I’m not one of these people who think ‘how great can a burger be?’. To me, a burger can be genuinely one of the great international dishes. I certainly have that thought about steak – it’s just a slab of meat, isn’t it, and how unimaginative do you have to be to serve a slab of meat to which you’ve applied nothing but a spot of fire? But haché that steak, season it, grill and pair it with the perfect bun, salad and sauce and suddenly you can show culinary genius in spades.
I’ve had a long-standing arrangement that, whenever my friend James is in town from Geneva where he now lives, we head for a posh burger at one of the (what were limited numbers of) gourmet outlets that are now springing up everywhere in London. We’ve tried Joe Allen’s off-menu sandwich, and that of Haché Burger Connoisseur, back when there was only one; ditto Byron. So with James in town we chose to combine challenges and head for a Chowdown Showdown burger – Bar Boulud’s Frenchie.
“A burger can be genuinely one of the great international dishes”
The burger has been variously described as ‘mini’ and ‘petite’, but I think what I’m presented with is a perfectly manageable size of dish – I don’t rate a good burger for sheer volume of meat outside watching Man Versus Food. It’s the A-grade ingredients that we’re being treated to that brings in the punters both sides of the Atlantic to Daniel Boulud’s ‘bars’. Morbier cheese, pork belly confit and tomato compote are the chef’s weapons of choice – though the truth is I know this because Time Out informs me it’s so, not because I have such finely tuned taste buds to identify it.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never found myself thinking ‘this burger is dry…’ (not since those black gristle burgers at school), ‘…and could do with the addition of pork belly’ (though I definitely didn’t know what pork belly was back then). I’m not going to pretend I could tell what this added, but you know what? I think it works, and the meat has a rich, woody flavour that is certainly a cut above.
It’s hard: I’m not sure this burger has that pure, simple flavour that a really great burger has without being boring, but I could definitely eat this again.
32/100 best Time Out dishes