Madrid Restaurant Guide: The Burger Lab, Malasaña

Do you consider yourself a trend setter? Were you listening to Nirvana before Teen Spirit got big, were you the first of your friends with an invitation to Google+, or did you see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in its original Swedish version? Than perhaps you are also ahead of everyone on the subject of food trends? If you answered yes to any of these, then certainly The Burger Lab in Madrid, in the hip neighborhood of Malasaña (you were probably going there long before the guidebooks and national magazines mentioned Tupperware) is right up your alley. I knew I was on to something when I bumped into Helen López of Círculos de Fuego one of Madrid's premier food writers and always present at gourmet and tasty food affairs.

The Burger Lab promises their guests a unique experience that I haven't seen offered anywhere else in Madrid. Let's for one week forget our oath to Meatless Mondays, because at The Burger Lab you can take part in "Meat on Mondays." But have no fear, this won't displace your omnivore's dilemma to the point of destruction, quite the contrary, in fact you'll be assisting the food chain and the path to healthier and more sustainable meat consumption. Why? Well your hamburgers will take the form of zebra, impala, hake, horse, kobe, tofu, ostrich, kangaroo and other feral options. "Horse?" you may say, well yes, some cities in Spain still request horse from their butchers, and the consumption of this meat dates back to the Paleolithic period. Even better, Chef Edmundo González changes the menu frequently, allowing for the supply chain and demand structure to balance itself - talks of duck, camel or bull's tail making their way soon to the menu were discussed during our visit.

If you are a deviant at heart, give the assorted mini-burgers that come along with the Meat on Mondays offering a shot. Be forewarned that due to health regulations, and meat origin, most of the "out of the ordinary" options have to be cooked thoroughly (they call our attention to this on their menu), and these will result slightly drier than how most people are accustomed to their hamburgers being cooked. If you like that medium-raw style, I'd recommended sticking to the cattle varieties that don't require the same level of heat on their charcoal grill, say the Kobe or the 150gr hamburguesa de buey (ox) and the 300gr Media Lab Burger (the latter of which was juicy and quite filling on my second visit).

The menu started with a welcome cocktail of a pisco sour from their homeland of Chile, which was refreshing and different.

When you go, ask for a seat in the front room, as they have a back room that is rather closed off and the music doesn't reach. In my opinion the front-of-house is much more enjoyable, and Patricio your server will be closer to assist your dining needs. 

Our hamburger tasting menu was made up of kangaroo, zebra, venison, ostrich, Kobe beef and impala. The Kobe was juicy and perfectly cooked, I delighted in trying the impala, kangaroo and ostrich, but was not a fan of the deer. 

The brioche mini-buns were soft yet still provided a sturdy base for the meat without falling apart. 

All of the minis were delicately hand-crafted (some of the mini versions are available in standard 150gr sizes), each with a different twist, for example: kangaroo topped with mushrooms, cheddar, juniper and turmeric, the ostrich with raisins, cognac, tomato, escarole and caramelized onions, and the impala with sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese.  

Well seasoned steak-fries, served with ketchup and mustard. I asked for mayonnaise (sshhhhh).

For dessert: White chocolate pyramid filled with strawberry and cream mousse. Can't speak if they always have this or not, as it was only served with the Meat on Mondays menu. Insider's Tip-  I'd ask for no "fancy" sauces, they seem a bit superfluous. 

Chef Edmundo González started his career in the Falkland Islands, but for years has served as Head Chef at many of Madrid's popular eateries. 

Overall, we enjoyed our experience at the Burger Lab; service was kind (even if at times slow - but people they are making everything from scratch!), all choices were incredibly reasonable on the pocket-book, and we felt comfortable in the neighborhood - the Malasaña vibe is different than any other in Madrid.

I would recommend for locals and tourists, as a getaway from the Hello Kitty and Micky Mouse costumes of Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, or the expensive "paella" restaurants of Gran Via. If you have children in tow, why not support a local business with a kid's menu at the tune of 3.6€ for a cheeseburger, mini-salad, french fries and a fruit juice? Or as a professional, take advantage of your two-hour Spanish lunch break with a menu for under 9 euros? For nibblers, various appetizers are available all under 4€, try their pork and fig croquetas or chicken fingers.

All of their desserts are homemade - although some from partnering bakeries - the cheesecake and flan de turrón or coconut have the biggest following. But for me, taking the cake, aside from their generous portions, affable character and fresh design concepts were the drinks, anyone who carries Inedit beer in my book is a winner (be prepared to shell out 4.5€). They also serve Budweiser on-tap or bottled.

The Burger Lab 
Calle de San Joaquín 5
28004 Madrid Spain
Metro: Tribunal

Standard operating hours:
Monday-Thursday 12pm to midnight
Fridays and Saturdays 12:30pm to 12:30am
Sundays only during lunch

Meat on Mondays at The Burger Lab
Mondays starting at 9pm for 17.5€ (à la carte available as well)
Reservations required: +34 91 522 26 61


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