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