I like a good burger. Many a fond memory involves eating one, and I hark back to those moments when I fly, when I inevitably stop off and “Have it my way, at BK” on the way to the gate. You need to eat at one after you clear security, otherwise you are chomping away whilst your mind tempestuously mulls over having to take off your shoes, which is annoying because it involves bending over and doing laces, whilst the officer laughs at you because your bottle of Wella Shockwaves is over 100ml and/or your belt with the eagle buckle has set off the metal detector again, meaning that you are now semi strip-searched, as well as having a stab wound on your belly caused by the rusty wing of the bird. Oh, the price of fashion.
Apart from sadomasochistic belts, food is my fashion, or to use a blog that bloody irritates me on blogs, ‘muse’. I spend long enough going on about it, and spend more than enough money eating it. So, faced with a horrendously long pay month recently, I decided to hold back a little in heading out on the prowl for plates. But hey, a man’s still gotta eat.
This is part of the reason burgers are so freaking awesome. Even if you take a place with exorbitantly high prices, such as Bar Beloud, the burger – there, it is one of the finest to be had in London – will still not really cost more than fifteen quid. Add into the mix that it takes a special kind of idiot to mess up a burger, you will never be disappointed with ordering one. Unless you are a vegetarian. Also known as the most special kind of idiot.
And the third reason burgers are so great is that you are never too far away from a kicky little place to try them. London’s latest trend – though one which is supreme for me and my love of stodge, is hopefully coming to an end – is that burgers are more ‘in’ than Bruno Mars garnished with Katy Perry. In a bun made of Rudimental.
Yes, I watched the Brits so I am well-versed in the who’s-who of the shitfest that is modern music.
In BurgerChic London, rubbing shoulders with the safe bets of Burger King, the mighty Maccy D’s and even Browns, are more exotic names to us such as Five Guys and Shake Shack, duking it out in Covent Garden to see who can kill the most tourists from their ‘queue to get your cholesterol’ business models. Cut them a break. I’ve tried Shake Shack in New York and it’s basically pornography in a bun.
A couple more names for you – Byron and Gourmet Burger Kithcen (GBK), Nando’s-y ‘quasi-restaurants’ which are just beyond the realms of fast food, a little more elegant than pub grub, but not quite reaching up into Browns territory, where, shock horror, waiters take your order at the table, rather than queue, like I do when hungover and in need of a J2O and bacon at Wetherspoons. I feel so grubby doing that.
Actually, Byron is a little posher, a little slicker than GBK. Like comparing Gary Barlow to Robbie Williams, that kind of thing. I haven’t been to Byron yet, but I have frequented GBK on a few occasions now. One was a working lunch which turned out to be a little stressful and another time I had a stinking cold and couldn’t taste anything (my recent sinusitis has decided to mutate back to a muthawhoringly resilient strain of flu). Therefore GBK has joined the club of what I now call my ‘unlucky restaurants’ (TGI Fridays, the ‘den of awkwardness’ and Red Dog Saloon ‘don’t touch your gentleman area when eating fire wings’ are the other members).
I have been to GBKs in Earls Court, Canary Wharf, South Kensington and Somewhere Within Walking Distance of Seven Dials, and they all look the same. Formica-adorned, upsized diners with a shelf full of condiments (like at Nando’s) and a trough of monkey nuts to keep you happy in the three seconds it takes for the food to appear. The tables are bare save for a pot of cutlery and one of those tomato-shaped ketchup bottles. A counter-slash-till is where you, the guest, get off your arse to order and pay. And they call this the Twenty-First Century. Having said that, you can download an app that, when you go to settle up, gives you free things and loyalty stuff.
The burgers, made with West Country beef (yay!) always seem to be well-cooked and are different enough to provoke thought in your choice. In my time I’ve tried the Camemburger (with said cheese, a hash brown and onion jam) which was proper hangover fare. The Don was made with bacon and a load of gorgonzola and felt impeccably grown up but relaxed, like Prince Charles wearing nothing but a crown and a pair of boxer shorts. The Mighty is for people who don’t know any better – bacon and cheese, but with two burgers. Sides include pretty decent onion rings and shoestring fries that are super addictive but go cold in less time than it takes for you to break into a monkey nut. There are veggie options and numerous extra toppings to choose from.
Drinks are actually pretty cool. The GBK Pale Ale is a cracking little bottle of joy but you’ll stay for the honeycomb milkshakes. The peanut butter one is just as good. These are shakes made to rival – and quite possibly beat – the ones on offer at the otherwise lamentable Tinseltown diners. GBK also offers free refills of whimsical sounding ‘fizzes’, such as Lemon and Lime, Elderflower, Ginger and Lemongrass or Strawberry and Elderflower. There is no service to write about or report, though the people stood behind the counter doing sod all do so with a smile on their face and with a general level of courteousness which means that nothing goes wrong. But then if I stand still at work, nothing seems to go wrong either.
And that’s about it, really. Everything at GBK is fine. A nice place you can drop into on the fly, the food can’t really be messed up and, like an immunisation, the experience is over quickly, you usually cannot feel a thing, it is wholly beneficial to you, and your psyche and the first time is certainly not going to be your last.
The one thing that stands out? The drinks. I could drink honeycomb all day. And then it wouldn’t just be my eagle belt or seemingly endless nasal troubles that gives me health issues.