moved on to Garage Chic. And I can’t wait to go back. 

Dirty Burger, Rear 79 Highgate Road, London NW5 1TL

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  1. Ha, love it! I’ve got a theory about this one. It’s a guilt thing. When you go to Macdonalds it is all clean, pretending to be healthy and nice. But it’s not. Its horrid, plastic food wrapped in too much packaging and you feel like rubbish and dirty after you have eaten it. With Dirty Burger you get the dirty feeling out in the open, over and done with before you have even entered the joint, so you are free to consume unencumbered with surpressed feelings of guilt. I think they will go far!
    Alex Parker recently posted..Decorex 2012My Profile

    • I think you’re right – I normally feel dirty and a bit sick after eating a burger but I didn’t after this one. Maybe that’s why!

  2. I would love to bring Callum here! And Neel too! It looks delightful! I love hole-in-the-wall dives like this…just love them, and I love a good burger too. It puts me (just a tiny little, mind you) of a chain we have here called Five Guys (Burgers and Fries). Really not at all similar except that all they really do are burgers and fries (you can get loads of things on them if you want), and they do them really well. The fries come in paper bags and they have signs up saying where the potatoes have come from. Is it totally greasy? Yes. Is it good hangover food? Yes. Are the burgers awesome? Uh, that too. Still, I think Dirtyburger would win hands down!
    Lauren recently posted..we gather {still}My Profile

    • Five Guys (Burgers and Fries) is such a great name!

      I’d just been to the gym and totally earnt that burger. I didn’t even feel guilty.

  3. not sure if i’m convinced… in my travels i’ve eaten in many a lean-to or corrugated shack… & they were brilliant… they didn’t have nicely branded napkins & milkshake cups and they didn’t need to disguise the coffee machine to appear to be something it’s not (probably because they didn’t have one, but regardless i think that might be the step too far for me)… the fact that it only has 3 food items on the menu does, however, glean brownie points from me!
    sue recently posted..the sunday nook {snow patrol}…My Profile

    • Yes point taken. I guess I was talking about North London really where I would not normally eat in a corrugated iron shack.
      Have you been to the Riding House Cafe? they have clad their Dyson Airblade in steel! That’s going a bit far. I mean, a toilet is a toilet.

  4. Even if it’s an act, as long as it’s done well who can really complain, you know? I love how theme-y this place is, but it’s theme-y in a down sort of way, not the uppity, faux-fancy posh way most theme-y restaurants are (Parc, love of my life, is totally guilty of the latter). But if it works, and it seems Dirty Burger works, then let them pretend they are grunge-chic and dirty. That burger looks delish! You have to try Shake Shack when you come to the states if you haven’t already. They do burgers and fries and shakes and other miscellaneous goodies, but it’s all so simple and so good!
    Erin recently posted..Two of a KindMy Profile

    • Shake Shack is opening here next year! in Covent Garden Piazza. Yum! I’ve just googled them and seen a picture of cheesy chips. Yum :)

  5. I’m surprised you missed out the main point. Burgers and beer on tap! That’s their USP!
    How come you didn’t comment on the alcohol????
    I LOVE the decor although couldn’t bring myself to eat the burgers (am convinced they’re good).

    So, verdict on Chicken shop (given up on you)!!
    Love the whole place, the whole concept but actually didn’t like the chicken. All the marinated malarky
    does not convince me that they use any better chickens than Nandos (which are crap!) There’s always chips and salad:)
    tina recently posted..the enchanted forest at foylesMy Profile

  6. hahaha flashbacks! That was my local La Fitness for 3 years. Great review, I must try this place now! Its a good a time as any as the calories don’t count during xmas…
    designgratis recently posted..Finito!My Profile

  7. Burgers are having a resurgence in a big way over here, in Southern California anyway. We’ve got Tommy’s, In-n-Out (they keep their menu pretty pared down too), The Counter, Father’s Office, and Umami Burger, to name just a handful. (Tommy’s and In-n-Out being the original gangsters.) Dirty Burger looks and sounds legit. With your seal approval, I’m now appropriately convinced its awesome.
    Theresa / inspirationCOOP recently posted..{monday muse: i’m just a girl}My Profile

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