Note: My dining companion for this meal was Marcus, who writes Ain't No Picnic, a blog dedicated to all things hamburgers. Keep track of his blog; he has plans of opening a proper burger van in London sometime soon.
The outlook is positive. Burgers in London are getting better. A culture seems to be developing and people are taking hamburgers more seriously. No longer will pre-ground, frozen and cheap meat on a crap bun with watery vegetables be accepted; it's an insult to all of those who dedicate their lives to making great hamburgers, documented by people like George Motz and written about daily on A Hamburger Today. If you read my post on Goodman which I published last week, you'll have read that I found what I would consider to be the best burger in London. That isn't to say though, that there aren't contenders (Hawksmoor being an one that comes to mind initially, for the price point). In fact, I'd be willing to state that one could separate the burgers in London and rank them by style, using the AHT guide as a point of reference. Goodman, therefore, would be the best Steakhouse/Fancy Pants burger in the city. Byron, which launched a two month trial of using 'American' (read: orange, plasticky, essential on a burger, 'Kraft Single' style) cheese would, in my opinion, come under 'Fast Food Style' and would easily come out on top. A regular visitor to Byron, I have enjoyed their burgers in the past, but moaned about the mealy and overly-floury bun to anyone who would listen. Using cheese supplied by Cheese Cellar, the 'George Hamilton' as it is colloquially known promised to make a good burger even better, but would it make up for the loss of the short-lived Big D? I had to find out.
Courgette fries (£3.00). This choice drew an excited exclamation of "good choice!" from our waitress. One bite and I couldn't believe I'd never tried them, despite visiting on numerous occasions. Clean taste of frying, the crispy and well seasoned courgette chips were a welcome side. A better bet than the skin-on chips or the meek fries on offer. Seriously moreish.
Cheeseburger (£7.25). The standard Byron patty comes topped with two slices of 'American' cheese, which is nicely melted and has a mild, creamy flavour. The good quality meat is well seasoned and has a nice charred flavour, but as Marcus pointed out, there's no way you will get an even cooking when using this technique. A flat-top griddle would insure this, but is it worth sacrificing the beautiful smoky flavour of the coals for a better crust? I'm not sure. One thing I am sure of - and I'm sorry for going on about burger buns so much - is that the bread is simply not a good enough match for the filling within. The quality of the meat demands a better bun, or at least one which is steamed after toasting, by putting a lid or an upturned bowl on the buns whilst they're on the grill. Ultimately, it's not enough to detract from a seriously enjoyable burger experience, but it's a gripe that is ever-present, though the average customer probably doesn't study types of burger buns (Martin's Potato Rolls would be exquisite with this burger).
Oh yeah, and another thing: the pickle spear. Slice them so that they're round and put them in the burger. People that don't like gherkins can pick them out. They're essential.
Autopsy shot. Perfectly medium-rare, as requested and appropriately juicy. Good grilling skills on show from the kitchen.
One last delicious morsel.
The total bill for two burgers, two root beers, one shared bowl of courgette fries (I'm so glad they don't call them zucchini fries) and one espresso was £24.75, and we added £3.25 for the service, which we were told is distributed between the front of house and the team in the kitchen, quite sensibly. This brought the total up to £28 for the two of us, a few quid shy of the final bill at Goodman a few days earlier. Was the burger at Byron as good? No, but nearly. If they can sort the bun out and the issue with the gherkins, then it'll certainly be up there, and the introduction of the American cheese is definitely a step in the right direction. Right now, I will just repeat what I've said before: Byron is head and shoulders above anything else as widely available in the city, and is a good option at the price range.
- ▼ March (8)