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.

Bodean’s BBQ, 10 Poland Street, Soho

Competent, if unexceptional, burger

Burger source

Privately held Bodean’s was founded by Canadian Andre Blais, who, mysteriously, had a dream of bringing Kansas city style BBQ to London. An obvious dream for a Canadian, some might say, whilst others wonder what that’s all aboot, eh? Regardless, the arrival of Bodean’s at its first site on Poland Street in 2002 was a watershed moment for American food in London, one that I remember rejoicing in at the time. It’s where I was introduced to pulled pork, ribs and burnt ends in a more significant way, and its chipotle buttered steak was something I was very fond of. Whilst I’ve not always had a consistent experience there in the fifteen years since it launched, I was curious as to what its burger had to offer. And the burger’s description isn’t overly complicated: “100% Prime Beef Burger Topped with Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onions and Pickles on a Toasted Sesame Seed Bun. Served with Fries.”

Alrighty then.

The order

I just ordered the burger, but topped it with Monterey Jack cheese and streaky bacon.

The meat of it

20170808_214236

On arrival, the scale of this burger took a while to process. There’s too much salad – a thick slice of tomato and lettuce was too much for the stack, so were duly extracted and consumed (fresh, crisp, sweet). The remaining burger, an 8oz behemoth, was topped with well melted-jack, slightly underdone bacon for my taste (chewy, not crispy) and crisp red onions and pickles. The sesame bun is not a brioche, a novelty these days, and the sauces need to be applied yourself – a basket of BBQ sauces, ketchup and mustard adorns every table.

20170808_214702

The cross section shot shows a slightly over medium finish (they wouldn’t do it medium rare for me). As such, the burger’s a little dry and overpacked for my liking, but extremely well seasoned, which leads to umami-filled mouthfuls. Sauceless, this burger is too dry and too salty – in the absence of a relish, some appropriately applied hickory-smoked BBQ sauce took the edge off it. Ironically, a brioche would have actually served a purpose here. But the sauce wasn’t bad and balanced the burger out. The cheese and bacon may have been what took the saltiness over the edge, though despite being slightly chewy the latter was at least a welcome contrast to the meat and cheese.

The fries looked crisp but were underseasoned and undercooked, which was a bit disappointing. That was it for sides for me. To drink, I had a Maple Syrup old fashioned, which they made with Jim Beam.

I really don’t like Jim Beam. It’s a sorry excuse for a bourbon.

On balance, the overall experience was fine, if somewhat unremarkable. I think the next time I go to a smokehouse, I’ll have to accept the possibility that the ribs and the pulled pork is what I should be going for.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3.5/5 – not a bad bun, but not well suited to the burger. Possibly my fault for salty toppings
Build – 3.5/5 – too big! No sauce!
Burger – 3.5/5 – been better with a coarser grind, looser pack and slightly smaller patty
Taste –  3.5/5 – fine, not extraordinary
Sides – 2/5 – fries were unexciting
Value – 2.5/5 – £15 for burger, two toppings and fries. Honest gives you a better version of the same thing for £10.95.

Burger rating – 3/5 – don’t go to Bodean’s for the burger – get the ribs.

The deets

Poland Street, but in seven other spots across London.  Locations via the website. Drink at the Blind Pig and go singing at Lucky Voice after, though, it’s probably my favourite bit of street in Soho!