Burger

Burger Theory at Kongs, Birmingham

One of my pet peeves when reading other blogs is the endless comparisons. Apart from being very rude, it also isn’t particularly helpful. There are so many variables it is almost impossible to do fairly: were the dishes identical? Are they the same price? Did said bloggers pay for both meals? (the last one is unlikely). I don’t see what anyone gains from saying ‘this is better than this…’ other than undermining the establishment you are supposed to be concentrating on. But, and this is a but bigger than my rapidly increasing butt, it is going to be nigh on impossible to get through the next five hundred words without comparing Burger Theory to the big guns of this city. We do burgers very well in this town, so you’ll need to do something remarkable to step into the (bull)ring. I offer no apologies for that appalling regional pun.

Burger Theory operate to one side of Kongs, in the building that used to be Chameleon. That place was awful; a mating pen to the sound of commercial house, where wedding rings would be stowed in trouser pockets in the vague hope that two pissed people may horizontally align between the hours of midnight and 3am. Gone is the shiny wood, replaced with sparse seating, neon lights, and concrete. They have managed to erase the smell of regret that used to haunt the dancefloor and replace that area with wiff-waff tables, whilst vintage arcade games line the walls. I like what they have done with the place, mostly because it is no longer Chameleon.

I’ve been twice now because I want to give it a fair crack. The first time was a fleeting solo visit on a weekday night. It was empty. I have a korean chicken burger and a pint of Gamma Ray. The burger is served on paper napkins so that the leaking sweet chilli sauce is a irretrievable bed of red squelch that infuriates me. The burger itself is pretty good; high on salt, crispy batter and chicken that has survived the frying with some of its juices. It works, even if I hanker for a drink after every mouthful. I finish my pint, waste six quid on Donkey Kong and leave.

The second time saw me taking a severe beating at the car game they have before ordering a more substantial meal. Beef this time; on two burgers and one loaded fries. Those fries are not good: supposedly a chilli, the beef is tough and stringy, the promised sauces nowhere near enough in quantity to stop it all being too dry. The burgers are good, maybe not good enough to choose over OPM or Meatshack, but certainly good enough to eat should we happen to be playing wiff-waff in Kongs. The meat is good quality, accurately seared and cooked. The Down and Dirty is better than the one with blue cheese because the latter is out of proportion and only tastes of cheese. As far as burgers go, these would stand up to most competition. Most.

And then there is the issue of the size of the room. On that Saturday lunch there is maybe 60 in Kongs and it still feels empty. Maybe it will be different in the evening when they have a DJ, though they are going to need to put a lot more through the door to make this a viable business. Have they bitten off more than they can chew? Possibly. Still, Burger Theory bring more good food to the city, which can only be a positive.

7/10

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Burger Shop, Hereford

Given the previous night’s disappointment and that morning’s excess of booze on a distillery tour, our visit to Burger Shop was impulsive to say the least. But we are so glad we did. It was a proper burger experience, standing up to the better burgers I’ve eaten anywhere. They have an air of confidence here, the young team warm and professional, working from a menu that on paper looks small – it is – but in reality translates into a meal that never misses a beat. There is a lot to be said for conciseness; it shortens the margin for error.

Given that the evening’s dinner would take four hours and consist of twenty or so courses, we keep it simple. Beer for me, juice for the good lady, two burgers; one pulled lamb, the other essentially a bacon cheeseburger. The burger has genuine firework moments; loosely packed and properly beefy. There is a brioche bun that holds its shape throughout, and the usual accompaniments joined by dill pickles, and a mustard mayo, both of which provides clever acidity. The pulled lamb has shoulder meat that still retains texture, with pickled onions, charred red pepper, and celeriac ‘slaw. It’s delicious, if not quite as special as the beef.

And that’s it. £30 shorter and with the lingering sadness that we chose not to eat here the evening prior. Burger Shop is ace, taking the best of the local produce and putting them to the best of their use with the minimum of fuss. Many people told us it was here we should be eating in Hereford. If you too find yourself in this pretty city, you should heed their advice.

8/10

Beefy Boys, Hereford

I’ve come to the conclusion that Birmingham does two things better than any other city in the country; cocktails and burgers, both of which I think is driven by talent and competition that we have here in the Greatest City In The WorldContinentCountryWest Midlands Birmingham. Take the second city, London, for example; I love the negronis at Bar Termini, the ultra expensive martini at The Connaught, and the quirkiness of Calloy Callah, but I’d rather be sat drinking cocktails in The Edgbaston, 18/81, and Nocturnal Animals (eventually). And as for their burgers, yes, they might have Bleecker but dont even try to compare the likes of MeatLiquor, Honest, and Burger Bear to The Meat Shack, OPM, and Flying Cows, because I wont stand for it. It is the two areas where we have geniune competition and exceptional talent driving the best out of one another.

I can’t tell you much about the cocktail scene in Hereford, though I do know that they take their burgers seriously. It’s why we are here. Beefy Boys are the originators of this, multi award winning like yours truly, except they have a coverted Best Burger in The World award from 2015 instead of a cynical piece of glass handed out by one set up by a PR company. It would appear that these awards have paid off; the restaurant is a large glass fronted new build in amongst the chains. Inside both floors have well-spaced tables and some of the nicest front of house I can recall meeting who offer a complimentry cocktail as its my birthday. We order a lot of food; more than is sensible for two people, resulting in a bill that is in no way reflective of an average spend.

And then, well, I dont know what went wrong. What we had was not the best burgers in the world, or even Hereford for that matter. For a region known for the quality of the cow, it is the meat that I have the biggest issue with. From both the beef burgers the patty is a little wet, undercharred, overcooked, and underseasoned. It is a burger with the mute button on, the only flavours coming from the the toppings. A Rude Boy is better than the Hay Boy special due to the balance of chilli heat being spot on, compared to that special with ‘nduja that is possibly the most disappointing use of my favourite ingredient I have come across. What I find most weird is that for all of my bugbears on the patty the chilli topped fries are great; the beef flavour robust and accurately seasoned. It makes little sense.

A chicken burger would be the lowpoint of the meal. The meat has completely dried out, the advertised buffalo sauce not great, and the blue cheese barely present, if at all. The less said about it the better. The deep fried mac and cheese balls would be the best thing we ate, full of flavour and geniunely very good. It’s just you know the meal has been a let down when the highlight is a side dish.

So three disappointing burgers and two good sides. Throw in a couple of cocktails and a well warranted service tip and you end up with a bill of just over £60. A lot of money for burgers, more so when the meal is a massive dissapointment. I can imagine that at some point Beefy Boys really did have the best burger; one that made the most of this wonderful aged cattle, bringing it to life with robust seasoning, high heat and a little steam. Be it for what ever reason those standards appear to have slipped. Over a brief twenty four hours Hereford proved to be a great city. It is a crying shame that Beefy Boys happened to be the low point.

5/10

Bunsen, Dublin

The menu at Bunsen is a simple one; burger, either with or without cheese, one or two patties. Three types of fries, two of those potato, the other the big orange thing that should be banned. That is it. No silly toppings of crisps or waffles soaked in gypsy tears. No dehydrated acorn bark or rehydrated racoon faeces. Just a straight up burger with no frills or gimmicks. I like this, it shows a confidence in the produce, where if done right highlights the quality of the beef. But it has to be good. There is nowhere to hide with this, the salad has to be fresh, the lettuce still crunch between the teeth. Most importantly the beef has to be knockout good.

The burger at Bunsen – a cheeseburger on this occasion – is very good indeed. An eight, maybe even nine out of ten on it’s own. The patty makes it, charred on the outside, pink in the centre. It is more beefy than the 1981 Ashes victory. The rest of it just works; a bun that doesn’t dissolve to nothing, salad, mustard, ketchup, cheese, and pickles to cut through it all. Claire says it reminds her of something called a Big Mac, a reference that it is lost on me. It reminds me of Bleecker, which if you are au fait with my burger habits is a bloody big compliment.

Alas, it is not all perfect. I don’t like the chips one bit; the fat ones or the skinny ones. My guess is that as we are first in through the door the oil is not sufficiently hot, hence why neither are crisp and both are a little bit greasy. Is it an excuse? No, I don’t think so, and nor is it good enough given how good the burger was. With this I drink the own brand lager, five euros a bottle, making it a bargain in Dublin terms.

I applaud Bunsen for taking the straight forward approach. We live in a society that sees variety as a necessity when it is actually the opposite. They have pretty much perfected the burger offering here by doing it over and over again. And it’s paying off; Sunday afternoon less than an hour after opening and it’s full. If I ever found myself in distance of their three branches I’d return, just this time the order would be two cheeseburgers and no sides. Stick to the good stuff and you’ll be fine.

7/10

The Square Peg, Birmingham

In hindsight, asking Twitter to choose my dinner via a poll was a teeny bit stupid. For a while it looked they may do the good deed and send me to Folium, but no, right at the end there was a surge for The Square Peg, a Wetherspoons of local legend for all of the wrong reasons. I hadn’t been in here for maybe twelve years and if anything it’s succeeded in getting worse. The one time I leave my chair in the stale smelling room is to visit the gents. There I find no lock on the cubicle, the loo roll on the floor in a puddle of piss and an empty coke bag, not that I have any idea what one of those looks like. I decide to not to dump in this dump and hold it in. Back out in the pub and it’s thriving, arguably as busy as anywhere in the city. There are young people enjoying cheap booze, old people enjoying cheap booze and families eating, though whether you eat here for enjoyment or necessity is debatable.

With Eau de Blàgger running through my veins, I conjure a plan to eat as much as possible for free whilst allowing the Twitter Twats to have a little more fun. The Wetherspoon app is one of those things that was built to be abused. Intended as a waiter service to order food and beverages without leaving the table, it has become misused by those who can send menu oddities, like a bowl of peas, to tables without ever being near the pub. I tell Twitter that I am in the pub, give them my table number and challenge them to send whatever food and drink they wanted.

I get those peas, the first to arrive along with a shot of Apple Sourz, swiftly followed by a pint of piss in a Carling glass. The peas are tragic, lifeless and devoid of any taste or texture. These are followed by halloumi, a dish I order from the app because I assume 75 more portions of peas are to appear. Shock alert: it’s actually edible. Really salty halloumi charred on both sides with a sweet chilli dip. I’d quite gladly eat it again, though next time I’d request that the dead salad be given a proper burial instead of being left on the side of my plate to rot.

Also edible was the chips in curry sauce, so thank you to whoever sent that. Fat bits of potato in a slightly Chinesey sauce that is better than my local Chinese. Yes, it may be a little heavy and greasy but so is the woman on the table behind me. We can let that slip, we’re in a ‘spoons, remember. One thing I never want to see again is the child’s portion of chilli con carne that arrives with an Archers and coke. I know who sent this and as much as I want to say it’s better than Low’n’Slows (you absolute bastard), I can’t. This is all blunt tomato notes and bitterness. Two forkfuls and I’m done. A non-alcoholic beer arrives. I laugh at first and then wish the prick who sent me this an ingrown toe nail.

By now the incredibly charming bloke who is serving me is in on the act and Wetherspoons Birmingham are following me on Twitter. Another shot arrives. Very good. And then some very nice strawberry ice lollies with a congealed semen dip that the menu lists as yogurt. I know congealed semen when I taste it, how do you think I pay for all of these fancy meals? The ice lollies are followed by a fried egg. Which genius knew that I always eat a fried egg after a dessert? My girlfriend the evil fuck. The egg is fine, free range I think, and totally devoid of seasoning.

Another pint of piss in a Carling glass turns up with burgers following soon afterwards. The beef one first with a gin and tonic (thanks Holly). It’s okay, dense and under-seasoned; I’ve certainly eaten worse at establishments with far bigger reputations. I draw the line at the buttermilk chicken which is nothing of the sort. The reformed meat is cotton wool in texture, the outer coating a sweetened saw dust. I tell the chap who serves all of these to stop any future orders. I’m done, the mutant chicken thing has finished me off.

By now I’m quite pissed and starting to enjoy the slightly threatening atmosphere. It’s loud and people are genuinely enjoying themselves. The Square Peg might be a little bit dirty but it is also very cheap and accessible; nobody, apart from this grumpy bastard, comes here with any preconceptions, they come because the drinks are affordable, the beers well kept, and the food basic and filling. Would I personally come here by choice? No. But I would if I had to and I could probably eat here too, though I’d keep it strictly vegetarian. Wetherspoons like this are a national institution and I am totally fine with them continuing to serve those who visit them. The Square Peg ain’t that bad at all, it just ain’t that good either.

4/10

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Independent Birmingham Festival, Digbeth

I had intended to start this brief piece on a self-deprecating note for our city. One that gently chugs along with the piss-taking from the rest of the country, about a city centre that’s perceived to be a concrete fortress and a dodgy accent that actually belongs ten miles north west of us. But I’m done with that. I’m done with anything that sets Birmingham at a detriment to anywhere else on the globe. We are growing every day. With game-changing pieces of modern architecture now sitting in juxtaposition with pieces of history. With a diverse melting pot of culture, smells, and sounds. With some of the best food to be found in the country with the most handsome, charming, and multi-award winning food blogger writing about them. Only an idiot who has not been here in over a decade, or worse, the commonly spotted Jealous Mancunian, would tell you otherwise. Birmingham is brilliant in almost every single way. It’s my home, so yes I have bias, but it really is.

Shouting about Birmingham a little more than the next man is Joe Schuppler of Independent Birmingham. Hi Joe. He runs a little business doing huge things for our indie scene. Now, with the help of some seasoned pros, he is championing the very businesses his card supports with Independent Birmingham Festival, this the third within a year and the second at Digbeth’s The Bond. We end up going both days, the latter to eat off the hangover caused by the former. I’m looking at you, Loki wine, for this with your mighty fine Malbec.

There are stalls that sell nice stuff from which I buy a badge that I later lose and a donut that I quickly use to fill a gap in my belly. There are cocktails from the brilliant Rob Wood and craft beers from Tilt. There are countless others all showcasing the tiny elements that together make Birmingham what it is. But I’m here to eat and you are probably here to read about that. So straight to the chase, at Low’n’Slow where the best food of the weekend was had. Pork belly from Blytheburgh farm, cooked over a makeshift fire on the ground. The meat is glorious; smokey, with enough bite and fattiness to serve as a reminder that this once was a living animal. There are blistered potatoes cooked in pork fat with the unmistakable back note of bone marrow, and a salsa slightly bitter from burning it’s components over coals. This is proper grown up barbecue, with real skill. It’s a ready made restaurant dish served from some smoking embers on concrete.

One of many restaurants with a stand here is El Borracho de Oro, a place I’ve stated my love for on many previous occasions. Today we have those golden croquetas filled with quality ham and a toastie that has manchego and sobrasda oozing out of every edge. Those toasties are a special at their present 1000 Trades residency – go try them. Fat Snags are relatively new to the street food world, impeccably sourcing Lashfords sausages and sandwiching them between buns. We try one with a smartly judged salsa of roquito and jalapeños, smothered in one of those silky American cheese sauces that refuses to go quietly into the mouth. I’m super impressed. I’ll be back for more soon.

Baked in Brick is here, a few streets away from its soon-to-be-opening restaurant. We try a ramen debuting for the first time, that is already better than any of the ramen at the specialist ramen shop. The ox tail and miso stock is upstaged by smokey spider steak slices, a tangle of ox tail meat and silky noodles. Best of all is a salty and rich soy egg, golden yolk just transitioning from liquid to a more solid state. A lot of work has gone into this and it will only get better.

Sunday sees suitable hangover food. A pizza from Peel and Stone has excellent ‘nduja and fennel salami for toppings on a base that was slightly too doughy to be perfect. We finish up with a burger from Original Patty Men, the beef just blushing pink, patty crowned with three types of cheese, jalapeño relish and barbecue sauce. Those boys know how to pull a burger together. It sorts me out a treat.

Claire buys jewellery, I buy enough wine to swim in, confirming that when it comes to frittering cash away, we’re a good team to have around. It was a great weekend, superbly organised, with a wonderfully curated live music program. More importantly it showcases the incredible independent scene that goes some way making this city so amazing. Believe in Brum.

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The next Independent Birmingham Festival has been announced for July. Book your tickets here; https://www.designmynight.com/birmingham/whats-on/food-drink/independent-birmingham-festival-at-aston-hall

Honest Burgers, Hammersmith

Having rushed out of London to Birmingham and back at 5am for a 14 hour round trip to see the woman who struck me down with a car four years ago, we were somewhat short of last minute dinner options near our hotel. As lovely as Hammersmith is, it is woefully short of somewhere to eat on a Monday; L’Amorosa is closed, as is the Indian our hotel tried to send us to. We settle for Honest Burger, a small chain of bits of beef between buns beloved of belligerent Londoners. And before those Londoners get shouty for calling them belligerent, yes you bloody are. I’ve travelled on the tube at peak times, I have the footprints on my back to prove it.

They have a nice queuing system that allows us to wait in the pub around the corner until a table becomes available. When one does we are sat upstairs underneath the shadow of the blackboard that is the menu for those with the vision of a mole. We order cocktails in tin cups and bottles of local beer. We get two beef burgers and some bits to ensure we leave full. The beef is served pink they say to which we say fine. Its a solid start for somewhere that charges a little over £40 for burgers and drinks for two.

And then, well, meh. The burgers are boring to the point that they serve to remind me why I quit eating them for a while. The patty is pink but it is also bland, the bun hardly holding its shape. If this was In and Out the emphasis would be on the final word. It’s Five Why’s. Shake Whack. The jalapeño relish and hot sauce one is only distinguishable from the garlic mayo one by levels of attitude. Both have bacon; one crisp, the other not. I get a ribbon of raw fat wedged between my teeth.

The rest is a mixed bag. We get the Paris Hilton of onion rings; they look alright until we get into the doughy interior. The chips, often the bane of the burger shop, are properly good and dusted with rosemary salt. The best bit is the curry sauce that tastes better than my local Indian takeaway. It’s just when the best bit makes up one fortieth of the bill you know there is an intrinsic problem.

Service was ponderous, the bill painful. I could think of half a dozen burger places I would rather eat at for less. And tragically this isn’t the first time this has happened to me in the capital; Bleecker aside I’ve tried little to get me excited. I’ll never have a burger again here. Honest.

5/10

Honest Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Masdings at 1000 Trades

Let’s talk battered pickled spicy pineapple rings. A hybrid of the fritters at your local Chinese takeaway and frickles, those battered fried pickles you’ve ordered at The Meat Shack. They are sweet and acidic and hot and more addictive than a Tetris session on Hillbilly Crack (not that I would know. Honest.). They are just one part of one burger at Masdings, providing a sharp astringency and some sweet, sweet love. And they are also available as a side. I tried one on the burger and then ordered more as a side. I expect you will do exactly the same.

That burger is called The Heizenberg and it is what you should be ordering when you get to 1000 Trades this December. At it’s core is an 8oz hockey puck of a beef patty, robust in flavour and cooked just a little past the medium rare they promise. It comes with bacon that has been cooked in Maple syrup and chipotle mayo. It is utter filth and a substantial feed for £8. With the lamb burger sold out on our visit, we order a Smokey Robinson that has a similar offering to The Heizenberg, only with the addition of smoked cheese and minus those battered pineapple rings. My heart may lay with the the former, but I’m happy to kept the latter as my dirty little secret.

A portion of chips with halloumi and chorizo is perhaps the closest we get to Masding’s other business, the Mediterranean influenced Kebabylon. These are brash and a hearty lunch by themselves at £4.50. Indeed, all of this feels like really value with the food elements coming in at £22 and the evening’s beers far more than that. I can find very little to dislike at Masdings other than that awful abuse of apostrophes which hurts to these chubby fingers to type. The residency is on until the 22nd of December and is well worth a visit.

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Sear and Smoke, Birmingham

Meat. If that one word isn’t to your liking, then you may want to shut down this window and go back to your hummus and crudites. For the rest of you, prepare for sympathy sweats and burger envy, for lumps of protein and token pieces of carbohydrates. The latest addition to this cities fast expanding food scene is an ode to fire and beast, to feeding using only the finest animals in the most skilled of hands.

Being a collaboration from Original Patty Men and Digbeth Dining Club it was never going to be ambiguous in name. They settle for Sear and Smoke, which makes sense given that pretty much covers off the cooking processes involved. It’s home is Crane, a beautiful old factory too close to St Andrews to be desirable. The huge ceilings, bare brick and steel framework feels like its already integral to the city and I feel slightly at loss to have seen this for the first time in my mid thirties.

I head straight to Flying Cows because a burger for breakfast makes perfect sense. There I take The High Flyer because that’s the award winner and award winners should only ever eat award winners if you want to go Full Pillock. I do. The aged beef is pink throughout, with the sweetest of bacon and Swiss cheese that has the same gummy feel as it’s American counterpart, only with the added bonus of actually tasting of cheese. Whisper it, but Flying Cows remind me of Bleecker Burger at their finest. It’s the burger I would choose from anywhere right now if given the choice. I wash it down with a cocktail from the Birmingham Whisky Club. And lovely it is, too. Far better than the whisky I usually wash my breakfast down with.

There are a dozen or so food traders here on the day, the cream of the local talent and some from further afield. From a little place called London we have Wingman, a chicken wing specialist who came to my attention when they won best of the best at this year’s British Street Food finals. I have the winning dish (see previous Full Pillock comment) that has the sweet, sour and hot profiles of Thai cooking all over their chicken and all down my jacket. Properly lovely stuff and easily the best chicken wing I have ever eaten. Taking second place at those awards was Baked in Brick, today cooking a 45 day aged rump cap as a special alongside some of the more usual suspects. The beef is gloriously tender, with a chestnut mushroom sauce enriched with bone marrow that transformed some very ordinary fries underneath into something far more magical.

I’m outside for a talk by a man who knows a lot about street food and more whisky. The air is stained by smoke and the smell of rendered fat. Low’n’Slow are to blame. Throngs of people have gathered round to watch him smoke pork belly over a make shift pit on the floor before being finished over a barbecue by the very farmer who supplies the pigs. The meat is stunning; aged pork with thick ribbons of fat that only a fool would discard. It’s a proper plate of food, with potatoes cooked with bone marrow and a fiery burnt salsa and sharp ‘slaw. He is bringing the theatre of Meatopia to a warehouse in the backstreets of Birmingham. This is the future of Sear and Smoke.

Original Patty Men are here with a friend – Dom Clarke of Canneat, a little place in Stirchley that I have much love for. I try the special which has their usual patty with ox cheek, gruyere, and ‘French soup’ onions. It’s one of the days more technically minded dishes, aimed squarely at a mouthful of umami. The ox cheek has been braised in reduced Guiness, the onions cooked down to a meaty gelatinous mess. It’s seriously good, I just wish I’d left more room for it.

I wanted to try more, though without my usual partner in crime I was defeated. Three hours after the start and the place was starting to heave, my attempts over, dictated by a bulging waistline and the arrival of a coven of my ex’s friends. I depart for a well earned snooze, awaking to a social media frenzy at the event as the night draws in and the bands begin to play. It seems that I was not alone in my love for it. It was a bona fide success, proof that Birmingham can play with the big boys. It was a faultless stepping stone to a more ambitious event next year. The countdown to the next Sear and Smoke has already begun.

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MEATmarket, London

I read a lot of other blogs and a lot of lists. I’m fun like that. Almost always food, always a mixture of the good and the bad; there are those I look up to and those I read to make myself feel better. It’s important to keep your eyes on both the sky and the dirt. One of the things I read a lot about is burgers. Outside of Brum I know about as much about them as I do monogamy and modesty, but my girlfriend loves them so it’s in my interest to keep her happy. I’d have never had found out about Bleecker without reading other blog posts, and those same posts always list MEATliquor (and it’s offshoots for which Covent Gardens MEATmarket is one) as one of the true originals to the burger scene in this country.

So I’m not quite sure what has happened. Maybe the very businesses that they have inspired have surpassed them in quality and delivery. Maybe there offering isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe it was actually never that good. I don’t know, I can only base it what we had, and what we had was okay. The burger that I see on most lists is the Dead Hippie, a double patty of just pink beef in slender proportions with their famous Dead Hippie sauce that is seemingly a mustard mayo given a kick up the arse with chopped pickles and Worcestershire sauce. It’s messy and difficult to hold (these are plus points, honestly), with a bun that gets too soggy too quickly. The beef is good, but not up there with the best; it’s a little chewy in parts and we chow down on bits that possibly shouldn’t have made the cut. The sauce adds a nice acidity and the diced onions are welcome. It’s a good burger, I’ve just had much better.

The double bacon cheeseburger baffles me for crimes against bacon. We’re back on that double patty and bun though this time with additional thin layers of something dark brown that tastes vaguely of pig. It’s bacon, minced and reformed again, because, y’know, sometimes a rasher just isn’t good enough. They’ve destroyed the essence of what it should be, the fat content and the crisp shard of pure pork flavour, turning it into a just another layer of something brown and grainy that detracts away from a pretty good burger. We switch our attention to battered fillets of chicken breast that give the impression the oil was not hot enough. The batter is flaccid in good places, soggy in others from a coating of buffalo sauce. It makes a bit more sense when dipped into the blue cheese dip.

There is a revelation in the form of a Hot Mess, cylinders of crisp potato that ooze a pungent blue cheese and jalapeno sauce, and less of one with green chilli fries that blast heat with every mouthful. It’s a credit to MEATliquor that the sides are genuinely interesting and I’ve seen very similar options pop up elsewhere, including Birmingham, in a blatant bit of plagiarism.

The bill for all of the above and a couple of soft drinks came in at a few pence under forty quid, which would have been value had we enjoyed lunch. The truth is we both walked away full but underwhelmed, struggling to see what all the fuss is about. I can think of three burgers I’d rather eat in Birmingham and at least another three in London. The burgers at MEATmarket may be of legend, but the competition has not only caught up, but surpassed them.

6/10