Rare is it that an unclean adjective is used to describe food. As Christina Aguilera puts it in her hit song ‘Dirty’, making mud pies as a child and the shame-filled takeaway after a heavy night out, some of the best things in life are just that… filthy.
Inside the Three Compasses pub on Dalston Lane, Filthy Buns shows you what a good night looks like when you let go, dive in and get – you guessed it – messy!
Welcomed warmly by Debs Croshaw and founder/chef John Gladwell, we are informed that there are pornstar martinis on tap – a dangerous concept.
I smile serenely as my dining partner has to physically restrain me from dipping beneath the bar and bathing in the sweet nectar. One in a glass will have to do.
Gazing around the dark red pub, the lively hubbub of a refreshingly large Monday night crowd – safely at a one-metre-plus distance – melts any hesitation.
Sports blare on TVs and the last rays of the evening sun illuminate the faces of the many diners in the suntrap out-front.
Some nice period features, such as the classic wrap-around leather couch, and some less ancient ones, like the surreptitious perplex screens, catch my eye.
Thank goodness the quiescent pub experience is safe from the ravages of the world. I remember I am here to eat, and eat I shall.
John cheerfully explains the heavy hitters on the menu, which, although focused on one food group (burgers), is wonderfully 50 per cent vegan or vegetarian.
With a semi-sarcastic chuckle, he explains his vision of “not trying to change the world, just burgers”, and off he darts to rustle up his take on the American classic.
While he slaves away, Debs explains the pop-up’s journey. They have been in their current residency since September last year, and since reopening in July, they have gone from strength to strength. We both agree that in these unprecedented times, we all need a little bit of comfort food.
Our platter of steaming, sizzling, grease-laden grub lands like manna from heaven.
First, a sample of the Instagram sensation, pulling in people from as far afield as York and prompting a certain boxer to send “his people” for five of them, the Millionaire Short-rib.
Beer-braised, dry-aged beef patty from the local Ginger Pig butcher, with Swiss cheese, beer barbecue glaze, and smoky gravy mayo, plus your classic crispy onions. What is so weird about that? Oh just you wait. The top of the burger is impaled by a biscuit, and homemade Lotus Biscoff peanut butter layers the inside.
The millionaire in all of us is screaming for something so decadent, sweet, and meaty, and it completely works. Admittedly, I barely fitted it in my gaping maw, and I have never been so dehydrated after a burger, but it is a nutty, buttery, opulent endurance test.
Nestling alongside this behemoth of the burger world is Bit Of Blue – slightly overdone bacon, but with blue cheese oozing out like an apocalyptic volcano. Pickled pink shallots give a depth not normally found in burgers, and this classic with a cheeky reinvention is a complete hit.
Lastly, the Doner Does Dalston is turned to with sticky hands and greed-stained mouths. The vegan imitation patty from food firm Moving Mountains is pretty impressive, while This Isn’t Bacon almost convinces you that it is. This is a simple yet effective option for the saintly among you.
Accompanying this is the historic Wrist Slap Sauce, inspired by a certain fast-food giant slapping John’s wrist over a potential infringement of their brand. With glee, we dunk our jerk-off fries (easy sailor) and gravy mayo fries between chomps of the towering bread beasts.
Slowly losing count of the pornstars, my dining company informs me that his Beaver Town Neck Oil IPA is hitting the spot nicely. I opt for a Hackney-brewed Boogie Van, and even I have to admit that beer and burgers make a fantastic couple.
We slog away, looking more and more like cheese-covered animals than the stylish creatures who entered the establishment. We finish with two homemade vegan ice cream sandwiches – Guinness cake layers encasing a salted caramel miso ice cream – but the night is not quite over.
During a discussion about the changing face of the restaurant industry, John flourishes two deliciously smoky Mezcal shots, washed down by his homemade chilli juice chaser. We sit back and look at one another in disbelief, with sauce on our elbows and swollen bellies. What monsters have we become?
Dizzy and faintly sticky, we stumble out into the warm Dalston night, stuffed every which way with massive grins on our faces.
This is a joyous venue with the staff and style to match. Maybe it’s the many pornstars pushing me to hyperbole, but for a naughty, innuendo-filled, grease-laden, veggie-friendly, Covid-safe night out, where else could you think of? Take those rings off, tie your hair back, and get ready to get filthy!