Black Bears and Beers.


A beer always tastes grand, but there are times when it takes abso-ruddy-lutely magnificent.  One such memorable moment was the time we got semi-lost in East Sooke Regional Park on Vancouver Island.  Our trek – and what an incredible one it was – took a good hour longer than we thought, and we began to ration water (though I want to be clear we were never in any danger, and were simply rather thirsty, not by any means dehydrated).  Famished, we made it back to the Ford Mustang, and went straight to the restaurant next to our B&B.  There, one their terrace overlooking Cooper Cove, with a typically British Colombian view of water giving way to forests giving way to mountains, we drank two of the most perfect Phillips IPAs imaginable.

Flash forward to Platti Jubbi Weekend, here in London.  Wanting to keep ourselves away from the craziness in Central London, on Friday afternoon we took a bike ride to Black Bear Burger.  Emboldened by our long and successful bike ride to town the day before on, Jubilee Thursday, we failed to consider that although this bike route from East to West, running through Farringdon, was fine for the first ride, when The Queen and her entourage were enjoying the crowds and the fly-past at Buckingham Palace, today, the festivities had moved to St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Although she wasn’t in attendance, half of London, the rest of the Royals, London society (and Boris), booing Londoners (for Boris), and the entire Met were, and the latter had closed many of the roads we needed to use.  We frantically did a lot of backtracking and looping around, and by the time we neared Farringdon, The European was shattered and I, still breaking in my Brooks Sadd4le, well, my crotch wasn’t in a good place at all (a good few inches up inside my body, to be exact). We pushed the bikes up to Black Bear, secured a sunny table on their terrace facing the market, and ordered steins of Camden Pale Ale.  All was well once again.

Beers aside, the stars of the show were the burgers. This was why we cycled halfway across the city to be here.  Black Bear serves up arguably the best burgers in town (it’s either these, or the Dead Hippie at MeatLiquor). This day was no fluky discovery.  Black Bear operated a concession at Giant Robot in Canary Wharf until it shut down during Covid.  Soon, they will be back at Market Halls literally across the quayside. 

On our Thursday bike ride, the one that was unmolested by the police, we ended up having a few beers at Brown’s at West India Quay.  Under the influence of our drinks, we yearned for burgers, and wondered if Black Bear had made it to Market Halls yet.  A quick Google showed that they hadn’t, and that was when we discovered they had opened their own signature restaurant at Exmouth Market. 

We were that close to getting on the bikes there and then and going back there for some food.  This plan quickly diluted into taking the Elizabeth Line from Canary Wharf to Farringdon (like ten minutes door to door, all in the name of Her Maj), before dissolving altogether because we ultimately yearned the sofa more than sustenance.  We booked up for the Friday though, telling ourselves that an eighteen-mile round trip will need a juicy reward like beers and burgers. 

The process of refuelling ourselves after the labourious nine-mile outward leg was straightforward and everything we had hoped for.  No sooner had we started to sip our beers, the food arrived, courtesy of the open kitchen that you can stare at through the large, removable bay windows.  The grill was the only bit of life we could see in there: the pokey dining room was empty and faded to darkness, such was the brightness of the afternoon’s sun (people were electing to sit on the terrace or the bank of seats in the bay window, facing out).

The burgers were dreamy, but mine, topped with twelve-hour beer-braised brisket, was dreamier.  It wasn’t worth the fight to compete, as The European’s miso-bacon burger was sticky, sweety goodness; and if you can choose between brisket and miso bacon then you’re a bigger person than I.  We ordered some chicken wings on the side as we are pigs.  They were tasty, but I can’t distinguish between chicken wings in the same way comparing two bottles of reasonably priced Merlot is beyond my palate.  The European liked them though, and the buffalo sauce was perfect for dipping fries and forkfuls of the mac ‘n’ cheese.   Incidentally, the mac ‘n’ cheese was another success.  This side dish so often disappoints.  We found that Black Bear’s had oodles of taste and was just the right consistency, with a light herb crust for a little zap of texture.  The restaurant doesn’t do dessert (unless you order more miso bacon to finish) so we paid up (£sixty-ish, all-in) and went off in search of pudding. 

As it turned out, the burger coma hit us fast and hard, so we elected to carry on riding east to liven ourselves up. We gave up the ghost at Canary Wharf and deliberated over more beers, or the overdue pud.  A beer later in the day never tastes as good as the one that saved you, so we fell into a concession stand for frozen yoghurt and took the Lizzie Line home from there, pledging not to get on those damn bikes for the rest of the weekend and giving my crotch a chance to head back south.

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