My father is a fastidiously clean man. He considered it his duty not only to ensure that we, his children, would be kept as spotless as his faultlessly tidy semi-detached, but that we would be denied knowledge of the very existence of dirt. My dad never let me play football on a rainy day. He made my siblings and I wash our hands before and after going to the toilet. Once, when driving through the picturesque villages of Kent, he tutted loudly upon sighting a pub called The Dirty Habit.
Quite what my dad would make of the dirty food trend is beyond me. ‘The food’s not actually dirty, Dad, it’s about the feeling you get when eating sinful-‘ I’ve decided not to tell him. It would only cause him pain.
Dirty Tommi’s won’t be around forever. It’s a collaboration between Tommi’s Burger, a Finnish chain of in-your-face burger joints with a typically unnerving Scandinavian directness, and Dirty Bones of Kensington, an established chamber of American cuisine which routinely fulfills west London’s guilty passion for naughty food. As a union it makes sense. It’s reflected on a menu that welds together each restaurant’s signature dishes in a forceful and thrillingly baffling fusion. As if to heighten the sinfulness, it’s only available on Sundays.
Tommi’s Burger Dog fulfills its promise – beef rolled into the shape of a hot dog and slotted comfortably into a long brioche bun. Slathered with a thick cheese sauce, shallots and dill pickles, it’s positively filthy. There’s even some short rib in there. The beef is coarse, with an earthy, mealy taste that hits the spot. Tommi knows what he’s doing with his dogs.
There’s a Mac’n’Cheese burger, where the patty is Tommi’s but the steak glaze, charred lettuce and macaroni & cheese are pure Dirty Bones. All that can be definitively said about this unholy combination is that it works, in a smutty, sleazy-CEO-and-his-secretary kind of way. It’s doused in a Montgomery cheddar and cream cheese sauce, smothering the meat in a suffocating hug.
Our drinks are even bolder. My partner’s Strawberry Shortbread milkshake is sweeter than a dessert, enlivened with a measure of Finlandia vodka. Crushed shortbread shards only make it harder to stop drinking. The 101 Dalmatians goes further: a full measure of vodka, a shot of Amaretto and a splash of chocolate-flavoured Bailey’s is decadent enough, but served long with cream it’s possibly the most indulgent thing on our table. Even the fries, buried under an avalanche of mincemeat, can’t compete.
It’s all fun and games, but behind the bawdiness is the genuine spirit of experimentation. While putting macaroni inside a burger bun isn’t exactly Cricks-Watson stuff, the chefs here clearly want to try new things. There’s a ‘baconnaise’ on the steak burger, a Hollandaise sauce with the a meaty kick delivered by bacon, sweetcorn-flavoured mayonnaise, and, best of all, a burger shaped like a hot dog. The setting feels right, too: a basement decorated with toy cars and ornamental hardback books. It’s as if you’re literally descending into the subconscious realm of your inner child.
With a menu perverted enough to have you endlessly prevaricating as though you’re buying a car, and a selection of drinks which can only impair that judgement, Dirty Tommi’s is a worthy addition to the dirty ‘movement’. This is dirty food for well-groomed Kensingtonites, who shyly admit to loving heavy-hitters like the Dirty Fried Chicken Burger, as would anyone who has spent their life living on kale smoothies and The Sunday Telegraph. You, too, will enjoy it. Just don’t tell your Dad.
Dirty Tommi’s at Dirty Bones
20 Kensington Church St,
Tel: 020 7920 6434