It’s only been three years since food obsessed Ben Denner launched Lucky Chip burgers as a street food venture and his first venue is almost here – but, for now, Angel, and in particular The Old Queens Head, is reaping the benefits
Most people have heard about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon phenomenon, where it’s said that anyone in Hollywood can be linked to the prolific actor through their films in six steps. It became such a global talking point that EE snapped him up to front their ‘connected’ ad campaign. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact I am happily dismantling Kevin Bacon at The Old Queens Head on Essex Road.
The slight difference here, of course, is that we aren’t talking about the man himself, but the irresistible burger created by Ben Denner through his Lucky Chip guise. An aged beef patty, American cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles and Applewood smoked bacon have all been lovingly combined in a brioche bun to offer a little piece of burger heaven. As Ben rightly states: ‘Everyone loves a good burger.’
As I mop away a dollop of ketchup from my chin, we take a seat in one of The Old Queens Head’s comfy sofas to talk business – and I just have to ask, what comes first: the name of the burger or the ingredients? ‘It could be either,’ Ben insists. ‘Sometimes we will come up with a really good burger that we think “who can we name this after?” and sometimes we have an actor in mind who we want to name a burger after. We did Tom Selleck, which was a tricky one. How do you create a burger in the name of Tom Selleck? We looked at some of the shows he did, like Magnum PI, so we have got a bit of pineapple, an Hawaiian influence with some BBQ sauce… I wanted to put a moustache in there, but that wasn’t going to work.’
Ben says that with a smile, but if anyone can make some bushy lip hair work in a burger it would be this man. He reveals how he is obsessed by food in general, not just burgers, and concocted the plan for Lucky Chip six years ago. Being made redundant from managing a member’s club was the push he needed to launch his dream project, which came about in the staggeringly quick time of four weeks. ‘We tested it out in Kensal Rise, in the church car park,’ Ben recalls. ‘The idea was to test the water, get the hang of things and then take Lucky Chip to festivals – which never happened as within a week we knew we were on to something! By the third day we had queues of people and it just snowballed after that.’
Lucky Chip became a fixture of the East London street food scene, before the Columbo Group came calling, realising a good thing when they saw it. As well as being available in Stoke Newington’s The Nest, The Old Queens Head has been home to Lucky Chip for a couple of months now. ‘I love this pub and the area, so knew it would be great for Lucky Chip,’ he says warmly of our destination today. ‘The response has been great so far.’
On that note, what for Ben makes a good burger? ‘It totally depends on the person,’ he states, ‘and there are so many schools of thought. Some people are very nerdy about their burgers and say it should only have ketchup, meat and cheese. I have to admit, I used to think like that a little bit! Then is it a brioche bun or not? Ultimately, if it tastes good, eat it!’
Ben disappears for 20 minutes to rustle up some specimens for our photo shoot – obviously The Angel resident team were more than happy when told we’d have to find space for some more Lucky Chip burgers – and when he’s back in position, he has some rather exciting news. ‘We are launching our first site in Ridley Road [East London],’ he grins. ‘It’s been a long time coming. It’s a small venue that will be called Lucky Chip Burgers and Wine. We are going to have a drinks side that’s heavily focused on wine, which is another passion of mine. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. After about six months of this being open we will know where we go from here. We want to stand out from what everyone else does.’ Just as Kevin Bacon is connected to what seems like everyone, it won’t be long before everyone has encountered a Lucky Chip burger.
Words: Mark Kebble
Keep up with the latest Lucky Chip news at lucky-chip.co.uk, and enjoy their burgers right now at The Old Queens Head, 44 Essex Road N1 8LN; 020 7354 9993; theoldqueenshead.com