Roast, Borough Market, London

Gamey, well-put-together venison burger

Burger source

There was beef wellington on the menu, but such is my commitment to burgers that – in realising that Roast – one of the defining meat-centric restaurants in London – had a burger on its Christmas menu – I changed my mind. Note this is a far cry from the Roast-To-Go burger I reviewed back in 2017, even if it was prepared in the same kitchen.

The order

So there it was – the Wild British Fallow Deer Venison burger. Featuring a brioche bun, stilton, beef tomato, lettuce and Roast’s burger sauce. Had to be done. We also had a healthy diversity of sides – pigs in blankets, garlic mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower cheese and chunky truffle chips.

The meat of it

Let’s look at it again.

It’s well presented and constructed. Lettuce protecting the bun from a juicy (?) burger, good slice of pickle, bright, fresh veg, ‘Roast burger sauce’ on the side, and promising-looking chunky fries in the obligatory fancy tin pot.

Let’s come into the cross section:

Look at that colour! A perfect pink, absolutely amazing! And the light hasn’t helped but he brioche is quite pale beneath a warm and attractively grilled bun. You’ll also note that the bun has slipped off the giant lettuce leaves and doesn’t want to stay settled at all – I’m pro shredding the lettuce on the underside of a burger. This hasn’t stayed together as you’d hope, although I fully accept that most people don’t cross-section their burger in this way.

As to the taste – perfect seasoning, there’s a wonderful umani between the burger and the stilton – which is unobtrusive and subtle. The bun holds together well and doesn’t have the sweetness many brioche do; but has fantastic substance and bite, contrasting with its soft, fluffy blandness against the flavourbomb of the burger itself. The texture and mouthfeel is good, though the burger is a little dry overall – I suspect that wild fallow deer doesn’t have the fat content your average 20-30% beef burger patty might – and the light gamey taste adds a pleasant depth of flavour.

The Roast Sauce? Is basically just a fancy, smooth home made ketchup. It’s pleasant, but this burger wanted a mayo or aioli style burger sauce on the buns to add fat and moisture back into each bite. Pickle in there would have added good contrast to the dry, salty, gamey meat. Not bad, but a few refinements would have elevated it.

As to the chips – they were perfect. Double if not triple fried, crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, they were perfectly seasoned and very flavourful. Again the ketchup/burger sauce was a good accompaniment, but would have preferred a mayo or aioli dip.

On the other sides (sorry for lack of pictures) – the pigs and blankets were just fine – good sausages but not desperately easily to distinguish from a pack you’d from Sainsbury’s. The mushrooms were extraordinary – the right answer to how much butter can you use when grilling mushrooms is ALL OF IT. I heard good reports for the truffle chips, the cauliflower cheese, the stuffing and more. Good all around.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 3.5/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 3.5/5 – £22 is a lot, although possibly reasonable given the venue and cost of the venison

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – Enjoyable and interesting novelty, though I probably wouldn’t have this again unless I could change up the recipe. The meat was just too lean for a burger patty, and there are a lot of other good things on the menu.

The deets

Wander around Borough market until you find the lift/steps that lead up to Roast. You can’t – no wait, you can easily miss it. Good luck and enjoy – let me know how you found it.

Anchor Inn, Lower Froyle, Hampshire

Amazingly well put together, if overcooked

Burger source

I was so keen, on the occasion of this date night, to order something that wasn’t a burger. After all, I have burgers so often when I go out – who needed another burger? But then… I don’t go out often. And there it was, on the menu; promising a single cut of meat in the burger (suggesting it is made in-house), slaw, and a variety of other things that sounded great. So I gave in.

The order

The British brisket burger featured cheese, ruby slaw, baby gem, fries, onion relish. According to the menu. I opted for the bacon for an extra pound.

The meat of it

There are some unspecified extras on the burger. You can see, in the featured image above, a generous slice of tomato, three dill pickles, and a very moreish burger sauce. Curiously, the burger patty – in the deconstructed plating – is on the top bun. A quick merge, and you get…

Look at the melt on that cheese! The shine on the bun! the colour on the slaw! Hopes were duly raised…

…and lowered a bit in cross section. Whilst the bun continues to look glorious, as indeed do the toppings (and bottomings?), the burger is too densely packed and is cooked to grey.

First taste – sweet, applewood (?) smoked bacon adds bite and an additional savoury boost, the burger has a hard, well seasoned crust – but the meat is a little rubbery, to be expected given how it was cooked. The quietly sweet brioche bun, slaw, sweet gem and tomato and pickles cut into the savoury explosion somewhat, tempering it, smoothing it out. The mouthfeel is… good, the bun is fantastic, the burger sauce is adding moisture where the beef has lost it, the balance is… surprising. And whilst the beef’s texture is off, the flavour is not bad. Not great in and of itself – but not bad.

The build doesn’t hold together well, the patty is sliding all over the place, so whilst the flavours combine well, it is hard to eat in its intended form.

So I have the second half deconstructed, eating each bit separately. It confirms – excellent bun, sauce, thick-cut streaky bacon and slaw. The burger is almost burnt on the outside – the chef must have gone overboard with the sear, and (I’m guessing) squashed the burger on the grill to “help” it cook through. The single cut of beef leads to a very uniform texture but perhaps not the most inspiring flavour – other cuts add this, I seem to remember from the burger masterclass at Cut & Grind.

It was hard to gauge how I felt about this burger. The pub is so good – amazing atmosphere, roaring fire, a gentle susurration from the happy clientele all around us, good Covid protocol that we could see, fast moving and attentive wait staff. I had an excellent glass of Italian red to sip alongside the burger (a Cento Cavali Nero d’Avola). I was celebrating 15 years of dating my wife. Maybe the mood took me, but damn, I enjoyed this burger in spite of its limitations.

And the fries? Perfection. Crisp, soft centred, good potato flavour, well seasoned without being mouth-wrinklingly salty, delicious dunked in a bit of ketchup or mayo.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  5/5
Build – 3.5/5 – weird reverse assembly, slidey in the bun
Burger – 2.5/5 – taste is ok behind the terrible texture and oversear
Taste –  4/5 – the sauce and trimmings make it up
Sides – 5/5 – calling the fries ‘sides’ is generous, but they were perfect
Value – 3.5/5 – £16 for the burger and fries. The glass of wine was pricey too

Burger rating – 4/5 – surprising myself with this score. It may not objectively have been good, but it was a brilliant experience, and I enjoyed the burger in spite of its limitations.

The deets

The Anchor Inn is in the middle of nowhere in North Hampshire. On a cold winter night, expect dark roads, blind turns, the occasional deer in your path. In other words, a perfect country pub. Find out more at the link.

Burgsy’s, Castlegate, York

Juicy, tasty blue-cheese burger

Burger source

The (self-proclaimed?) ‘best burger in York’ was always going to be on the list for a visit to the town, so we were excited. The small, family run place gave us lots to look forward to.

The order

I normally try to order the closest thing to a cheese and bacon burger on the menu to provide a baseline – in this case, I went for the Blue Jack – which featured ‘stinky’ stilton and smoked bacon, alongside rocket and a balsamic reduction on a brioche bun. I was allowed to request it medium, which was a joy – it speaks to meat ground on site and hopefully a juicy bite and outstanding mouthfeel. I upgraded the side of fries to ‘lumberjack’ fries, which upgraded the fries with mushrooms, caramelised onions, streaky bacon, mayo and BBQ sauce. What could go wrong?

I had a glass of merlot to drink with it all.

The meat of it

So far, so good. Presentation is great – you can see the blue cheese dripping off the burger, the smoked bacon is crisp and generous, the rocket is bright and fresh. The lumberjack fries… are fully loaded.

To the cross section…

This is pretty close to a perfect cross section for me – coarse ground, pink, juicy meat. A bun that holds up to the burger. Well proportioned toppings (though the rocket should perhaps have been under the burger to protect the bun a little more from the juices). Look at that melty stilton! Amazing.

As to taste… the stilton is a little… overpowering. You can’t tell how well seasoned the meat is because the flavour from the cheese is so strong (a bit too strong). But the meat is high quality and well cooked, the mouthfeel is fantastic, and the rocket – which I was sceptical off – actually provides a realy good contrast to the super-savoury, super funky stilton. The bacon and the balsamico adds a sweet contrast and the whole thing works better than I’d expected. A really enjoyable burger.

That said – my friends said that their more conventional burgers were underseasoned – to the point of tastelessness – so wonder if I got lucky with my choice!

As to the fries… well, these are literally a hot mess. The caramelised onions were cloyingly sweet, they were incredibly overseasoned – to almost the point of being inedible – and the excess of sauces and toppings made it hard to detect or enjoy any particular flavour. They were well cooked, hot, fresh shoestring fries though, which are never that bad.

The merlot was excellent, as was the service and general ambience.

On balance, massively recommend Burgsy’s, but perhaps ask to salt your own fries, and ask them to make sure the burger is well seasoned before it hits the griddle. I would go back, and order a little differently, if I return to York with a hankering for a good burger.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste –  4/5 – the stilton was a bit too much for me but think others would love it
Sides – 2.5/5 – lost points for excess seasoning and a hot mess of toppings
Value – 4/5 – it’s pricey-ish for the city but not bad.

Burger rating – 4/5 – really very good.

The deets

Surrounded by wine bars, Castlegate is a nice, quiet street, a little way away from the chaos of York’s Christmas crowds. Find more deets and book online to visit here.

Fancy Hanks, Goodramsgate, York

Rubbery hockey puck of a burger, fun everything else

Burger source

I’m going to be honest – it wasn’t the burger that drew me in. It was the fact that Fancy Hanks is one of the only places I found in researching York that serves chicken & waffles. You know, authentic Yorkshire country food. Anyway, the menu promised a home-made patty, and there were five of us eating, so we could chop and share a bit…

The order

So the burger itself – we chose to double up – is on the menu as “Homemade Beef Patty with Melty Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Bacon Jam, Pickle and Fancy Sauce.” We also had the chicken and waffles, and a lot of sides – buffalo wings, onion rings, fried pickles and buttermilk fried shrimp.

The meat of it

Presentation wasn’t good, although we immediately regretted doubling up – simply unnecessary for this style of burger and I wish restaraunts wouldn’t offer it for anything other than a patty smash (though it’s clearly my fault for ordering it!):

Let’s quickly get to the cross section:

This tells you pretty much everything you need to know. Whilst the bun is good, the meat itself is bone dry, densely packed, finely ground and completely overcooked. The salad and fancy sauce (and indeed the well melted cheese) is barely detectable around the heft of the (well seasoned) but completely rubbery burger patties. I couldn’t taste the jam, and didn’t try the slaw. In mouthfeel, it’s not unlike a slightly burnt BBQ burger patty, though clearly there’s better quality meat that’s been wasted in making it. In short, do not order this unless you can specify you want it medium.

As to the sides, and the chicken and waffles? Well…

Looks pretty good, right? Some of it wasn’t bad. In particular:

  • Pickles were crisp and well seasoned, with a bright, crispy centre
  • The wings were crazy unusual – hot sauce woveninto the breading, juicy, tasty and interesting with a nice blue cheese sauce – though I think a bit of a coating of buffalo sauce would have improved them further – that slippery mess is part of the joy of buffalo wings
  • The onion wings were exceptional – crisp, sweet slices of white onion in a lovely batter, well seasoned
  • The fries were good too, good potato flavour, well seasoned and tasty

In contrast…

  • The chicken of the chicken and waffles had its breading coming off it, the bacon should have been crisper, and the waffle/ratio wasn’t there – bigger, crisper waffle stack, syrup on the side, would have been my preference. Still tasty with some hot sauce though
  • The breading was peeling off the prawns

Still not bad, just not great.

I drank the gin cocktail, the ‘Charleston Fizz’, which was ok but not particularly memorable – they were unfortunately out of some of the more interesting creations when we visited (I had wanted to try ‘the President’ featuring peanut butter infused bourbon!).

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 3/5
Burger – 1.5/5
Taste –  1.5/5
Sides – 4/5 – better than the mains! 
Value – 4/5 – all that food, and a couple of drinks each, and service – was less than £30 a head. Which seems reasonable.

Burger rating – 1.5/5 – go for the sides, cocktails, chicken – not the burger.

The deets

Fancy Hanks can be found here, on the busy Goodramsgate street in York It’s great fun as a place to visit, but they need to work on their burger craft.

Hunworth Bell, Hunworth, Norfolk

Enjoyable despite its limitations

Burger source

The Hunny Bell is a local favourite, in the middle of nowhere in rural Norfolk. Rated highly on Tripadvisor, and by locals we know, it was a fun family meal out.

The order

I hadn’t intended to have a second burger in our holiday week, but the description of the HB double cheeseburger, topped with Emmental, served with onion rings, slaw, on a brioche and smoked bacon… well, it just sounded great. So I had to give it a go. We shared a carafe of Sea Change Negroamaro, a red wine whose billing features environmetnal activism, with a proportion of profits going to dealing with ocean plastics. Sold.

The meat of it

Let’s look at the main picture again.

The plating is tidy but a close inspection will show – a burnt brioche, unnecessary onion rings and a burnt edging on the bacon that bodes poorly… but it looks well assembled, and I’m intrigued.

In cross section, the errors compound themselves. These are thick patties, but cooked well done. They are far too big for the burger. The emmental is well melted and there’s an intriguing layer of sauce on the bottom bun… so, on to the taste.

Well, the burger is well seasoned. The crisp bacon adds excellent umami. The vegetables are crisp, fresh and sweet. The patties are a little dry, but the spicy mayo adds the required moisture and a lovely depth of flavour. There’s a wonderful smokiness to the whole thing.

Then… the whole thing kind of slides off the romaine slice and tomatoes at the base… leaving, in short, a mess:

The rest of it had to be eaten with cutlery, in two halves, split top and bottom. Ketchup helped balance the half without the spicy mayo, and yet somehow, the whole thing kept me wanting more. Despite almost everything going wrong with it, I still kind of enjoyed it. Though I think next time, the belly pork Amanda had is more likely to be on my order card.

The sides? The fries were well seasoned, standard french fries, but slightly undercooked. The slaw was soft – lacking all freshness and crispness – the mayo / dressing was just too heavy. But the onion rings were near-paragons of the form – lovely, crisp, well seasoned batter, sweet onion within… if they were a little greasy.

Giving notes on the whole dish:

  1. Don’t burn the bun
  2. Shrink the patties – 3oz each is plenty, 4oz each was too much
  3. Switch to a patty smash. higher fat ratio, melt cheese on each half as part of the build
  4. Go heavier on the delicious, animal-style sauce, consider adding some chopped pickle into it too for a bright, sweet crunch amidst it all
  5. Shred lettuce for a more stable base – the single leaf of romaine is pretty in theory, but irritating in practice
  6. Swap out the emmental for a sharp local cheddar
  7. Double fry the chips
  8. Find a new slaw recipe. It was bad.
  9. More onion rings. Because why not?

And the wine? Delicious. In both form and function. Highly recommend.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  2.5/5
Burger – 3.5/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 3/5 – the onion rings and wine redeem the fries and slaw somewhat 
Value – 3/5 – £14.50 for burger and fries. Wine and other dishes reasonable.

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – really much more enjoyable than it should have been

The deets

The food, service, ambience etc., at the Hunny Bell were all brilliant. The burger isn’t the best but everything else comes highly recommended. Visit if you’re in the region of Holt in Norfolk at any point.

Sands Restaraunt, Wells-on-the-Sea, Norfolk

Pretty good burger with well-flavoured meat

Burger source

After a four hour journey, we were happy to have arrived in the coastal town of Wells for our first ever visit to Norfolk. I should probably have gone for seafood on the menu, but the burger had an impressive billing, and eating out post-pandemic is still something of a rarity, leaving this blog neglected, so…

The order

The “Sands of time” burger featured:

6oz Prime Beef Burger. Cheese, Smoked Bacon, Onion Rings, Beef Tomato on a Bed of Mixed Leaves in a Brioche Bun, served with Fries and Burger Relish.

Which sounded pretty good to me.

The meat of it

The rather ludicrous plating was fun. Unnecessary knife literally embedded into the board, totally hilariously large onion rings adding unmanageable height to the stack… and of course, fun bougie basket of fries and pot of relish on the side.

In cross section… it has a little more going for it.

You can see pink, coarse ground, loosely packed meat making up a beautiful patty. You can see thick bacon and melty cheese – the bacon, whilst back, was crispy around the edges. The salad is bright and fresh. The bun – so far – is holding up. Toasted but soft – though not that warm, unfortunately. The onion rings – left the building. Fun, but a side, not a central part of this burger’s flavour profile or structure.

First bite – bitter edge from slightly too much salad (rocket? spinach? not standard lettuce), crisp umami from the bacon and melty cheddar, and tasty, slightly undersalted but otherwise well flavoured beef. The meat carries a slight funk, like it’s been dry-aged and was juicy with good mouthfeel. The relish added light sweetness without the vinegary effect you can get with ketchup. It was firmly not bad, but, beyond the choice of salad leaves, a couple of minor notes to the chef… heavier on the salt would not have hurt this burger. The strong flavour of the meat needed its savoury edge. And a hotter griddle for the crust would have added textural depth… one this burger needed, as by the time I got to the second half, the juice had completely soaked the lower bun, which was dissolving. That said, the bun was soft and tasty, so points where its due.

On the sides – I’ll treat the onion rings as sides. Despite thick slices of onion within the batter, there was little natural sweetness from the onion nor savoury bite from the batter – they were underseasoned, and I must have just gotten unlucky with the onion. The texture was otherwise crisp and on point.

The fries – were well fried and well seasoned, but seemed standard french-fry cut frozen chips. Nothing bad about them, but little to write home about.

£14.50 for the lot would have been reasonable in London, and I guess is the going rate in a Tourist-heavy town with ‘arguably the best view’ in Wells (it wasn’t bad).

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3.5/5
Burger – 3.5/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 3/5 
Value – 3.5/5

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – my hopes (and perhaps standards) aren’t high for burgers in restaurants that don’t specialise in them (or steak more generally), so this really wasn’t bad.

The deets

Stroll along the Quay in Wells and you’ll find Sands Restaurant upstairs at no. 13. Or visit the website here.

Miller & Carter, Winchester Road, Basingstoke

This burger tastes better than it has any right to

Burger source

I was arranging to meet a client who happens to live locally for one of my first face to face meetings in about six months. He happened to like burgers, was sympathetic to my fondness for them, so I looked for a novel burger place – and to my surprise, discovered a local steakhouse I’d never heard of. So we went. First Monday of indoor eating in months. V exciting.

The order

Ordinarily my baseline review is a bacon cheeseburger – standardising the reviews somewhat. But the trademark burger was jumping out at me – the Miller’s Dirty Burger. And you can see why:

Tender fillet tails cooked to your liking, aged Cheddar cheese sauce, pulled beef barbacoa bearnaise, smoked streaky bacon, Monterey Jack, chorizo, special recipe burger sauce

Wawaweewah. It had to be done.

The meat of it

Other than the disproportionate height, the plating’s not bad. Clean plate, artful portion of what is (I promise, sorry for the soft focus) some nice, crisp, fresh coleslaw that’s not too heavy, standard posh chips in a tin-cup presentation and a burger that is well stacked. Lovely glossy bun, lettuce shielding the bottom half from the heft of meat, sauce, and toppings. I was given a choice of how I wanted the fillet tails done (medium rare), but the burger had to be cooked well done. This is par for the course in any restaurant that doesn’t grind its patties on site, but was nonetheless a shame in a place that prides itself on its meat.

Anyway, the cross section…

Somewhat predictably, the polish isn’t so evident in cross section. The burger is kind of a mess. The lower bun immediately gives way to the mass of everything, you can see the burger patty is cooked to a pale grey pallor, and is so tightly packed there’s almost no moisture left in it. The burger is so filled with toppings (I made those fillet tails out as medium, but that’s fine) so as to be impossible to eat as a sandwich, so I resort to cutlery and give it a taste.

And… against all expectations at this point… I really like it. The burger beef is well seasoned and has a good crust, and whilst its dry and dense as you’d expect, the fillet tails are soft and dreamy, the bearnaise, burger sauce and melty montery jack cheese (indulgent, much?) coalesce into a savoury, moist, gooey, bright yellow joy. There’s also the occasional spark of spice from the chorizo, and the fresh, sweet salad adds a clean crispness. But it’s not really a burger – I end up eating it in two halves, unable to get the mountain into edible bits without this drastic step. The fillet tails – tender, moist, luscious pieces of steak – are delicious in their own right, the bread is firmer than it appeared, holding up well… though I think the bacon was probably just a dead mound of calories, lost in all the other flavour. So yeah. Not bad, if not quite a burger. And working despite my understanding of what makes a good burger by almost every other measure.

The fries… are just slightly under-seasoned, under-cooked and a little shy of hot. But not terrible – good potato flavour, just on the tolerable side of cooked enough; a good stodgy compliment to the richness of the burger.

It being lunchtime on a Monday, the drink was a lime & soda, but we did have coffee and a ‘mini’ pud – I went for an Eton Mess.

It wasn’t particularly mini. And it was divine – light, crispy meringue, rich, sweet cream, sweet and sharp passionfruit laced throughout it… I inhaled it. I’m not an eton mess connoisseur, but after this, I kind of wanted to be. The shortbread was a waste of space, though – what use does anyone have for unsweetened shortbread? Perhaps I was meant to use it as a spoon for the mess…

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3.5/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste –  4/5
Sides – 3/5 -bump for the onion fries 
Value – 3/5 – £30 for burger and pud and drink – a little steep.

Burger rating – 4/5 – perhaps slightly generous, but I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws.

The deets

Apparently Miller & Carter is a National chain. Who knew? Find your local here. Maybe have the steak. We had brilliant service and a good experience of it, can recommend.

The Hoddington Arms, Upton Grey, Hampshire

A glorious pub burger, an appropriate post lockdown celebration

Burger source

I’m gonna be honest – it was my first meal out in six months. There was a chateaubriand on the menu. It didn’t matter; it was always going to be the burger. There was no ceremony in its description – it simply was the eponymous Hodd Cheese Burger, hopefully a staple of the menu…

The order

The Hodd Cheese and Bacon Burger featured mature cheddar, cured bacon, mustard mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, crispy onion ring and skinny fries. I had a pint of Shipton Pale ale as an aperitif and washed it down with a nice Sangiovese. Pudding was sticky toffee pudding (my kryptonite on any menu), and I was persuaded by my neighbour to have a Balvenie Scotch as a digestif (I’ve always been more a Bourbon fan and sceptical of single malts; the peat is too much for me, but this was great).

The meat of it

Well.

This was a happy-inducing cross section. A pub burger, with pink, coarse ground, loosely packed meat. With an ample coating of throughly melted aged cheddar. Salad on the bottom, protecting the bun. The bun itself, sturdy but not hard and dry. Pliable. Warm.

First bite. Moment of truth. Perfectly seasoned – good flavour, excellent sharpness from the cheese, enough moisture from the mustard mayo and salad. The meat’s a little too loose and fibrous – wonder if it was the way it was ground? There is perhaps not quite enough sturdiness to the crust, perhaps a hotter griddle would have pulled it all together. Regardless – the net impact is one of savoury goodness; I slow to take in each mouthful carefully, mindfully savouring the flavour. I must admit, I didn’t notice the bacon, but given the taste profile, it would have been adding subtle umami. Side note; whatever made the bun red didn’t noticeably add to the flavour, but it was good nonetheless – soft, seeded, fresh.

Onto the fries, for which I refer you to the featured image above. These were glorious; crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. Not exactly skinny fries, more svelte at best – perfectly seasoned, likely double if not triple fried – absolutely delicious. Dunked in mayo and ketchup for kicks but great on their own.

The onion rings were coated in a wonderful batter, crisp and non-greasy, with a thick, sweet ring of fresh onion at their core. They were slightly underseasoned and totally unnecessary within the stack, so I chucked on some salt and had them on their own. Very fine indeed.

Pudding was a medjool date sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and was a paragon of its type. Just beautiful on the plate, warm and melty, a luscious island in a sea of warm, soupy, slowly thickening toffee sauce. The sponge was light and fluffy with dense pockets of date. A complete delight.

For a digestif – a Balvenie. Lightly smoky but sweeter and smoother than the few single malts I’ve ever had, this was a good return to scotch for the bourbon drinker that I am. Enjoyed it.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 4.5/5 – just needed a harder sear, I reckon
Taste –  4.5/5
Sides – 5/5 -bump for the onion fries 

Value – 4/5 – £50 for burger, side, pud, pint, glass and a half of wine and double digestif. Not ridiculous but not every day eating.

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – didn’t live up to its erstwhile glory.

The deets

A wonderful pub in the idyllic North Hampshire village of Upton Grey, about 5 miles south of Basingstoke. Utter delight. More here.

Nanny Bill’s, in residence @ Vinegar Yard, London Bridge

Glorious, innovative double patty smash

Burger source
Nanny Bill’s was named in homage to the founders’ grandma, Bill, who ran a cafe in the 70s and 80s. Founded in 2015 in East London as a food truck venture, Bill’s is part of the decade-and-a-half love affair with high quality American fast food Britain is experiencing. Had I known they were famed for their ‘Mac & Cheese’ croquettes, we might have tried those too…

The burgers are interesting; hand pressed, clearly high quality meat, and some interesting variations – from the Dalston Dip (served with gravy) through standard bacon double cheeseburger (with BBQ sauce) through to the spicy Jam burger, various chicken and vegan options and more.

The experience was definitely one for our Covid times. We had to book and pre-order drinks in advance, we had to show our Covid check-in on the NHS app to be allowed in, everything was table service, managed and paid for on our phones, after going to a website by scanning a QR code at the table. It was, per the law, masks on at all times when not at the table. We’d primarily chosen to meet at Vinegar Yard as it provided an outdoor (under cover) space, which felt sensible in the age of Corona. And knowing Nanny Bill’s was there gave us something else to look forward to… their Insta pictures are glorious.

The order
I was tempted by the standard bacon double cheeseburger, but the Jam was calling out to me. Double beef patty, smoked bacon, American cheese, pink onions, hot sauce, shredded lettuce, bacon jam, burger sauce on a brioche bun.

In our rule-of-six compliant group, friends tried the Dalston Dip, the Bacon Double Cheese Burger and the Hot Mess chicken burger. All looked great.

Sidewise, I went for the Aggy Fries – rosemary salt fries, garlic buttermilk mayo, hot sauce, grated Parmesan and spring onion, and nabbed a chicken strip with rum’n’ting BBQ sauce.

The meat of it
So, how was it?

Let’s take a look.

There’s a lot to take in. The crust on the meat is immediately apparent, peeking out from the shiny, super-soft brioche. The cheese has a perfect melt, the lettuce is bright and fresh, you can see the burger sauce forming a protective layer on the perfectly toasted bottom bun.

This burger is a thing of beauty and power. But how did it taste?

In a word? Glorious. The crust is amazingly seasoned and tasty and gives way with a crisp crunch, revealing (amazingly) an ever-so-slightly pink centre. The bun is soft and sturdy (strong and stable?) – it holds up to the fillings and provides a starchy, only-slightly-sweet counterbalance to the umami bomb of the burger and its fillings.

The sweet / savoury / sour contrast is a delight; the melty cheese, chewy bacon, perfectly seasoned meat deliver a savoury mouthful; balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the bacon jam and the burger sauce. The pickled red onions lend a bright sour tang. In the background of the mouthful you can pick up the faintest heat from the hot sauce – a little more would not have been a bad thing.

Every mouthful brought another crunch/chew/taste sensation. It is probably the best patty smash burger I have had in the UK, bar none. Outstanding.

To the sides…

The aggy fries were interesting. A thick coating of hot sauce – Frank’s? – made the centre of the pile somewhat soggy, but amazingly flavoursome; lovely mild buffalo heat with every mouthful. The rosemary seasoning is mild and pleasant, the mayo a lovely creamy contrast to the crisp fries; even the Parmesan plays an unexpected role, boosting the flavour and adding a mild cheesey funk. And of course, I’m one of those people who things chopped spring onions improves almost everything – really wonderful, very moreish, and an extremely creative take on fries, one that adds rather than distracts with its novelty. Obviously the standard rosemary fries are excellent too, and don’t suffer from the soggy hot sauce centre.

The chicken strips were… disappointing .The breading is too light, and underseasoned – insipid. The ‘rum n ting’ BBQ sauce is pleasant, but would have been better cutting through the heat and seasoning of a crisper coating for the wings; as it was, it was not-quite-managing to redeem the juicy, but otherwise flavourless, chicken strips.

Drink wise, we had a very pleasant, fruity and slightly flowery session IPA from the London Beer Factory called Hazey Daze. Can recommend, not least for the outrageous ringpulls.

In all, this was an extraordinarily creative and tasty take on some standard burger fare; the team at Nanny Bill’s clearly know what’s going on and I wish them every success.

Monkey finger rating
Bun – 5/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste – 4.5/5
Sides – 4.5/5 –
small penalty for mediocre wings, but fries were great
Value – 4/5 –
£17 for burger and side, ish, with service. OK but not exactly a meal deal.

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – really outstanding overall. Would be tempted to have again, but having seen how amazing their other burgers looked… I’d be tempted to try one of those.

The deets
Nanny Bill’s have a few locations, but if you’re looking for outdoor eating in this time of Covid, Vinegar Yard behind London Bridge Station is the place for you. You can find other locations here, as well as buy their home-kits if you want to give it a try in the comfort of your home kitchen!

Palm Brasserie, Deane, Nr Basingstoke

Well seasoned, tasty, but an ultimately dry & underwhelming burger

Burger source

Ok, it’s been six months, people. SIX MONTHS since I’ve had a burger out. Even though the beautiful Palm Brasserie restaurant in Deane is a trendy, high-end eatery with a delightful seasonal menu, tinged with Asian fusion elements, I was always going to have the burger. Always.

I’m just going to briefly wax lyrical about the restaurant. Located in Deane, a village about 10 minutes drive from Basingstoke, this converted pub is a delight. It’s been modernised elegantly – bright and airy, beautifully laid out – even in these Covid secure times – and with a charming blend of modern and traditional decor (Jane Austen posters in sharp, modern frames surround the lounge area, where we had an aperitif).

Service was crisp and polite; servers seemed happy to see us despite a chaotic month of feeding Eat out to Help out diners, and on a Friday in mid-September on what feels like the verge of a second lockdown – the restaurant remained ‘full’ in its socially distanced set-up, making for a nice vibe without the sensation of being crammed in. Despite our slightly unglamorous table position by the kitchen doors.

The order

I had the ‘signature beef burger’ on the summer menu, a 6oz beef burger, topped with house pickles, tomato, sriracha relish, paired with a brioche bun. I had the optional halloumi topping… and we shared some halloumi fries on the side, because… why not?

I was designated driver, so whilst Amanda had a refreshing-looking mojito and a glass of pinot grigio, I restrained myself to a fresh drawn half pint of Atlantic Pale Ale. Very nice.

The meat of it

Let’s look at the stack again.

You can see some immediate things that are odd about this…

First, the burger patty is too small. I suspect it was tightly packed, thick instead of wide, and as a result you get that problem of poor bun/burger ratio. The thick slices of halloumi are attention grabbing. The vegetables are bright and fresh.

In cross section….

No sign of pink

You can see the burger is packed tight, and overcooked, and the bun/burger ratio problem becomes more evident. There’s no juice spilling out onto the plate, but burger and pickles are both falling out of the bun. As to the bun – it looks beautiful, soft and shiny but… is slightly dry and stale. I didn’t finish it.

As to the taste… I ate one of the pickles that had fallen out. It was insipid; no bite, no sharpness, just a mild, inoffensive sweetness.

This isn’t going well, is it?

But… surprisingly, on first bite of the burger proper, it kind of comes together. The sriracha mayo is under-sriracha-d (virtually no heat) but it provides much needed moisture for the burger. The meat is beautifully seasoned to compliment the halloumi, which is soft and rich and creamy, adding a delightful umami to the burger. The bun, whilst dry, is soft and provides a subtle sweet counterbalance to the intense saltiness of the burger + halloumi. The vegetables are fresh and provide some sweetness too. I think the lean/fat ratio was too low for the burger, but the halloumi and mayo help compensate somewhat.

Whilst imperfect in many, many ways, there’s promise here. The chefs understand flavour, and the flavours are good. But the burger construction left me wanting, the burger was overcooked, the bun dry and uninspired, the pickles disappointing for house-made… there’s lots of room for improvement.

As to the fries… they were well seasoned and crisp despite their pale complexion, but undercooked on the inside. You could feel the bite of slightly uncooked potato. I suspect they were not par boiled or needed a second fry.

The coleslaw was sickly and limp; tasted like something industrial served from a large plastic tub. Nothing exciting there, also left unfinished with the fries.

And the halloumi fries?

An indulgent portion

They were literally immense; the halloumi in the burger seemed soft, but these golden, deep fried beasts – were dried out somewhat, and needed both the chilli drizzle on them and the sriracha to make up for it. But even average halloumi is still halloumi, so this was mostly demolished between us.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  2/5
Build – 2/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 2/5 -bump for the halloumi fries, else would have been a 1, sadly
Value – 3.5/5 – £30 for a head with drinks and a side, or £14 alone for the burger and fries in a place this nice seemed fine.

Burger rating – 2.5/5 – I probably won’t have it again – everything else looked so much better, I had cross-table food envy. But it had promise, so if they revise the recipe… then I may be tempted.

The deets

The (beautiful) restaraunt is West of Basingstoke, near Oakley, on the road out to Overton. It’s worth the drive if you’re in the area, a lovely experience. More details on the website here.