Fresh off the back of their one-year anniversary at Birthdays in Dalston, Psychic Burger has been in even more celebratory mood with the opening of their new home at The Old Queen’s Head in Islington. The Metropolist spoke to Psychic Burger’s head chef Will Dennard about his experience in the street-food scene, why Psychic Burger is different to the rest and why he loves an, ahem, horse meat burger…
The Metropolist: Tell us about your time with Death by Burrito and how you came to work with Psychic Burger
Will Dennard: Death by Burrito [Mexican street food pop-up at Shoreditch’s Catch] was a big learning curve for me; I’d never worked in the street-food scene before as I was originally trained in a classic restaurant kitchen. My time at Death by Burrito taught me there was a lot more to food and creative cooking than just merely discipline and presentation, and I found a love for experimenting with new flavours.
It was refreshing to be away from the pretentiousness of restaurant kitchens and restored my passion for cooking with big flavours and creating different dining concepts. I was fortunate to work with a great team during my time at Death by Burrito, most of whom I still continue to work and party with now.
Working for Psychic Burger came after I left my position at Death by Burrito to work abroad.
I experienced a great deal of imaginative culinary delights on my travels and wished to continue expanding my knowledge of the street-food scene once back in the UK. East London, in particular, has a great community relationship with food and I’d heard a buzz about the current team at Psychic Burger that intrigued me. Fortunately for me they had a head chef position available so I jumped at the chance and I’m still happy to be working for them today!
TM: Gourmet burger joints are now a London pandemic, what is it about Psychic Burger that sets it apart from other places?
WD: Psychic Burger, along with having its heart in the right place, by which I mean creating a fantastic product, not just a good profit, has a really methodical approach to creating dishes.
Founders Danny and Adam are from a very similar kitchen pedigree to me so we all work to the same tune. Also, having a team of young, fresh meat led by inspirational, hungry-for-success and an equally young management team is very important – the product feels exciting, innovative and fresh. Plus, I hate to boast but our burgers are the best burgers in London – possibly Europe – maybe even the world. Not being biased of course!
TM: What are your favourites on the menu?
WD: I’m a big fan of the now infamous Psychic Burger. It encompasses everything you want from a burger – juicy, meaty, fresh, tasty… a combination that’s very hard to beat.
Also the ribs, which I find somewhat mouth-wateringly addictive, are a favourite of mine -they take about 48 hours to make in total. I’d happily eat them every day if my metabolism would let me.
TM: Tell us a bit about your signature dish, the Horse Meat Burger (a bit tongue in cheek isn’t it!)
WD: The Horse Meat Burger was originally created as both a taste and social experiment; I personally love the flavour of horse meat. The Horse Meat Burger took a few days’ worth of development and the result was tantalisingly tasty. I believe food should open people’s eyes as well as mouths, and this did just that. I’ve had quite a few reluctant diners try the burger, all of whom came back to me asking for three or four to take away for their friends.
I plan to put the Horse Meat Burger back on the menu soon – with the addition of a few extra ingredients. Despite what the sceptics say I’m pleased it was controversial because it was absolutely delicious.
TM: What was the thinking behind launching in The Old Queen’s Head?
WD: We wanted to see how adaptable a product Psychic Burger really was. Birthdays was a great first home for us at a time when Dalston’s food scene was beginning to thrive.
Following its success and as demand and popularity grew, space and dining covers became somewhat stretched. Uprooting to a bigger site in the future was always the plan, so when an opportunity to move premises to The Old Queen’s Head came along we jumped at the chance. It’s a stunning venue with a fantastic reputation – a perfect fit for Psychic Burger – it’s also very interesting to show our product to a different clientele.
TM: What can people expect?
WD: Well aside from our infamous menu, which includes firm favourites such as the Psychic Burger, Lamb Franco Burger, Soft Shell Crab Burger and Butter-Fried Chicken Burger, we have some very exciting and somewhat boundary pushing specials appearing over the upcoming months. Bringing on a larger team has allowed me more time in the ‘Burger Lab’ developing new dishes and creating extraordinary ways in which to push diners’ culinary taste buds past the realms of expectation. I’m planning to take on Michelin starred techniques in order to challenge the people’s expectations of the ordinary burger.
My team and I have a collective background in music and club nights, so eventually I want to make the concept of Psychic Burger as a social and food movement. Ideas in the pipeline include Psychic daytime parties with outdoor BBQs and DJs – watch this space.
TM: What is your ideal burger?
WD: I’m somewhat old fashioned in this respect, I truly believe as long as you have great quality patty meat which has been well-seasoned and cooked accordingly served in a fresh bun with salad you’re winning.
TM: If you could create a burger for The Metropolist based on the name alone, what would it be?
WD: I’d love to create a huge burger, feeding 4-6 people, for a tear-and-share dining vibe.
Sauces and topping would ideally be served ‘tapas’ style on the side so everyone could mix-and-match and create their own burger. Most importantly though I’d make sure it was messy enough to get everyone’s hands and faces dirty afterwards – because that certainly is my idea of burger heaven, those gourmet clean cut burgers you find just don’t cut the mustard with me!
Psychic Burger, The Old Queen’s Head, 44 Essex Rd, London N1 8LN.