“It wasn’t retired, it was just on a break,” insists Bleecker founder Zan Kaufman, discussing the restaurant group’s Bleecker Black. Over the past five years, few singular London dishes have been met with such sustained fervour; but its success is based on so much more than just hype. It’s up there with the likes of BAO’s original namesake, Quality Chop House’s confit potatoes, or Quo Vadis’ smoked eel sandwich. Nonetheless, the Bleecker Black has been unavailable for the past four years, though it was re-introduced earlier this month as a strictly limited-edition meal kit, exclusively available for St Patrick’s Day.
“We have been talking about bringing the Bleecker Black back for years,” Kaufman tells The London Economic. “It is something people have wanted for so long. We are in a pandemic, it is St. Patrick’s day, the black pudding is Irish, let’s go for it.”
Somewhat unsurprisingly, all 600 of the Bleecker Black kits sold out in just a few hours. And while there are hopes for the burger to be reintroduced to the permanent menu, with the team working to see how it could work out, Zan Kaufman is concerned “it will be hard to keep it on the shelf.”
Launched by former lawyer Zan Kaufman in 2012, after arriving in the UK from the USA, Bleecker has become renowned for serving some of London’s best burgers, with the key to the brand’s success lying within its simplicity, recreating elevated renditions of fast food classics, using high quality ingredients.
Having been off the menu since 2017, the Bleecker Black comprised two of the group’s aged beef patties, a soft sesame seed bun, American cheese slices, and a slice of black pudding sandwiched between the perfectly cooked patties. The quality of Bleecker’s beef, sourced from Royal Warrant holders Aubrey Allen, allows them to be able to serve it slightly pink, which is a crucial to its excellence.
Last year, Bleecker launched a range of DIY meal kits, providing all of the ingredients (and instructions) to produce dishes such as their double cheeseburger and bacon cheeseburger at home. Vegetarian meal kits are also available, comprising plant-based Symplicity Burger patties, developed by chef Neil Rankin.
Although the UK’s third national lockdown is slowly easing, with restaurants hoping to begin re-opening from next month, meal kits will remain essential for so many struggling hospitality businesses. While Bleecker will hopefully return to business as normal (as possible), Zan Kaufman hopes their DIY at-home kits will also remain popular.
“I love our at-home kit. It is as good at home as it is from one of our shops. For that reason, I think it has to stay. The demand is peak right now and it will drop off once restaurants open, but we will fight to make Bleecker At Home stick.”
Like the other kits, the Bleecker Black arrives with ingredients and instructions. Four 45-day-aged Bleecker beef patties are enough for two burgers, joined by four American cheese slices, two sesame seeded buns, a bottle of Bleecker house sauce, Bleecker seasoning, and two slices of Clonakilty black pudding, from Cork. While the beef is remarkable (cooked rare at home, without rules), the black pudding brings extraordinary richness to the burger, plus additional depth of texture, far greater than bacon. Simply, it’s as close to perfect as can be achieved from a burger cooked at home. An outstanding way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, with or without the pub being open. Let’s hope the Bleecker Black returns for good.