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.
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 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.
Inside 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.
The Black and Blue. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous cheese hiding under that patty – it makes its presence known
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…
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.
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.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5