By Jack Meyer | BSU at the Games
On a busy evening at Sebright Arms in Hackney on London’s east side, Ben Denner, an Australian-Londoner, walks into the pub’s small kitchen to see the final burgers of the night sizzling on the grill.
The burgers, the Tom Selleck with cheese, pineapple, barbecue sauce and an onion ring, and the Kevin Bacon with cheese and, of course, bacon, made their way to the table of Fiona Woodcock and Emily Henderson, new London residents who’d come to the pub for their second time.
“They stand out,” Henderson said as Denner’s girlfriend Jody came to cut the burgers so the girls could share. “They just taste different from normal burgers.”
Denner and his company, The Lucky Chip, have been in a flurry of growth the past few months working to open a new restaurant selling slider-style burgers in London’s soho district and designing a burger for Coca-cola, which Denner said will be sold at a closing party for this year’s athletes at Olympic Stadium.
“It’s a Coca-Cola-raspberry and chipotle barbecue sauce with beef patty, bacon, American cheese and seeded bun,” Denner said.
Last week Denner said he was preparing to make thousands of the burgers, which Coca-Cola requested be based on the drink, to serve at the event.
The perfect burger
On any given evening, the dim dining and drinking rooms of Sebright Arms are filled with dinners, generally between 20 and 40, munching on one of Denner’s ten burgers on the menu. He rotates certain burgers on and off the menu periodically.
One burger, priced at £16 ($25.10) includes more sophisticated toppings like duck, a veal and marrow patty with foie gras (liver), truffle aioli and pedro ximenez.
But the menu is also filled with the expected cheese, double cheese and bacon burgers as well as other less familiar combinations starting at £6.50 ($10.20.)
“We were going to do a menu of just different French fries from around the world with different sauces on them,” Denner said. “Then we started playing around with burgers and having loads of fun with that and one burger all of a sudden become five burgers and then we had a menu of ten burgers.”
Some of the burger’s, Denner said, took months to perfect, others he has been working on for the last year.
The El Chappo, a beef patty topped with bacon, blue cheese, roast jalapeños and a garlic mayo aioli was the menu’s first burger and took about a month to create.
“Normally we find one ingredient that we want to work with and then find things that compliment that,” Denner said. “For example with the El Chappo, we tried to find something that went with [the blue cheese.] We very quickly discovered that jalapeños go with that and aioli.”
Denner spent just as long working to perfect his burgers as finding the right places to source the ingredients for them. He said he tried a number of different bakers before finding the perfect buns, which are steamed before making it to their burgers.
“It’s the most important thing for us that we source our ingredients from the best possible place we can,” Denner said. “Our butcher is a 200-year-old butcher out in the country who drives 70 miles down here every day to drop everything off.”
Denner said he has tried to source as much of his supplies from around London but some ingredients, like jalapeños, have to come from elsewhere.
The Lucky Chip began more than a year ago selling burgers out of the company’s food truck in the parking lot of a London church. It then moved the truck to Hackney’s Netil Market not far from Sebright Arms where it began selling a few months later.
Since then, the amount of burgers the Lucky Chip sells has increased many times over but Denner won’t say by exactly how much.
“I don’t really want people to know. I like it to be a bit of mystery,” Denner said. “First when we were open we’d do 30 a night and we were like, ‘this is full on’ and we were kind of stumbling around like ‘what do we do?’”
This week, the Lucky Chip opened up shop with a new restaurant called Slider Bar in London’s soho, an area near the city’s center filled with bars and restaurants.
“The appetizer section, which is the first part of the menu, is designed around fun and fast food stuff but with our twists and plays on it,” Denner said. “And you’ve got essentially what would be the main courses, which is sliders. And then we’ve got our desserts, which are all ice cream based desserts.”
The restaurant’s sliders will be based on the menu that is sold at Sebright Arms but with a few new burgers in place of a few regulars from the pub.
Denner plans to start things slow at Slider Bar due to fears of getting too busy too early and, if things continue to go well, open a drive-thru.
“I’m stoked, I’m really excited about the future, we’ve got some big plans,” Denner said. “It’s what I see myself doing for the rest of my life now.”