Byron

In the first post I ever wrote on this blog I reviewed a mushroom burger with the caveat that I’m not usually a fan of the patty being replaced with a mushroom as I felt that it was a bit of a ‘cop-out’. Although the burger I had that night turned out to be delicious, the burger that led me to have those views was the ‘shroom burger I had had so many times at Byron. It was not the quality of the burger itself that I had issues with, but the fact that such a prominent burger chain could not – in my opinion – be bothered to come up with their own version of a veggie patty. When I found out however via twitter that Byron now did a bean burger I had to go and check it out. One thing Byron does well is great initiatives. The main reason I’ve sampled the mushroom burger at Byron is because they were giving them away to people participating in Movember, which I participated in a couple of years ago. This Summer, Byron did ‘Summer at Byron’ meaning every Thursday they offered some sort of treat, be it beer or bourbon, which culminated in August with buy-one-burger-get-one-free every week throughout the month. This was the final shove – an opportunity to review another one of the big hitters – at their Farringdon restaurant – couldn’t be missed.

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Settling in for our BOGOF deal the first thing I noticed was the difference between the Bean Burger and the Mushroom burger – namely that there wasn’t one. The list of extra ingredients is exactly the same between both burgers with the exception that the mushroom comes with goats cheese (the best addition IMO). I therefore opted to get the bean burger with extra blue cheese. For sides we went shared a portion of regular and courgette fries between the table – it was a weeknight after-all – and to drink I went for a bottle of Founders All Day IPA, resisting the urge to go for one of the tempting hard shakes.

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The burger itself looked like a very healthy looking bean burger, good size, served in a ‘big, squishy bun’ (as they like to call it) with the usual trimmings that I remember from my Byron Mushroom burger days. Biting into was a different result altogether, however. The burgers crispy looking facade gave way to a mushy and dry patty – falling into the trap of many bean-burgers before it. Aside from that the ensemble was great tasting and fresh, but not really enough to raise it above the Mushroom burger in my estimations. One of the best things about it was the added cheese which left me wondering why they omitted from the burger in the first instance, when it takes pride and place in the Mushroom burger anyway. Maybe this is to create a more vegan-friendly option? I don’t know. Sides-wise, the courgette fries were crunchy and juicy inside a light batter, and the beer was cold and crisp to cut through all the deep-fried elements of the meal.

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I have found when asking people what they think of Byron that their opinions are quite polarised, but in reality it’s harmless. Although the burgers are not necessarily the best out there, they are always trying new things, and supporting good initiatives (take, for example, their current One Feeds Two scheme that has been so popular, I mean, 25p burgers…). The problem with all the chopping and changing though is that they’re failing to hone in and finesse on their main burgers. I got notified later on twitter that you can actually switch up patties within the different burger arrangements – adding to my point. If a bit more focus was put into making the burgers that they already do, great, then they could really become the best burger chain in town. I might have had gripes with only the Mushroom burger available, but I’d definitely take one really good veggie burger over two average ones.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING 7/10

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Homeburger

Recently, a group of friends and I decided that we should enter a 6-a-side league in North London on Thursday night. Despite initial grumblings that Thursday might be a difficult night to fulfil (Thursday is the new Friday, after-all) we went ahead with it. Unfortunately, twelve weeks – and eight defeats – later, the team is no more, as we were barely able to make a team on any given week. One positive, though, is that I found a new burger joint. Browsing twitter one evening on my way to footy I stumbled across a few hashtags going around talking about one thing: #NationalHamburgerDay. To be honest, this sent me into a bit of a panic, I had been caught off-guard. Supposedly flying the flag for the veggie burger on the burger review circuit and I can’t even make plans to go for a burger on #NationalHamburgerDay – even though it might only have been said day in the states. As I was playing footy, how could I get my hands on a burger on burger day? Luckily for me, teammates of mine had sampled a burger joint near where we play. I was to have my Burger Day burger after all, from Homeburger.

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As we settled down in The Lamb on Holloway Road, with seemingly everybody around us tucking into their own form of takeaway dinner, it wasn’t long before we had ordered online on our phones and our food was on it’s way. Homeburger is a home delivery or collection service (the clue’s in the name) so we got ours ordered to the pub about 100m down the road! The menu has eight burgers, one veggie (although as I write this it doesn’t currently appear on the menu page on the website) – called the Greenhouse, listed on the website as containing BBQ mushrooms, cheddar & American cheese, and fried onions. I shared a portion of the aptly, if not unnecessarily, named Homefries and Homeslaw for sides. The burger itself was a really, really pleasant surprise. Having resigned my self to another mushroom burger, I was in fact presented with a patty containing mushrooms, but also filled with lentils and fried onions, on a bed of lettuce and tomato. The smokiness of the barbecue mushrooms and the sweetness of the fried onions offset eachother perfectly, while the lentils added the bulk of the patty and gave it some bite. The combo of the two cheeses topping the patty added to the menagerie of favours that littered this surprise package. The triple cooked Homefries were also a delight, whilst the Homeslaw might have been better replaced by Mac Shack and Cheese or some buttermilk battered Onion Shards.

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I was very happy to stumble across Homeburger as it exceeded my expectations in every way. Not only is it rare to find a decent independent burger place out of the conventional burger hubs of London, the fact that it resides on a fairly innocuous part of Holloway road is even more impressive. What pleased me more is that I wasn’t disappointed on #NationalHamburgerDay despite my late awareness to it. The fact that Homeburger delivers – and something must be said for the quality of their packaging – allowed me to partake in three of my favourite activities: playing football, going to the pub, and eating veggie burgers! Whilst the fate of our team on a Thursday night was ultimately doomed, Homeburger left me with something to savour, literally.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

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The Diner

Dalston, with all it’s hipster bars, vintage boutiques and nightclubs under corner-shops, is a blank place on the map for me when it comes to burger tasting. It’s not that there’s a dearth of gourmet burger joints in the area, it’s just that with Shoreditch being such a powerhouse of the London burger scene, Dalston gets left in it’s shadow. The question was: of Dalston’s numerous burger restaurants, which one to sample first? With a few independent restaurants, and kitchens in residence smattered around the place, it was actually the one chain restaurant that I decided to hit up first – the Diner (if only because it’s the first one you come across when walking up Kingsland Road from the south…).

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There’s a growing trend in the cooler retail and food establishments around these days that you’ve either got to feel like a club or look like a brothel. The Diner – from the outside at least – falls into the latter category. Once you get inside it’s a slightly more minimal vibe with big red bunkettes and exposed brick. As you sit down the first thing you’re presented with is a mind-bogglingly big beer menu, all overpriced and none on tap. Another disappointment was that my old favourite – the spicy bean burger, a burger I used to enjoy immensely when the diner first opened up a few years back – is no longer on the menu. What I did like, though, was that now there are now two different veggie burgers on the menu (out of 12), so I opted for the mushroom burger over the halloumi. For sides, Rach and I shared a portion ‘hanger fries’ (chips with fried onion, cheese and burger sauce), and some onion rings.

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The Mushroom Burger, served in a bun with aioli, swiss cheese, red peppers and basil, looked neat enough when it turned up. When I first bit into it, however, I was very pleasantly surprised. The combination of the garlicky aioli, fresh basil leaves and the jarred red pepper added a mediterranean twist to the already juicy and crispy breaded mushroom. At first glance I thought the burger might’ve been too small, but it turned out to be just the perfect amount. Just as well because the sides were indulgent, to say the least. The onion rings were delightfully crisp, big and full of big onion slices, but not at all soggy. The hanger fries were smothered in cheese and sauce and the crispy onion bits only added to the literally, and necessarily, finger-licking experience.

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The Diner may look like a bit of a dive from the outside, and maybe they have to ham up their already stylised decor for the Dalston store, but when it comes to the food they really deliver. The menu is big, the beer menu even bigger, but the burger menu stands out. If you’re going to Dalston and fancy a veggie burger but aren’t sure as to which of the small burger spots you want to sample, then a stop off at the Diner might not be such a bad shout after all.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8/10  

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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Patty & Bun

Meeting up with some North West London-based mates gave me a reason to shift my Easton London-centric burger hunt to the West-end. If Shoreditch is the heart of East London’s burger scene, then Marylebone is the same for the West. Of all the joints in this densely burger-populated area, Patty & Bun seems to be the name on everybody’s lips. From what I’ve heard, they seem to focus on what is most important of all, making sure their burgers are something to behold, so I had to see if their veggie burger was up to scratch.

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Even early on a Tuesday evening, Patty & Bun has a small queue out the front which could only be a good sign. Their restaurant on James St – one of two in London – seats about 30 covers, so when we were seated as a three we were squeezed round a two seater table, the distance to the next table somewhere between cosy and intimate. The menu boasts an impressive looking and sounding list of six burgers (one vegetarian) as well as some specials on the board. The Portobello ‘Dig It’ Mushroom burger looked interesting enough, (not that I had a choice to make!) but what I found unusual was the lack of hot veggie sides. Only the rosemary chips were available, and even they come in a non-vegetarian option – with chicken salt. There is coleslaw and salad available but both effectively come in the burger, so it was a Dig It burger with chips for me (and every other veggie in the house).

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My gripes were swiftly forgotten when the burger arrived, though. Oh my, what a burger! The Dig It burger puts a unique spin on the tried but tested ‘shroom burger by making it a ‘mushroom fritter’ – essentially making it a giant breaded mushroom. Breaded mushrooms are delicious in any form but when one’s freshly made and consists of the juiciest and most flavoursome mushroom of them all, then you have something special on (in) your hands. The first bite into this thing is one experience I will cherish for a long time, the first sensation is the flavour burst from the mushroom itself, then comes the waves of the cheese, the tarragon mayo, the herby garlic butter all being cut through by the fresh coleslaw on the base of the perfectly-sized, glazed brioche bun (which held together until the very last bite). The colours that dripped out of the burger, mixed with the ketchup, mayo and bloody tasty house hot-sauce that I had with my chips onto the paper wrapping – or should I say canvas – that the burger came in, resembled that of an impressionist painting, but at Patty & Bun, the chefs are the artists.

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I did have a few qualms about P&B though and it’s not just concerning the lack of veggie food to choose from. First of all, there is no beer on tap, only small cans or bottles, which just isn’t the same as a freshly poured pint. Secondly, I’m still not overly enamoured with the whole everything-in-paper vibe, sometimes it’s nice to have a plate. Lastly though, and most importantly was the fact that I felt like we were being rushed through our meal. There is a fine line between good service and feeling hurried, and I felt they were just the wrong side of it. Coupled with the fact that we weren’t allowed to be seated until our whole party of three had arrived, we ended up being seated, served, fed and paid up in just over half an hour. However, it’s clear that the reason for this is because demand for what Patty & Bun serve up is so high. In this burger game, one thing is always going to guarantee the return custom, and that’s damn good burgers.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 9.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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Dirty Burger

My brother is in town for a few days, down from his first term in uni up at Leeds, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone by catching up with him over a burger. I was looking forward to visiting Dirty Burger because it seems like a place that carries a no-frills vibe about it, but still presumably puts a lot of thought into their short-but-sweet food menu. The restaurant itself, just across the road form Boxpark by Shoreditch High Street station, is more of a take-away spot but they do have a bar running along the outside of the restaurant where you can sit.

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To give an idea of just how short the menu is, Dirty Burger only serves three burgers, of which one is vegetarian.  On the board, the veggie burger held no clues as to what it entailed so I was ordering blind. Unfortunately called the Dirty Cop Out (although I imagine whoever came up with that finds it hilarious) I tried as hard as I could to only refer to is as ‘the veggie burger’. My resistance proved futile, though, as the order was shouted back to the kitchen: ‘One cheeseburger and one Cop Out!’… ha ha. We decided to get one each of the crinkle cut fries and the onion fries – the only two sides availble.

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My first impression of the burger itself was that it was smaller that the usual. Also, just by looking at it I still couldn’t tell what it consisted of. The first thing I noticed was a disk of something hard and fried so I thought maybe a fritter, but on closer inspection (and a peak inside) I realise it was a mushroom covered in fried cheese! Taking a bite into it provided a surprisingly large burst of flavour for something so small. The cheese – smoked applewood – had been fried over and around the mushroom and it certainly packed a punch. A few slices of gherkin and a bunch of rocket were thrown in to counter the grease without much success, but the taste of the rocket worked well with the mushroom.

With the richness of the burger meaning I could only eat it at a bite a time before putting it back down, it was almost comical that the portion sizes and nature of the sides were how they were. Both the crinkle cut fries (double fried) and the onion fries (essentially, straight onion rings) were both delicious at first – especially the onion fries, which were made in a light batter and used red, rather than white, onions – but became harder and harder to face as we got through them. Coupled with the fact that my drink was a milkshake off the specials board (spiced apple and cinnamon – recommended), it quickly became one of the most calorific weekday lunches I’ve ever had.

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Simple, quick and flavoursome, Dirty Burger wasn’t too far away from what I imagined. However, my overriding memory of the experience was constantly having to grab another one of the many napkins they provided to wipe the grease off my fingers. As a lover of cheese, and to some extent grease, this was even a bit too much for me. I can picture it as the perfect late meal to catch on the way home after some afterwork drinks and the simplicity of the menu, and the layout of the restaurant, lends itself to that. Probably not the best spot for lunch then, especially for my poor little bro craving to catch up on his vitamin deficit whilst on his short break for student living.

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10