Burgers, like people, need to make a strong first impression. That initial appraisal, the slow sizing-up of the meal before you, can contribute a lot to the lasting memory of a meal. In the case of the PdV Burger at swanky public house Pub de Vin, my first impression was ‘Go home, you’re drunk.’ Barely held together by its skewer, the burger was lurching off to the side so violently it was about to take a fatal dip in the dainty little container of tomato relish sat beside it. For a simple reason – it was too god-damned big. We sat down for lunch in Pub de Vin just after midday on a Saturday, and thought we had stepped in to a morgue. The room was dingy and quiet. A middle-aged couple, whiling away their time over a newspaper and book, watched us sit down a few tables away from them and shortly after asked for their bill. Which was odd, as we’d already lowered our tones to stay consistent with the ambience.
It being a rather swanky establishment, we decided to order starters before our mains. I settled on garlic mushrooms on toast, which was generally pretty good, although exceptionally garlicky and a touch too much rocket for my tastes. My fiancé plumped for the smoked mackerel paté, which looked very decent indeed, prompting immediate food envy. But you’re not here for starters – you’re here to read about burgers, so let’s talk about the PdV burger in a little more detail.
So, yes, the fact that the burger had collapsed off to the side in its transit from the kitchen to the table was a bit of a disappointment, curiously. The whole shebang had distended like an accordion, its ingredients isolated and laid bare. Even when I carefully reassembled everything, the PdV burger was absurdly big, far too chunky to pick up without wearing its innards down my Saturday best, or dislocating my jaw. I had to resort to cutlery, dissecting the burger piecemeal, with the unwelcome result of taking the odd mouthful of pure bun, or a large wet slice of tomato. A burger is intended to be bitten into, sampling everything it had to offer at once; eating the ingredients like this, the burger once again spreading itself over the plate, quickly became, dare I say it, a bit of a chore.
That’s not to say that the ingredients were anything less than quality though, and you would hope so for the princely sum of £14.50. The patty was coarse, chunky and charred beautifully, the bacon fleshy and meaty. The gruyere, incredibly pungent when the platter was brought to the table, was curiously bland. Salad was plentiful and fresh, but no-one eats a burger for the green stuff. And, the homemade bun, taking its fair share of the blame for the bulk of the burger, was buttery and soft. But the whole failed to live up to the sum of its parts.
Now, these were good. Ensconced in a metal cone propped up in a corner of the platter, these light, crispy fries were very tasty, and seemed to go on forever. The sheer quantity of them helped round out the value of what was essentially a very pricey burger and chips.
Having heard great things about Pub de Vin’s big brother Hotel de Vin, I was expecting big things from this chain. Perhaps my expectations were too large, or perhaps the eerie quiet and sombre lighting inside dampened my spirits a little. The ingredients of the burger were undoubtedly of good quality, and the presentation of the meal could not be faulted, but the overall experience was disappointing, almost emasculating me with its size and reducing me to the shame of eating my burger with knife and fork. In general, the food here was good, evidenced in our starters and my fiancé’s club sandwich, but bistro burgers seem to suffer when subjected to the rules of fine dining. Give me a cheaper, dirtier, greasier burger any day of the week.
Price: £14.50 (includes fries)
Rating: 3 out of 5