Recent visits to the Abbey have entailed either late night disco-dancing or a beeline for the garden terrace, if conditions have been even vaguely clement.
Therefore an invite on a weekday lunchtime, with the sun streaming in through those attractively oversized windows, was a bit of a revelation.
The promise is unfussy but quality burgers and baps to accompany the decent range of drinks at the bar, all keenly priced and with nice touches like side dish poutine, the sloppy marriage of chips, cheese and gravy hailing from Montreal.
So, paired with a delicious bottle of Camden Brewery’s latest Versus series beer, a dark, hoppy brew with an Italian accent, we ploughed into the proudly rare, aged Scottish chunk beef at the dripping heart of the signature burger (£6.75). The patty was melt-in-the-mouth soft and super juicy, with the classic bite of gherkin and all-American sauce flavours spot on.
A decent vegetarian burger is an elusive find, so we were keen to sample the smoky sweet potato-based Veggie Kray (£6.25). As meat-free versions go this was a success, and with a decent looking aubergine parmigiana on the menu too veggies won’t feel short changed here, despite the menu’s focus on flesh. But wouldn’t the sweet potato have made a better dish if not attempting to be a substitute burger at all?Super-crisp onion rings and triple cooked chips (both £3) were dangerously moreish as we sank a dry, sweet bottled Orchard Pig cider, a perfect foil for the trademark pulled pork ciabatta. The rightly-acclaimed meat undergoes up to 18 hours of slow cooking, meaning it is a far cry from the dry BBQ bap fillings that are the comfortable cliché of the streetfood movement.
Coleslaw and smoky sauce made this asloppy affair, but all the better for it. All the meat here comes from Harry’s Fine Foods, where founders Ella, Joe and Jack set up shop after their early Brick Lane market sorties.
There remains a real passion for provenance and quality here, intentions that seem to have been compromised at other outwardly similar pub residencies. Chef Jack was keen to talk us through details such as his efforts to source the perfect bun, and to show off the new smoker out in the garden, where they are now producing deeply flavour-infused meat and fish, deftly riding the barbecue zeitgeist.
The verdict? Way more than decent pub grub, highlighting just how far the boozer burger has come.