The Ultimate Beef Burger, Recipease

Naming your only meat sandwich ‘The Ultimate Beef Burger’ takes some gumption, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from Mr. Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and TV personality and restaurateur and anything else you’d care to mention, whose Recipease chain served it up to me one sleepy Monday lunchtime. I’ve had mixed experiences with Jamie’s various culinary ventures in the past. I often whip up recipes from his bazillion cookbooks with  some success, whilst meals out at Jamie’s Italian have either been very hot, or very cold affairs. That’s figuratively speaking of course, I’m not comparing chillies with ice-cream here. So the wife and I sat down at the polished wooden table in Recipease with a certain level of anticipation but not really expecting to be blown away by the food on offer. And we weren’t, as it turns out.

Part cookery-school, part canteen, part shop, the Recipease we have here in sunny Brighton is a curious affair, a strange hybrid that might have you lunching with a pal whilst an over-coated shopper browses behind you, idly admiring a big yellow teapot. Or leafing through yet another newly-released tome containing choice phrases like ‘pukka’ or ‘whazz it up’. The kitchen-cum-learning station sits in the centre of the eating space, emitting sights, sounds and smells as your lunch is cooked to order. It’s a pleasant way to anticipate your meal, especially as you can keep half an eye on its construction.

recipease1Recipease – other than this kitchen and the tables and chairs, pretty much everything else if for sale.

The Ultimate Beef Burger can be ordered one of three ways – plain (with English mustard, baby gem lettuce, egg mayo and thyme-caramelised onions), with mature cheddar cheese, or mature cheddar cheese and streaky bacon. Three guesses which one I plumped for, and the first two don’t count. My wife went for some spicy avocado smush on toast thing. To each their own, eh?

recipease2The Ultimate Beef Burger, complete with rosemary skewer.

The Burger

The first thing you notice is that spear of fresh rosemary skewering the layers of the burger together, actually looking pretty damn resplendent. First impressions count, as our eyes tend to rule our bellies, and this unusual touch was a welcome one, until you remove it and all hell breaks loose on that bun. Described in the menu as a “soft” bun, this aggressively-decorated bap wasn’t quite up to the task of holding the stack of ingredients inside. The first bite sent the patty and the lettuce careening out the other side of the burger, and caused a large chunk of the bun to break off into oblivion (or, rather, the attractive wooden board on which the burger was presented). This set the tone for the whole meal; take a bite, watch in horror as the excessive mayo oozes out onto a stray finger, frantically try to contain the rapidly disintegrating mess, and finally concede defeat and finish off the sad debris with a knife and fork. Shame.

recipease4Halfway through eating it, reduced to a chaotic mess of ingredients to be eaten with knife and fork

The beef though was coarse, flavourful and rich, luckily surviving that aggressive mayo overkill. The bacon, crisp and streaky added a welcome dash of seasoning but after the first gooey, cheesy bite, the cheddar seemed to vanish, rarely raising its head again to compliment the beef. That sea of mayo tasted like the regular stuff to my palate, with nary a hint of the free-range eggs that had been promised within. The onions were juicy and sweet, complimenting what was a surprise highlight – the lettuce. Yep, the lettuce; the most overlooked and unnecessary component in a burger, but nonetheless bright, crunchy and delicious in this particular one.

But a burger is only as good as its bun, and whilst I’m quite partial to wiping grease off my chin, or washing sauces off my chops, a burger that disintegrates before I finish it is a cardinal sin in my book. And having to take a knife and fork to it is a crime; an affront to any burger aficionado. Sort that bun out Recipease, and maybe ease up on the mayo, and this would be a much, much better burger.

The Sides

What, no chips?! It being a lunchtime and everything, the lack of any kind of potato-based side dish wasn’t quite as galling as it might have been, but still, if you’re going to serve a burger, then sell it with at least the option of fries on the side. Toss them in rosemary or put them in an attractive tin if you want to dress them up a bit, but just make sure they’re there! Don’t thinly slice up a gherkin and lattice them up on the side of the burger. They should be in the burger!

Summary

There’s lots to admire here, and customers should factor in that this is the only burger on the menu, which otherwise comprises much ‘foodier’ dishes. The ingredients were of a high quality, as you would expect of a chain run by a celebrity chef, but the baffling bun choice and over-zealous mayo lets down the Ultimate Beef Burger. Switch up the cheddar with something a bit punchier and bung in an order of fries, and I’d consider coming back for this one. Even if only for that delightful sprig of rosemary speared through the middle.

Price: £7.50 (+ £0.55 for mature cheddar and £1.55 for mature cheddar and streaky bacon)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Death Melt 3000, Burger Kult

Quirky name? Check. Slick branding? Check. Interesting burger names? Check. Repeated use of the words ‘smoked’, ‘glaze’, ‘caramelised’ and ‘melted’? Check.

Relatively new offering Burger Kult (serving from the kitchen of Church Street watering hole, The Mash Tun) seems to have all the ingredients for a successful burger franchise all sewn up. Having been tipped off to its existence by a Facebook fan of mine, myself and my wife headed down with high expectations on an unseasonably sunny Saturday in early October to check if that was indeed the case. The patio area outside was swarming with punters, most of which were staring down huge-looking burgers, so we sat just inside the door to the pub, getting the most of the fresh air whilst also finding a quiet space so I could snap away at my burger with carefree abandon. For those that don’t know The Mash Tun, to my eyes it’s a somewhat scruffy establishment, in dire need of a new lick of paint, catering mostly (I imagine) to the student crowd. But the bar is well-stocked and the bar staff are friendly, so we set aside these minor aesthetic complaints and greedily studied the menu.

burgerkult5Burger Kult’s simple but slick branding

burgerkult6Choose your poision – Burger Kult’s regular menu

And what a menu! It’s hard not to get excited, and let out little coos of anticipation, when names like ‘Swine & Roses’ (ground pork and maple bacon), ‘Tokyo Suicide’ (teriyaki chicken and wasabi mayo) and ‘Titty Twister’ (smoked paprika chicken breast and pan-fried chorizo) jump out at you. Five of the nine regular burgers are created with Burger Kult’s beef mix of chopped chuck and forerib, and it was from these that I made my choice – the Death Melt 3000. It’s comprised of the patty, gherkins, caramelised red onion relish, apple butter BBQ sauce and three types of cheese – melted Emmenthal, Flaming Inferno and smoked Applewood. Fries are included as standard with all burgers (hurrah!) but we ordered a side of onion rings too. My wife plumped for the ‘Chuck Satan’, which boasts maple bacon, caramelised red onion relish, Applewood smoked cheddar and the apple butter BBQ sauce. A photo of it is included here alongside the Death Melt 3000, but isn’t included as part of this review. Another time, perhaps!

burgerkult2The Chuck Satan – my wife’s burger and so not reviewed here. I kinda wish I’d chosen this one too…

Due to it being a Saturday we had to wait a not inconsiderable 25 minutes for our food, so it was past 2pm and with severely grumbling bellies that we finally tucked in to our nosh, presented on-brand on black plastic trays, with the chips ensconced in a little black beaker on the side.

The Burger

It’s a tough thing to balance a clutch of different flavours, especially in a burger where one bite takes in all of them. The first impression of the Death Melt 3000 was of the gherkin, the acidity of the vinegar cutting through everything else like a knife. Next came the caramelised onion. After dabbing my lips clean from the beautiful juices dripping down my chin, the fiery notes of the Flaming Inferno cheese made themselves known, little flecks of red chilli swimming in that gloopy yellow sauce. But the beef – I couldn’t taste it. The prime ingredient in a burger, but oftentimes the one most overlooked, is the patty and whilst this one was cooked well – juicy and pink – it was completely overwhelmed by everything around it.

To my eyes, a burger patty should be cooked like a good steak, with a well-seasoned crust that forms a chargrilled shell when it hits a hot pan, providing a hit of crunch and flavour that still retains beautiful pink meat and the tender juices within. The best burgers I’ve had so far in my fledgling Brighton adventures have had this chargrilled crust, ensuring the meat plays its deserved starring role in the overall taste of the burger. Burger Kult use a Black Magic glaze for their patties, their own take on a South African/American barbecue finish, but it falls short of providing the seasoned exterior that allows the beef to be heard amongst all those competing flavours.

This aside, the rest of the burger stacks up well. A beautiful buttery brioche bun stands up admirably to the greasy mayhem within; no early disintegration here. The cheeses, whilst not being particularly discernible individually, were delicious and gooey, the Flaming Inferno especially hitting the mark for those who, like me, enjoy a hint of heat without it making them weep. And it was big and beastly enough to satisfy my hunger and then some, hulking comfortably in my stomach extremities for the rest of the afternoon. For £8.95, the Death Melt 3000 is a pretty great value offering, especially when you factor in the chips…

burgerkult3The Death Melt 3000, accompanying chips and, in the background, the onion rings

burgerkult4A cutaway of the Death Melt 3000 – nice bit of juicy pink flesh there

The Sides

And speaking of the chips, they were pretty good ones too. Skin-on and hand-cut, they were crunchy on the outside and fluffy within like all decent fries should be. I can’t really attest to the ‘seasoned’ aspect of them, as I’d completely forgotten about that from the menu and had heavily sprinkled them with salt and pepper before I’d snaffled the first one down. They were plentiful too, so much so, in fact, that I had to leave a handful of them in the beaker.

I’m not too sure why I keep ordering onion rings on the sides of my burgers. Rarely do they satisfy, and neither do they here, although Burger Kult still make a decent fist of it. Once again, there’s loads of them, dipped in breadcrumbs rather than batter, but with a nasty habit of the onion slipping out of the ring when bit in half, disappearing into the mouth and leaving just a half-shell of batter to munch on. I think my days of ordering onion rings as a matter of course are over, unless there’s something a bit different about them setting them apart, like the smoked paprika onion rings I enjoyed at the Mucky Duck some time ago.

Summary

There’s plenty to enjoy at Burger Kult. The list of burgers is inventive and fun, the portions are hearty and inexpensive. The juices flow freely – no turgid, dry hunks of meat here. But I like my beef to play the starring role in a burger, otherwise you’re just eating a rather big and unhealthy cheese and onion sandwich. Perhaps I chose poorly; other burgers on the menu may have a better balance between the patty and its accompanying ingredients, and I can categorically say that there’s enough promise here for me to return for another crack.

But based on this evidence alone, the Death Melt 3000 just falls short of some of the other stunning burgers I’ve enjoyed in the fair city of Brighton. I think this, even more so than others I’ve reviewed on the site so far, may be down to personal taste however, so I can still recommended that you pay the Mash Tun a visit and decide for yourselves. Was I satiated? Definitely. Fully satisfied? Not quite.

Price: £8.95 (includes chips). Onion rings were priced at £2.95.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Dead Hippie, MeatLiquor

After what felt like an age of waiting, and with four successful London branches already under its belt, MeatLiquor Brighton finally opened its painted doors to the public last Wednesday. Intrepid burger explorer that I am, I was in the lengthening queue as the Brighton’s freshest burger joint opened for the first time to its slavering, meat-crazed new customers. “Hip” was the strong first impression; every inch of the walls and ceiling was covered in snazzy graffiti, a large neon flamingo stood proudly next to our table. The bar was lengthy and well-stocked, the atmosphere dark and buzzing, the smells of chargrilled beef inducing much smacking of lips. Every table was filled; excitement was palpable.

meatliquor1Hungry burger-lovers waiting for the doors to open

The menu at MeatLiquor is extensive, with seafood being a surprise inclusion alongside an impressive list of burgers. Cocktails are also represented generously, and giddy on the excitement of opening night, my friend and I ordered the House Grog, an exotic and potent blend of three different types of rum and fruit juices. Staff were milling about everywhere, as you’d expect for the first service, and were extremely polite and attentive, bringing our drinks and taking our orders quickly and efficiently. There was one hiccup though – we got an extra plate of the fried pickles! Considering how good they are (see ‘Sides’) this could only be viewed as a massive bonus.

meatliquor4MeatLiquor is characterised by somewhat unusual taste – isn’t that right, flamingo-girl-thing?

meatliquor5The House Grog – a rum-based cocktail that’s well worth the £8.50 price tag

Buoyed by the 50% promotion they had running for the first few days, we submitted an order that we hoped would make our stomachs weep with joy – the Dead Hippie, the Green Chili Cheeseburger, and sides of cheese fries, fried pickles and house slaw.

meatliquor2 meatliquor3Could quite happily try them all

The Burger

The Dead Hippie is a messy, gooey, gorgeous beast, glistening in its own juices provided by the two patties, each fried in mustard for an added twang. Sandwiched between these meaty slabs is the rapidly disintegrating cheese, adding an extra hit of greasy goodness. Pickles and cucumber add some counterpoint crunch to all that tender meat, but it’s the sauce that makes the Dead Hippie sing, although I can’t quite make out what it consists of (and MeatLiquor wouldn’t tell me). My guess would be at a mustard and mayo combination, maybe with some added herbs, but I might be completely off-base. Whatever it is, it balances out the umami of the juicy beef perfectly. I suppose my only gripe is a common one – the bun didn’t stand a chance in the face of all that gooey manna, the bottom half breaking apart long before I’d polished off the last crumbs.

meatliquor7All hail the Dead Hippie

My friend didn’t fare so well with his choice, judging by the coughing and spluttering across the table. Pulling back the top half of his bun, we were horrified to see the amount of green chillies clinging to the bread – enough to kill a spice-intolerant man, like myself. Having scraped off the majority of the chillies, he fared better, but this over-zealous chili hit seemed to spoil his burger. Hopefully an opening day blip – but just bear it in mind if you order one of the chili based concoctions.

The Sides

Ah fried pickles, where have you been all my life? The ultimate side, in my opinion, consisting of nothing more than slivers of gherkin deep-fried in batter and presented with a generous dollop of blue cheese to even out the acidity. Pure snacking heaven; I’d go back to MeatLiqour just for these.

meatliquor6Fried pickles – your new favourite thing ever

The cheese fries weren’t quite as good, with the cheddar having coalesced into one big cheesy carpet on top of the chips. Tasty, still, but not clinging to every fry as you would hope. The slaw was excellent however; crunchy, fresh and tangy and in a generous portion which is best shared, much like the fries. However, having got an extra plate of the fried pickles by mistake, I can categorically say get your own portion of these bad boys. MeatLiquor know how to do sides alright.

meatliquor8The cheesy fries – not as good as they look, but still tasty

meatliquor9A generous portion of house-made slaw

Summary

MeatLiquor reminds me of fast food, but quality, tasty fast food. This is McDonalds in an alternate universe, complete with that sensory hit of bright red stripy paper and plastic trays. Where Maccy D’s is happy to churn out turgid, processed salt burgers, MeatLiquor will fatten you up with choice, plump patties, but that feeling of scratching an itch with naughty food is identical. My Dead Hippie didn’t quite match up with other offerings containing quirkier ingredients that I’ve found elsewhere in Brighton; burgers that surprise as well as satiate. But there’s still something to be said about the sheer unadulterated pleasure that a juicy, gooey cheeseburger provides, and MeatLiquor do it as well as anyone else I’ve tried. Pure fatty goodness, then, and, in the fried pickles, an unmatched side dish that will very hard to beat.

Price: Dead Hippie £8.00

Rating: 4 out of 5

Roadside Sliders, Coast To Coast

There’s an age-old battle between a man’s gut and a man’s burger. They are diametrically opposed; the burger calls softly like a siren, whispering of succulent beef and liquid cheese, the gut sits mute, hulking, accusatory. Luckily for me then, I appeased them both when I took the lengthy walk from Brighton’s Seven Dials area all the way along the front to the marina’s Coast To Coast restaurant. I’d burned off a decent amount of calories, I reasoned smugly, so I could return to a happy status quo by consuming them all again in the same meal. Taking this logic to it’s natural conclusion, factoring in the return walk and the added exercise, I went a step further and ordered three burgers. Well, ok, so technically they weren’t burgers, they were sliders. But I could count on a lot of bang for my buck, as long as Coast To Coast weren’t repeating the mistakes of the execrable Hove Bank and their miserable slider offering. I’d been burned once already. I prayed I wouldn’t be burned again.

I did get burned, after a fashion. I ordered chicken wings in a Louisiana hot sauce as my starter, not realising how flipping hot that sauce was to be. Historically opposed to anything evenly remotely spicy, my advancing years has brought with it a willingness to test my culinary boundaries, and subtle spices have been known to pass my lips in recent times. After these bad boys, I hardly had any lips left.

coastocoast_chickenwings

Chicken wings with Louisiana hot sauce – hotter than the bowels of Hell

The Roadside Sliders at Coast To Coast are mini versions of their bigger brothers, comprising of a Black and Blue (blue cheese and an onion ring), Pulled Pork (self-explanatory really) and Bacon and Cheese (yep, you guessed it). At £12.95, they’re not exactly cheap, but any rising panic that I had another Hove Bank debacle on my hands were soon assuaged when they arrived resplendently on a big chunky wooden board (bonus points!), perhaps not identical to the picture printed on the extensive menu, but as near as dammit. I licked my lips and bent to my task.

The Sliders

coasttocoast_fullMealThe Roadside Sliders, an admittedly beautiful sight

The first of the three to find its way careening down my esophagus is the classic bacon and cheese, and its a bit disappointing that it ends up being the best of the three. The patty is a little thin, but juicy and tender, made even more lip-smacking by crispy, streaky bacon. The cheese takes a little bit of a back seat, but the little bundle of perfect ingredients is held together admirably by a sizeable, homemade brioche bun. As I dab away the last crumbs on my (still-burning) lips, I’m nodding vigorously at the quality of the meal.

Such unbridled enthusiasm is tempered by my next victim – the pulled pork burger. Same deal with the beef patty, but crested with a handful of pulled pork. What’s not to like, I hear you cry, incredulously. Too much sauce, is the definitive answer. The pork is drowning in BBQ sauce, to the detriment of the flavour of the meat, the Monterey Jack cheese and any number of other ingredients lurking anonymously under that bun. Not a bad burger by any stretch of the imagination, but a wasted opportunity.

coasttocoast_CheeseBaconInside the cheese and bacon slider. It’s hard to mess up this combination, and Coast To Coast doesn’t 

The Black and Blue suffers from the same affliction, but this time from the blue cheese sitting on the bottom half of the bun. The onion ring manages to let out a brief, strangled cry before being washed away by a tidal wave of stinky, stinky cheese. A recent convert to blue cheese done right (The Troll’s Pantry’s ‘Troll’s Stinky Breath Burger’, incidently), when it’s handled wrong, the results are not quite disastrous, but unsatisfying. The Black and Blue needed something more then the scrapings of rocket and the onion ring to combat against that cheese onslaught, and a third beef patty did little to alleviate matters either.

And yet, I polished off all three quickly and greedily, and didn’t feel as if I’d ordered poorly. Coast To Coast have made a decent fist of introducing its customers to its range of burgers, but perhaps could mix it up a little more, offering the customer their own choice of sliders, or at least switching out one of these (the Black and Blue perhaps) for a chicken burger, or (whisper it) maybe even a veggie option. The whole point of sliders is to cater for the burger lover that just can’t decide what he wants – why not mix it up a little further, push the boundaries, refuse to play safe.

coastocoast_blueCheese

The Black and Blue. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous cheese hiding under that patty – it makes its presence known

The Sides 

Not at all left hungry by the sizeable sliders, the straw fries filled in any last remaining gaps in my groaning stomach. Plentiful and crispy, and nestling cosily in a little metal bucket, the fries were a little lukewarm, feeling suspiciously reheated. Which, in retrospect, was understandable giving how busy it was inside the restaurant, and how many of the meals came with fries. Nothing mind-blowing then, but nothing to really complain about either.

The homemade slaw fared much better however. Made predominantly out of purple cabbage, the slaw provided some nice crunch to counterpoint the unctuousness of all that buttery bread and chewy beef. And that gallon of BBQ sauce that comes with the pulled pork…

The Atmosphere

Swamped in American kitsch and memorabilia and leather-clad booths as far as the eye can see, Coast To Coast is one of those enormous eateries that screams ‘chain restaurant’ as soon as you step into its air-conditioned entranceway, and reinforced further as you navigate the lengthy tome that constitutes its menu. But it stops short from soullessness on account of its down-to-earth staff, and its gently nostalgic soundtrack of Motown and American rock; a playlist that had me singing along to pretty much every number during our meal there, much to the chagrin of my fiancé. The food is down-to-earth too, unfussy and generous and comforting, the kind of meal where you know what you’re getting and you know you can expect a certain quality from. I’ve had a club sandwich at Coast To Coast that will blow your mind (and your stomach), a thing of gargantuan beauty. But an erring on the side of caution and an imbalance of flavours prevents a good meal at Coast To Coast from being a great one.

Summary

You won’t go hungry, you won’t be disappointed, and you won’t complain. You’ll be sated, even, and at least parts of your meal will be lip-smackingly good. If you’re at the marina, you could do a lot worse in your quest for a burger – there’s a Wetherspoons nearby and even, shudder, a McDonalds.

But some careless balancing ultimately proves the undoing of the Roadside Sliders’ appeal. A little shake-up in what’s offered here, and more care applied to what’s going in could elevate these sliders above what they currently are – a tasty, above-average meal.

Price: £12.95

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The ODB, BBQ Shack at The World’s End

Being no stranger to The World’s End’s wares, I knew I wouldn’t leave the London Road pub hungry; their BBQ Club sandwich of ham, turkey breast, bacon and cheese is a personal favourite of mine, and never fails to do anything less than make me stagger, satiated, out the door. But I have my limits, and new behemoth the ODB, not only reaches those limits, but utterly annihilates them. When I went in a number of weeks back, it wasn’t even listed on the laminated menu, so I had to ask for it. I’d seen it calling me seductively, bulging obscenely with its ridiculous collection of meats, from the BBQ Shack Facebook page. I had an intrepid friend with me, also hungry and apprehensive in equal measure like myself. The server raised his eyebrows at us as I uttered the letters, then proceeded to warn us that he could only manage a quarter of his when he tried one the day before. I wanted to scream at him, tell him who I was (thus blowing my anonymnity), and tell him that I snaffle down burgers for breakfast (not yet) but instead smiled and told him that “I’d manage.”

How wrong I was. The plate landed on the table with a noise like an anvil, and an insane sandwich of biblical proportions was staring me in the face. I looked across at my stricken companion, whose eyes had gone as wide as saucers. “Fuck me,” we said in unison.

Let’s break it down, then. The ODB consists of the following: pulled pork, Mexican chorizo, a 250gm all-beef hamburger patty, smoked bacon, sliced brisket, cheese and onion rings. In a store-bought bap, evidently. These things are a match made in meat-lover heaven; a towering smorgasbord of some of the most delectable foods on the planet. I only managed half, and then had a crippling stomach-ache for the remainder of the afternoon.

worldsEnd1

The Burger

The first thing to tackle with the ODB is just how you’re going to eat the damn thing. Picking it up is simply out of the question; the ingredients were already escaping their bappy prison, trying to lift the bugger would have resulted in an incredibly messy shirt. I just attacked it from the outer rim with knife and fork, trying to sample everything it had to offer in one humungous bite at a time. My friend removed his bun from the equation entirely, and worked from the top down. As you’ll see shortly, it made little difference. Neither of us made it halfway through.

Its girth is not in question then. It’s frankly too big. Obscenely big. Too big even for two people to eat comfortably. Neither of us stood a chance. In terms of its ingredients, there were some clear highlights. The brisket was the standout component, moist, flavourful and plentiful. The patty was anonymous, buried deep under its cousins, a fate it shared with the Mexican chorizo. The pulled pork made itself known with the notes of the BBQ sauce, and the onion rings provided a welcome meat break. But not enough. Throwing this many meats together in a single burger is pure overkill. On paper, it’s enough to make a burger fanatic drool profusely, in reality its a heavy, uniform mass of meat, without distinction and without relief. That sounds perhaps unnecessarily harsh, as this is a sandwich that would make even Adam Bateman raise his eyebrows. I enjoyed it to a point, as any meat-lover will do, but it failed to satisfy, and so ridiculous was the amount that I spent the afternoon clutching my stomach in actual, physical pain. This burger is not for the faint-hearted. Literally. As it will kill you dead.

worldsEnd3

As far as I managed…

The Sides 

I felt like I couldn’t look at food ever again after the ODB, so the sides barely got a second glance. The chips were plentiful, as usual for the BBQ Shack meals, and the salad might have provided some respite. But it didn’t stand a chance in the wake of the enormity of the burger task next to it on the plate.

worldsEnd2

Summary

It’s the biggest burger I’ve ever seen, let alone tried to eat, with the exception of the gargantuan things I’ve seen on Man Vs. Food, but they don’t count. It’s a challenge, then, a burger badge of honour. A burger to impress your mates with over a couple of pints. It’s not a satisfying meal, however, it’s a true gutbuster. I’m glad it’s on the BBQ Shack menu, and I’m glad I tried to tackle it, but I’ll never order it again. But I will be back at the BBQ Shack. Their other burgers are great, and the BBQ Club even more so. Take my advice; if you do fancy taking on the ODB, try and share it eh? Your cholesterol will thank me.

Price: £15 approx. (I paid for both on my card, and it came to just under £30)

Rating: 3 out of 5

PdV Burger, Pub de Vin

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.

The Burger

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.

pubdeVinburger

pubdeVinburger2

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.

The Fries

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.

pubdeVinchips

Summary

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

Hove Bank Sliders, The Hove Bank

During my recent stint in Farringdon, London on a freelance booking (sadly, burger-blogging is not my full-time job) I had the good fortune of coming across a quality boozer called The Slaughtered Lamb. Amongst their fare was a fairly extensive slider menu, and a deal allowing you to pick any three for the paltry sum of £6.50. Scarcely believing my luck, I ordered the cheese burger variant, a beef brisket number and a lamb one to round out the trio. And they were exceptional – all three comprising juicy meat and abundant sauces and being very well-proportioned, considering that amazing price. I regale you with this anecdote (illustrated by this slightly blurry photo) to demonstrate sliders done right. Because a week later, The Hove Bank showed how to do sliders horribly, horribly wrong.

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The beauties from The Slaughtered Lamb, Farringdon NOT The Hove Bank, Brighton.

Somewhat prophetically, I’d never even heard of The Hove Bank before and it wasn’t our first choice on a bitterly cold March lunchtime. But Hove Place, which I’ve heard good things about, turned us away because of our lack of a reservation, and Hove Kitchen only had their roast menu on offer. So we plumped for The Hove Bank, thinking a steak restaurant would do a good burger, or in this case, three little ones. Blind optimism, as it turned out.

The restaurant space itself is decent – exposed brick, high ceilings – but it felt soulless from the start. It wasn’t empty, but it was quiet. Perhaps our fellow diners had already been stunned into silence by the quality of the food. The music was turned down low too, making the atmosphere a fraction away from being a little eerie.

I ordered the sliders, even though my eyebrows were floating in the middle of my forehead at the price – £11.40. Plus an extra £1.00 for cheese. The fact that all three sliders were identical – beef patty and salad – was worrying, but I persevered, hoping to add a little variety in the fare I cover on these pages. Our server, a bubbly, nervous lady who confided to us that she was new, couldn’t tell me if chips were included in the price. If they weren’t, I said, I’d share my fiancé’s, already feeling a bit sullen that I was spending almost double for sliders than I had done a week before.

My mood was about to go south further still.

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The Sliders

I’ve never experienced this emotion when receiving restaurant food before, and I hopefully never will again. Embarrassment. I felt a little bit ashamed that I’d just ordered these miniscule, pretentious little morsels that appeared on a board in front of me, held together with wholly unnecessary wooden skewers. I felt an overwhelming urge to look at the server in disgust, to see if she shared my embarrassment, to see if there was any guilt etched on her face, to scream ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I didn’t do any of this, of course, as I’m English. Far too polite for that.

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Instead I inspected what was before me. Patties a fraction bigger than a 50 pence piece, incinerated, lightly blushed with a rumour of melted cheese, and accompanied by enormous wedges of tomato. Each housed in a sesame bun that had been quartered. I can only imagine the fourth quarter had perhaps been tossed into a bin, or kept in a bag for the next poor mug who dared to order the same. Each slider, identical to the last, was a mixture of the burnt ashes of the meat and an overwhelming glob of tomato ketchup, undoubtedly from the bottle. The cheese didn’t have a prayer in the face of such overpowering flavours. The crispy onion rings promised on the menu were, in fact, just rings of raw red onion. Two mouthfuls, and each slider was gone, to be replaced by huge buyer’s remorse and an overwhelming urge to twist the knife on The Hove Bank when writing this review.

The Fries

Still positively starving after the travesty of those three sad little sliders, I attacked the fries with gusto, as they formed the bulk of my meal. Astonishingly, Hove Bank hadn’t managed to fuck them up, and I snaffled them down in angry, confused handfuls, again composing these venomous sentences in my mind as I ate, quietly fuming.

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Summary

This just won’t do, The Hove Bank (I find it bitterly ironic that, at the time of writing, Hove Bank’s homepage merely shows a ‘bad request’ error screen). Astronomically overpriced, laughably small, horribly burnt and comically put together, these sliders of yours are an insult to your customers. There are far better burgers being served in Brighton at a fraction of the price, prepared with skill and passion, that make a mockery of this half-arsed cash-grabbing effort. These need to be taken off the menu and entirely rethought from the ground up. I have no idea what the steaks are like in Hove Bank, but you can be damned sure I won’t be going back to try them. I’m embarrassed that I parted with £12.40 for such woefully inadequate food. Alongside the sliders on the menu are printed the words ‘unique to us’. All I can say is, thank fuck for that.

Avoid like the plague.

Price: £11.40 (+ £1.00 for cheese)

Rating: 1 out of 5

The Troll Laid Bare – An Interview With The Troll’s Pantry

Tomorrow, epic burger van The Troll’s Pantry begins his unholy pact with the Hobgoblin, taking up a residence in his ample beer garden to serve up some seriously tasty burgers to the good people of Brighton. I can vouch for their quality; I practically inhaled his Smoky Mountain, a permanent fixture on his exotic, beguiling menu that sees him rotate the specials depending on which ingredients are in season. To mark the next step in The Troll’s Pantry’s inevitable global domination, I tiptoed across the broken cattle bones littered outside the Troll’s lair, and stole a few words with Paul, the Troll’s Assistant, little knowing that I may well have been chatting to the Troll himself. I escaped with this wisdom, hastily scrawled down on parchment in my own blood, the corners slick with burger grease…

Brighton Burgers: Tell me how The Troll’s Pantry got started. What made you decide to enter the world of street food and what inspired it?

The Troll’s Pantry: It’s quite a long and complex web of stories, but I’ll try and summarise. I’ve always loved cooking and, since I left home to go to university, I’ve always tried to make everything from scratch. I had often fantasised about working with food but was put off by the stories of having to spend years washing up and cutting chips before you might possibly one day find a job at a Harvester. In the restaurant industry it’s hard to catch a break, especially with so much mediocre food out there. I’m sure many a potential great food visionary has been chewed up and spat out by the industry and left disillusioned and apathetic.

Street food on the other hand is a totally different animal. It enables someone who has little money or experience to test out some ideas on the public with very low financial risk. I was unemployed at the time of starting, but managed to get a small loan from a bank after spending a year writing a business plan. I’m not sure if I had any inspiration from anything in particular, it just seemed like a logical idea. Coupled with the fact that the low overheads meant I could ensure the highest and most ethically sourced ingredients, while at the same time keeping the prices affordable. The traditional restaurant model normally makes quality food unaffordable to the masses due to unnecessary overheads. With street food, it’s all about the food. The glamour, the creature comforts and the ambience are all taken away which shines a bright light on the only thing that truly matters.

BB: How did you come up with the name? 

TTP: While I would never openly admit that I am a fantasy geek, I do appreciate many aspects of the genre. Often in these stories of Trolls, warriors and wizards you hear of adventurers out in the wilderness with a wild boar slowly roasting over a spit, gallons of ale and merriment. It’s these kind of connotations that I felt really worked well with my own beliefs about food. With the Troll’s Pantry I aim to strip the eating experience back to its basics. Eating with your hands, outside, and surrounded by good friends.

BB: Are you the Troll? :)

TTP: This is something I’m still trying to work out for myself. I used to believe the Troll was communicating with me from another dimension and I was carrying out his will, but recently after some deep self reflection I am starting to wonder if actually I am the Troll and he is my alter ego, in a Brad Pitt/Edward Norton Fight Club kind of way. I’m just going with the flow for now and we’ll see what happens. Perhaps the real Troll will reveal himself in all his glory one day.

BB: Within a few days of publishing Brighton Burgers, your joint was the recommendation to me on everyone’s lips. How do you feel about the success The Troll’s Pantry has garnered? Has it surprised you at all?

TTP: Not really. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but I have for the past 12 months been viewing everything that’s happened from a very detached, objective perspective. It’s still not really sunk in. All I know is I have failed to meet my initial financial projections that were detailed in my original business plan. It took a good few months to find the pitch at the wood store which certainly slowed everything down. So I guess I actually expected it to do better than it has. Some may call that blind optimism, but I was just 100% sure the idea would work. As I said previously, I spent a whole year writing the business plan. I knew I had one shot at making this business work and there was no way I was going back to the dole queue, so I planned for every single contingency I could think of. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad it’s taken off as planned, but there is still much work to be done. This is only the beginning!

I often quote references to the film Hellraiser when advertising the Hellfire, with lines such as “Pleasure, pain, indivisible!” If Pinhead were real, I think he’d approve of this burger.

BB: It certainly is, as you move to the Hobgoblin this weekend to start up your residency there. How did that come about? Is this a permanent move, or will the Troll be wandering further afield? 

TTP: It came about because of necessity. I was using someone else’s kitchen for making buns and as such was limited as to how many I could make. I needed access to a proper commercial kitchen that I could use whenever I needed it. That, coupled with the fact the trailer is like an oven in the summer time. I struggled in it last summer and I wasn’t even that busy. I don’t think I’d survive another with queues as big as they’ve gotten.

I was approached by a number of establishments, but I’d always had my eye on the Hobgoblin. I actually approached them a few months before, but they were launching their new Street Thai menu. Later I learned that it didn’t really take off, so I approached them again. This time they had heard of my reputation and negotiations began.

I wanted this pub in particular, not just because of the name, but also because we attract a similar demographic. Most importantly, I saw huge potential with the massive heated beer garden. I wanted to keep the street food format with the burgers as much as possible and that is something achievable with these particular premises.

Do I intend to wander further afield? Yes, I do want my own place one day, but I’m in no hurry. I’d rather wait for the perfect time and until I have enough revenue behind me to really create something truly epic. Until then, I have been toying with the idea of opening a breakfast cafe. A Full English Breakfast is something I can do really well, plus I have the meat connections to create something amazing.

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BB: Other than the Imperial, which comprises the classics, your burgers are characterised by some unusual ingredients. How do you go about creating your specials? Where do the concepts come from? Is their a lot of trial and error alchemy involved?

TTP: There’s very little trial and error, in fact I rarely even try them before selling them to the public. I can taste them in my mind just by combining the flavours in my head. I often drift off into a bit of a meditative state and the ideas come to me. Many of my specials try and make the most of what’s in season and I find that helps the creative process.

Not only do I try and combine different ingredients to create unique flavours, but I also try and make those flavours reflect the natural world’s changing environment and the types of flavours our bodies desire at different times of the year. For example, “The Winter Nymph” had a sauce which contained brandy, cream and peppercorns, all very indulgent, warming flavours which everyone craves around the cold dark months.

BB: What kind of dark, sadistic mood were you in when you dreamt up the Hellfire?

TTP: Quite the opposite. I was a bit fed up with the lack of creativity displayed when it comes to chilli burgers. All you seem to see is a giant pissing contest, with everyone trying to out-do the next person in terms of heat. For me, chilli is about more than just burning the roof of your mouth off, it also has a flavour which when combined with the right ingredients, really shines through. With the Hellfire, I tried to create something that not only packed a real punch heat wise, but also tasted so amazing you couldn’t stop eating it, despite the pain. That’s why I quite often quote references to the film Hellraiser when advertising this burger, with lines such as “Pleasure, pain, indivisible!” If Pinhead were real, I think he’d approve of this burger.

BB: I may catch some flak for the previous question, as I know it’s one of your most popular creations. Am I being a bit of a wuss for not trying it out?

TTP: Yes, absolutely.

I have been toying with the idea of opening a breakfast cafe. A Full English Breakfast is something I can do really well, plus I have the meat connections to create something amazing.

BB: Consider myself humbled, and the Hellfire on the list! What’s your perception of the food scene in Brighton at the moment? Do you see other establishments besides yourself doing quality burgers, in a similar way to the explosion of places like MeatLiquor, Byron, Patty & Bun et al is happening in London?

TTP: Brighton is a bit of a mixed bag. I think it suffers a lot because of its reputation as a holiday resort. Restaurateurs don’t have to make much effort to pull in the tourist over the summer months and that is reflected in a lot of the poor, uninventive fare that’s on offer. Of course that’s not the case across the board. A number of new places have cropped up in recent months with a similar agenda to my own, with the goal of producing quality food from local ingredients. I really hope that this message spreads and other restaurants follow suit. While there is of course always going to be a market for cheap grub, I’m trying to set an example that quality doesn’t always have to be unaffordable. As for MeatLiquor, I’ve still not had the pleasure of trying one, but I’m sure I soon will when they open a few doors up from the Hobgoblin in mid-May.

BB: Crunch time. What’s the best burger you’ve ever eaten?

TTP: I honestly couldn’t say, but it is probably one of my own. I’m sure there are better out there but I really haven’t tried any of the big names such as Lucky Chip, or Burger Bear Tom. It’s rare I get time to go out with the baking and everything else. The few times I do get the chance I don’t order a burger, not these days anyway. I get enough of those when I’m at work.

BB: Lastly, the Troll is dying of a mortal wound, he has just enough stamina to order his assistant to make him a final farewell burger. What goes in it?

TTP: Opium. Possibly some pleasant hallucinogens too. If I said my own flesh would that be too weird? I’ve just always been curious.

The Troll’s Pantry relaunches his tasty burgers (sans his own flesh, hopefully) at the Hobgoblin tomorrow as Trollfest, an epic day of local ales, live music and those awesome burgers. You won’t want to miss it. I won’t be.

Image source: The Troll’s Pantry Facebook page

 

Délice Cheese Beef Burger, at Cafe Délice

I used to visit Cafe Délice most lunchtimes when I first moved down to Brighton from the Big Smoke. My new place of work was right round the corner from Kensington Gardens, where the cafe sits at the end. Without fail, I ordered the Monster Club to take away – ham, cheese, mayo and salad inside a massive baguette the size of a grown man’s foreman. The ham was thick cut and excellent quality, and such was the enormity of the baguette (it wasn’t called Monster Club for nothin’), eating it felt as satisfying as a full meal. Afterwards my desk was always swamped in crumbs.

Cafe Délice has undergone a major refurb since those days; gone is the oversized glass counter that housed the fresh ingredients and whole cakes, gone, too, is the emphasis on takeaway lunches. In its place are the rustic wood panelling and rickety tables that evoke memories of a Parisian lifestyle, reinforced by the wine racks on the counter, the extensive liquor cabinet on the wall, and the accents of the pretty young things that bustle around us taking orders and serving meals.

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And by the fact my charmingly-named Cheese Beef Burger came in a baguette, of course. There was only one burger on the menu, so choosing it was easy, although I decided on the addition of bacon too because… well, who wouldn’t? Those who are of a more fungal disposition can add sautéed mushrooms for the same price. My fiancé chose a smoked salmon ciabatta, free from the obligation of choosing another burger on the list, because there wasn’t one. She regretted her choice though, as she only got half a ciabatta, and felt her meal hadn’t been worth the price.

The Burger

I’ve made my distaste of raw red onion clear in these posts before, so was skeptical of the bright purple ooze spilling out from my burger as it was placed before me, as if the patty had suffered a mortal wound and was slowly expiring atop that attractive serving board. But it was delicious – a soft and tangy red onion marmelade that helped cut through the richness of a beautiful piece of beef and a smoked and streaky ribbon of bacon, pink as a human tongue. The patty was so homemade it even struggled to be round; its surface undulated wildly, creating peaks and troughs in which the cheese had happily settled to melt slowly into the meat. A light serving of lettuce underneath was just enough to provide some balance to those heady rich flavours.

And then there was the ‘bun’. The baguette that all this goodness was housed in looked crusty, which can be a tricky proposition for a burger, as the first bite tends to push out the ingredients ungracefully onto the table. But this baguette was beautifully soft and floury, so much so that it began to split down the middle about halfway into the burger, but doing just enough to survive to the bitter end.

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The Fries

Half a dozen entires in, and I’m finding it’s becoming difficult to write about fries without retreading old ground. They were good – thin and crispy, and (fairly) plentiful. That’s about all I can say on the matter.

Summary

While the burger was indeed “délice”, not everything was to my liking. At £10.20 (including the £1.25 supplement for bacon), it wasn’t the cheapest burger and chips I’ve ever sampled, although also not the most expensive. The main bugbear was how long it took to arrive – so late in our allotted lunch hour that we had to snaffle it up pretty swiftly. But these are minor quibbles. This is a very tasty burger indeed, the red onion marmelade a surprising winning component alongside quality ingredients all-round. If you have time to take in a lazy lunch, you could do far worse.

Price: £8.95 (+£1.25 for bacon)

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Welsh Baaaarger, The Mucky Duck

The first burger written for the blog to comprise lamb instead of beef as its main ingredient, and one that on paper sounded like a real winner, The Welsh Baaaarger from Kemp Town establishment The Mucky Duck was ultimately a bit of a mixed bag. Described as a ‘lamb, sautéed leek and thyme burger with grilled rarebit on top’ and to be fair, turning up to be exactly that, the end result was something that was a little underwhelming. It looked a bit spartan, the ingredients dwarfed by the seediest bun I’ve ever seen, ill-fitting like an overcoat several sizes too large. The atmospheric lightning didn’t help either; which is why these low-light iPhone shots don’t do the burger any favours either.

As a venue, though, The Mucky Duck is a cosy little pub to while away an unseasonably cold March evening in. On the night of our visit, some of its clientele brandished banjos and exotic-looking dogs (I’m terrible with identifying breeds), lending the place a hipster vibe without any of the pretension that would normally entail. And what’s this? Kirin on tap? It’s been a long time since I came across a pub that serves the tasty premium Japanese beer, and its discovery set my expectations up another notch. My friend ordered the Dragon Stout burger, although no pictures survive before he utterly annihilated it – by all accounts, his was a tasty burger (locally-sourced minced beef marinated in Jamaican Dragon Stout, with onions, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and a red onion relish). I would soon wish that I had ordered the same.

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The Burger

Initial impressions count, and as mentioned above, The Welsh Baaaarger underwhelmed. Although I enjoyed the jaunty little flag poking out the top of the bun, I was alarmed by just how little ingredients seemed to be hidden in-between all that bread. This was mostly, however, due to the fact that the leeks and thyme were actually inside the patty.

The lamb was indeed pretty flavoursome, flecked with those bits of green that gave it a distinctive taste. The rarebit on top was a squelchy mound of cheesy, mustardy pulp, the consistency of mashed potato. It was tangy and provided a good counterbalance to the meat, but overall it felt like it was out of place in a burger. The biggest drawback with The Welsh Baaaarger is all those seeds in that over-sized bun, which soon resulted in picking them out my teeth with tongue and fingernail long after the meal had ended.

The Sides

The saving grace of the meal, in truth, were the hand-cut chips that came included in the price and the smoked paprika onion rings, which were ordered separately. The chips were chunky and crispy, without any of the intense stodge lurking within that some homemade chips can suffer from. They were also good and hot – no lukewarm string fries in this meal. The onion rings were exactly as they sound – plenty of batter without overwhelming the taste of the onion inside, and liberally sprinkled with paprika, giving them a mildly spicy kick which worked surprisingly well. A simple addition, maybe, but a worthy one, and good value for the amount you get for the £3 asking fee.

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Summary

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on The Mucky Duck. This was a tasty burger, and I’m a big fan of lamb. The addition of the rarebit is an interesting choice, but one which to my eyes doesn’t particularly work. There’s a reason you won’t have seen it elsewhere in your burger.

But burgers are meant to be devoured with your eyes as much as your mouth, and I distinctly remember that little pang of disappointment as the server (a friendly chap who also served us that delicious Kirin) placed it down before me.

Perhaps the Baaaarger would work better with those leeks piled high on top of the lamb, or be better served with that salad on the side of the plate being inside the bun, although I’m aware how considerate it is that it’s up to the customer to decide to put it in there or not. Personally, I’m too lazy for that. Ultimately though, I’d just change up that bun. It’s pretty much all I can remember.

I wish I’d kept that funky little flag though…

Price: £9 (+ £3 for smoked paprika onion rings)

Rating: 3 out of 5