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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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