A very strong contender from this neighbourhood diner
Bob’s Café is a modest looking neighbourhood diner with eccentric décor; upside down plants suspended above the tables, slow-turning ceiling fans spinning gently against the warmth of an early Spring day, rustic exposed brickwork roughly painted, sat alongside wooden booths and furniture. Truth be told, it hadn’t been my intent to go for the burger, but when I saw it listed on the menu of this Franco-American diner (“100% prime beef, traditionally reared, grass and grain-fed), as well as the native toppings on the burger itself (“gherkins, pickled red onion, tomato, lettuce, house sauce”) I was like, “DONE.”
Naturally I had the burger with fries, with extra toppings of aged cheddar and crispy bacon. Amanda had a pasta dish, which I’m told was nice. The chicken schnitzel burger sounded tempting too!
The meat of it
The burger presents well – stacked apparently beautifully, toppings edged out the lid of the bun, crisp bacon sat on a perfect, modest cheddar melt; pickles on top and salad underneath, coated in a light house-made burger sauce. Almost like having a lettuce-heavy coleslaw on the underside. I didn’t even notice the tomatoes, if they were there, which for me is generally an upside.
On cross section, I had a slight concern. Whilst everything still generally looked good, part of the patty had begun to grey out (not the “pink” the promised when I ordered), and it also looked very densely packed. Would this burger be mealy, grey and overcooked like so many frozen burgers from “gastropubs” around the country? Some of the burger looked perfectly medium, so I was reserving judgement… even as the stack collapsed as the burger slipped off the pile of burger-sauce lubed up salad on its base.
First bite, moment of truth….
…and I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a lovely, well-seasoned (straight salt and pepper job, no eccentric herbs and spices), slightly charred crunch to the burger and whilst the meat isn’t as juicy as you might hope, the burger sauce and fresh, sweet salad more than compensated. The bacon is a welcome crisp and savoury addition, though I’ll admit I didn’t notice the cheddar as a discrete entity. Perhaps that’s a sign of how well the burger comes together, as many places overdo the cheddar IMO. The burger sauce makes up for the slightly dry meat, and whilst the burger is slightly dense, it comes apart beautifully as you eat it and seems to be made of high quality albeit non-aged beef with a decent fat ratio. The pickles are glorious; the crisp, sweet/sour tang of both the gherkins and the pickled onions contrasting with the crunch of the bacon and the chew of the meat. The bun (a semi-brioche? Not overly sweet) holds up well and despite the somewhat slippery mess of a stack, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. An excellent neighbourhood burger.
The fries, on the other hand, were slightly uninspired. Giving the impression of freezer fries, they aren’t quite crisp enough and are a little underseasoned; the coarse ground table salt doesn’t coat them well and they get cold and limp relatively rapidly. But they’re not terrible.
Drinks-wise, the wine selection here is not extensive but is clearly well chosen. I had a very drinkable Shiraz with the meal.
Monkey finger rating
Bun – 4/5
Build – 3/5 – wobbly, slidey burger in spite of excellent initial appearance
Burger – 4/5 – really tasty despite dryness
Taste – 4/5
Sides – 3/5 – there are better fries, but there are worse ones too.
Value – 3/5 – £14 for burger and sides, after cheese and bacon added. £6 per glass of wine! Pricey, although I gather there are routine discounts for living in the neighbourhood.
Burger rating – 4/5 – a great neighbourhood find.
Next to Gail’s in Queen’s Park, Bob’s Café is unassuming, unpretentious, and a wonderful find. There are apparently a few other branches; find them all here.