“Call that a burger?”
Several years ago, I gave up on Burgers. Not for health reasons, not because I’d over indulged and wanted a change, but honestly, they were crap. We just didn’t have a clue in this country. I’m not talking about any particular well-known fast food chains – “Here’s my £1, please give me my soggy, sugar infused micro-cowpat” – that’s a different market altogether. I mean real burgers.
I’m talking about when I went to a pub for dinner, or a BBQ somewhere or basically anywhere that offered burgers on the menu. I’m not saying that nobody could make a good burger, but they were so few and far between, I wouldn’t take the risk on something there was only a small chance of me enjoying, when I could opt for almost anything else and be very happy. Burgers always seemed dry. Straight out of the freezer, into the oven or onto the grill or even into the deep fat fryer. Once it had been completely dried out, we’d stick it between two halves of a bone dry sesame seed bun. Then we’d cover it in ketchup just so we could swallow it.
We’re in the midst of something of a burger revolution right now. I don’t know who to thank for it, but they have done us a great service. The question is no longer “where can I get a decent burger?” but “where can I get the best burger?”
I’ve done a one-eighty in terms of my enthusiasm for Burgers. Before I wouldn’t bother unless I was abroad. Now as well as restaurants/pubs in general upping their game when it comes to their baps n’ buns, there are burger bars, burger shops, burger lounges… and for the most part they are all very good. Many have opted to switch out the old dry buns in favour of a sweeter, moister brioche alternative and this has been a bit of a game changer. Most importantly though, those businesses doing it right are now cooking with fresh meat. Freshly moulded patties, made from top quality steak mince and beautifully seasoned. No longer do we rely on ketchup, iceberg lettuce and a slice of a large beef tomato to add the moisture to enable chewing and swallowing, or a slice of yellow cheese that looks like it has been made with a second use as a flexible industrial adhesive in mind. Now we have Emmental, Blue Cheese, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, onion jam and chutney, jalapenos, honey and mustard mayonnaise, various takes on BBQ sauces…. An endless lists of additional textures and flavours to compliment each other in so many different ways.
What’s more, the people making our burgers for us, this new breed of enthusiastic, inventive business owners are favouring quality, creativity and enjoyment over speed and customer turnover. Burgers are no longer just something to soak up the alcohol before or after a night out. They have become a part of a proper dining experience. If you want the takeaway option, a lot of these places offer that too. The old establishments are still there and as a result of this industry makeover, many of them have reacted to the recent raising of the bar and improved significantly. There were of course some good ones around before, but they really were few and far between. Thankfully now, we are becoming spoilt for choice.
There are so many wonderful burger establishments that have popped up all over the country and particularly right here in Dorset. We have plenty to talk about. I’m doing my best to work my way through them. Not the easiest task when I like to eat lots of things besides burgers, but we all have our crosses to bear and you won’t hear me complaining. I’m grateful to the wonderful local businesses that have shown me that we can in fact produce great burgers in this country. The British burger is now something to cherish and dare I say it, as someone who generally only enjoyed them abroad, is now a burger to rival anything you can get anywhere else in the world.
My next blog post will be about my experience at Monty’s Burger Lounge In Bournemouth last weekend.