The Carouser heads to Mac & Wild which offers up a Scottish feast. Burger fiend Mandy Morello investigates whether a Scottish bun beats an American one.
“Sorry, we don’t have you on our list,” is a phrase I don’t like hearing. Especially when I’m standing in a freezing doorway, half-lit by the glow of inside with the smell of warm food filling my lungs. I was so sure I had booked a table.
“Are you sure that you didn’t book in one of our other branches?”
I quickly skim through my emails and find the confirmation and, to my dismay, it says Devonshire Square. My friend lets out a soft groan as I swiftly apologise and shuffle out of the doorway. We are in Oxford Circus, and I was completely unaware that there is more than one branch; one here, one near in John Lewis and one in Devonshire Square.
“Fuck this, shall we just go to MacDonalds?” My friend says as we walk back to the tube station.
Not one to admit defeat, I call the restaurant and inform them that we are going to be late. The lady on the phone thanks me for letting them know and we begin a quick walk, carefully dodging all the dawdling Christmas shoppers. My friend moans as we take our 15 minute journey on the central line towards Liverpool Street. The cold and her day has been all a bit too much for her. I try and encourage her by telling her that Mac & Wild has been voted Best Burger In London 2016 in the National Burger Awards but she is having none of it. She wants to give up and hop into Wasabi. Luckily, Mac & Wild, Devonshire Square is just outside of the tube and we find ourselves in a much larger doorway in no time at all.
The door handles are shotguns. I can’t think of anything cooler than shotguns for door handles. I give it a little tweak, and am unsurprised to find it’s not loaded. We hand our coats to the lady on the front door with a feeling as though this maybe a little too upmarket for us. She shows us into the restaurant that is much larger than the one in Oxford Street and tells us that this is a pop up but if all goes well, they’re hoping that this might be a permanent home.
Mac & Wild is a Scottish restaurant that prides itself on serving wild meat- especially their native animal of venison. The menu is laced with delicacies such as Haggis, and even names proudly the men who shot the beast and the men who butchered them. I note down to not bring a vegan friend here. The prices are surprisingly fair too. For a burger it’s £10 and the drinks are the average price for London.
We scan through the menu as a pair of suits talk business next to us, overlapping the sounds of Soul music playing in the background. The drinks menu is impressive with a long list of Scotch whiskey and range of Scottish craft beers. I pick a beer that goes by the name of Black Isle Beer to soothe my empty stomach. This is paired extremely well with a starter of ‘Haggis Pops’ – small balls of crunchy Haggis. My friend sports a huge satisfied grin as she cuts into a runny Venison cased Scotch egg. We fight over the Red Jon sauce that tastes like a slick, sweet mustard.
My beer runs low so I have a Karl Blonde Session Ale to accompany the main event- ‘The Venimoo’. ‘The Venimoo’ was voted the best burger in London. I always approach these things with a slight level of scepticism. As it’s placed in front of me, I think, ‘So you’re the best Burger in London, yeah? Lets see about that!’
Even before my side dish of ‘Haggis Mac n Cheese’ comes out, I’m already diving in. Tender venison layered upon candied bacon, bearnaise cheese and framed with a brioche bun. With the addition of candied bacon, the burger is delicately sweet. The venison crumbles from the bun with a slight chew. Me and my friend smile at each other in silent agreement. This is a beautiful burger. The floral flavour of the Karl Blonde Beer is an assault on the senses when paired with ‘The Venimoo’.
The ‘Haggis Mac n Cheese’ finds its way onto our table with the compulsory phrase ‘everything OK here?’. At first it looks like a cereal bowl, but as you twirl around the spoon, the pasta reveals itself under the biscuity breadcrumbs. It’s so creamy that the pasta shells loose their texture and it feels like butter in your mouth. The addition of haggis gives it that much needed winter flavour that pasta dishes lack. The whole thing is thrown back perfectly with Joker IPA. A big bottle for a big bowl of haggis.
We begin to slow down and eventually give up on the food that amassed before us. My friend nods as I ask her if it was worth the walk to which she agrees. I’m not quite done with this place just yet. I pull the cream-coloured menu back towards me and flick my finger over the whiskies.
“Please could I have a ‘Smoke and Mirrors’?” I ask the closest waiter.
Mac & Wild offer a selection of flights including their house favourites, some Spay side choices and my choice. I love my Whisky peaty so this seems like the perfect option for a winter evening at only £19. A new very charismatic lady comes out with the three glasses and tells us what each of them are.
“This one feels like a punch in the face,” she says.
Well I’ll definitely have some of that, I say and knock it back. It’s strength and peat causes me to gasp a little but I pull myself together for the next two. The bartender kindly takes me through the rest and shows real passion for the Scotch. This is a great way to enjoy whisky and to get better acquainted with the drink. A flight of whisky also makes for the perfect end to a Scottish feast.
After a journey to the toilet I find my friend talking quite intimately to the bartender. They break apart as I sit down and my friend turns to me and says, “I think I’m in love.”
I’m not sure if it was the scotch, the haggis or the bartender but I know exactly what she means.
This is Scottish cuisine as you’ve never seen it before; done extremely well and leaving out the unwelcome tackiness of Celtic music. I’d like to have one of their roasts here as it feels like the perfect spot for your Sunday best. And I agree with the National Burger Awards- this might just be the best burger in London.