When I first moved to London I used to go out along Shoreditch High Street to parties for labels like Kitsune and Ed Banger back when they were actually good. I have lots of happy memories of trying to find strange bars that didn’t really seem to have names and could only be identified by the presence of a bouncer outside an unmarked door. I remember meeting a guy that used to be my dad’s delivery driver in a crappy club in what is now Dishroom and finding out he owned the place and was happy to give us drinks for nothing all night. I remember turning up to a rockabilly party at Ye Olde Axe too early and finding it was still a strip club till and having to wait for the girls to put their clothes on before the music could start.
What I don’t remember is ever going into Catch. It always seemed way too intimidating for some reason. I can’t remember why though.
Maybe that residual fear was the reason I hadn’t been in a rush to experience the bar in its new guise as a hipster burrito restaurant. Or maybe my reluctance was more to do with the way they ignored all my attempts to get myself invited along to their soft launch and opening night party.
Anyway, we were at a loose end on night and didn’t fancy Vietnamese food so thought it was time to give Death by Burrito another chance (if you take my irrational fear of the bar it used to be as their first chance, and them ignoring the enquiries of a second-rate unknown food blogger as their second).
As you as you walk into Death By Burrito, you know it’s a hipster place. Everything – from the studied grubbiness of the place to the cocktail menu which features boozy slushies – screams that someone involved is in love with dive bars of New York. It would be annoying, as would the waitress’s refusal to let us order starters and main courses at the same time (instead insisting we order the starters and then call her back when we wanted mains), if the food didn’t turn out to be excellent.
The starter we opted for was a scallop cevice (the most hipster of raw foods at the moment). In the hands of a crappy kitchen a cevice can end up the stuff of nightmares. But here, under the guidance of the Rebel Dining Society’s Shay Ola, you got a lovely (albeit small) circle of raw seafood, brought alive by some bright citrus and accompanied by some blue corn crisps (which were to be become something of a feature as the meal went on).
The burritos we opted for – braised pigs cheeks and crackling and smoked beef ribs with sweet potato – came with more of the blue corn chips. Sure they were nice, but not nice enough to justify their ubiquity on the menu. They were also accompanied by a ‘deconstructed’ guacamole – the name of which sent shivers down my spine, but which actually turned out to be a pretty standard, albeit very good, guac. What was deconstructed about it, I don’t know and I didn’t ask for fear the kitchen staff would start messing around with it and ruin something that was perfected serviceable.
The burritos themselves, surely the thing that the restaurant needs to be judged on, were excellent. Both managed to retain the individual flavours of their component parts, which is quite a feat when you think how many different things habitually get thrown into the wrap before it makes the plate. And what’s more, the two different fillings actually tasted different from each other, which for a burrito I hold to be a rare achievement. Both were excellent, but if I had to pick, I think the beef one just shaded it for me.
A side dish of boozy beans got forgotten and by the time they arrived we were too stuffed to appreciate them. Though we did appreciate the gesture of giving them to us for free as a result of their tardiness
I thought I was going to hate the knowing trendiness of Death by Burrito, but the food actually turned out to be good enough to forgive them a lot of things.