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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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