I've not blogged in a while. I'll be honest: I was getting quite bored of it. Plus I wasn't really going out to eat that much, and if I was, I was showing up at places I've eaten hundreds of times before; nowhere new. A mention in the Independent reminded me that I do have a blog and that I should perhaps update it - a cheap cash in for any new readers, or something.
The Independent article in question was primarily focused on The Meatwagon and the fantastic burgers available from the mobile street food truck. I'm afraid I'll once again be writing about burgers in this post, at the risk of being typecast. Am I...the Michael Cera of the food blogging world??
ThaT Burger recently opened in Watford (I'll spare you the shock now - it's in zone 8...yes, there is a zone 8) to little fanfare. Despite some Twitter buzz and a promisingly active Facebook page - fans were asked on their opinions of fries, deals and so on - hardly anyone else had picked up on it. After seeing that they would be opening in August at some stage, and they were giving away thousands of free burgers, I fired off an inquisitive email. I was introduced to Justin Davies, who, along with his brother, was opening ThaT Burger on Watford High St. They're no strangers to the restaurant business, having operated The Rotisserie and deli chain Delisserie previously. A phone call later and it was clear that Justin had a meticulous blueprint - this was a man who'd eaten burgers in the United States and wanted to bring the same level of fast-food to London.
After missing out on a pre-opening test run, Sam and I finally made our way over to zone 8 (eight). I would claim that we had other business to attend to there, but no, we made the trip specially. It was worth it:
ThaT Burger (£3.55)
Taking inspiration from Five Guys, presumably, a ThaT Burger comes as a double as standard. With each patty weighing in at about 60g, it's not a lot of meat, which makes the fact you can request as many patties as you wish (75p per patty; £1.05 per patty with cheese) an appealing prospect. That's not the only thing you can modify, with the entire burger being customisable; each burger is cooked to order so requests are noted before they hit the griddle. The aforementioned patties, despite their diminutive size (the thinness allows quicker cooking) pack decent flavour. They're well seasoned with salt and pepper, but the meat's quality also shines through. Justin has expressed his desire to use prime quality beef in a fast-food setting - the same quality beef he'd use at one of his upscale deli or grill restaurants. It certainly makes a difference: a lip-licking greasiness (in a good way) that leaves you anticipating the next bite. If you choose to go for cheese, expect a classic American style slice, with a taste and feel reminiscent of Kraft. It obviously works incredibly well, as does the fresh salad (sliced pickles as standard) and the special sauce. A bespoke baked bun surrounds and does a good job of retaining the structure of the sandwich. A really enjoyable fast-food burger.
Part of ThaT Burger's consultations with fans on their Facebook page was to find out how customers wanted their fries: with skins on or off. Some suggested that peeling the spuds would mean it was more authentic, while others were of the belief that keeping the skin-on would provide more flavour and make it seem more home-made, more natural rather than the frozen and reformed spindly numbers you'll find in the high street fast-food chains. I'm firmly in the skin-on camp. The twice-fried potato chips here are once again reminiscent of the effort by Five Guys. These are just as good. Piping hot and spilling out of the cup they come in, they're crispy and pack a great potato flavour. Sauces and cheese are available at a price, but they were good enough on their own; cajun seasoning is available if you require it.
Chicken burger (£2.95)
I was kind of against this - I thought it would detract from the cheeseburgers. I thought it would be a cheap afterthought, cashing in on those who are dim enough to dine at a cheeseburger restaurant and not wish to eat a cheeseburger. How wrong I was. The chicken burger from ThaT Burger may well be the best chicken sandwich I've ever tasted. Good quality chicken breast is breaded and deep fried so that juicy flesh hides below a crispy coating (which tastes like it's well seasoned with paprika as well as salt and pepper, but I'm just guessing from memory). The sandwich is constructed in the same way as a hamburger, which works incredibly well, somehow. The special sauce complements the fantastic fried chicken. Worth the trip to zone 8 alone.
We also tried the cheesecake (baked at Delisserie - very good; dense) and the soft serve ice cream, which was great. If they can add a fried apple pie to the dessert menu and root beer to the catalogue of sodas, I'll be incredibly happy. As it stands, ThaT Burger is very promising. I understand there are plans to expand, and it seems like it's ready to roll out to a high street near you soon, but I just hope the same quality can be found at every potential store. The team clearly know what they're doing though, and their research shines through.
15/17 The Parade
Keep up to date with ThaT Burger events and news via their Facebook page