Monday, 26 May 2014

Savers Double Cheese Burger / New York Classic - McDonalds, Everywhere.

As I am currently exploring a theme at present by looking at the low-end of the spectrum in the world of burgers, I have succumbed and ended up at McDonalds a few times in the last month or so.  From here on, its only up.

Burgers are one of the most versatile food groups as they come in so many different shapes and sizes with so many variations of ingredients, type, serving and quality, it is easy to write about them.  Many burger blogs don’t really go to the extremes that BBB has explored; most people know that if you pay anything under £4 for a burger, then it will be a bad idea and you will die inside when you end up in such a place as I did yesterday.

But this is a brave blog, I am a brave blogger who will brave the horrors of McDonalds for my readers.  You are my readership and I doing this for you.

Here are a few facts about McDonalds (thanks businessinsider.com).

1.       If you go anywhere in the world, you will ultimately fall over a McDonalds at some point (that’s one of my facts).
2.       McDonalds sells more than 75 burgers every second internationally.
3.       Its $24 billion revenue makes it the 90th largest economy in the world.
4.       The Queen of England owns a McDonald’s near Buckingham Palace as part of her vast real estate portfolio

It is a cultural phenomenon, more than just a business.  It has even slipped in to our language with the ‘Mc’ prefix stuck on the beginning of things to insinuate a cheap and mass produced quality. (McJob, McMansion etc…) and to boot, recently Jamie Oliver dubbed McDonalds meat unfit for human consumption so really, yeah…ammonia flavoured, yummy.

McDonalds in Exeter is a focal point for foreign tourists, teenagers and dopes like me who need something very cheap and very quick.  This is what they do best, and no matter how you look at it McDonalds is at the top of their game.

Standing in the queue, (and there is always a queue) is like waiting in some dystopian nightmare where you are about to be handed out your dystopian meal to sit at your dystopian seating area waiting to be dragged away by guards for reeducation.  Thankfully that hasn't happened to me (yet) but this tends to be the overiding feeling.  The service can vary between friendly, apathetic and downright impatient, they can have 5 stars on their badge, 1 star or no stars.  Each time I come here I seem to get a different member of staff, so the argument for cloning McDonalds staff is wearing thin here.





I have to say the taste of what is generally handed to me or thrown at me, is not bad.  The New York Burger which is one of their themed burgers which comes out once a year or so, is actually quite nice.  I know the chemicals have been balanced perfectly, I know it is the result of many hours of R&D, but if they have invested millions of dollars to get the reaction of "hmm this isn't that bad" from me, then they have succeeded. For 40p more you can also have Crispy Potato Things which are like small round waffles made of potato.  Alas there are really not many of them, so yes, not quite as good a value.

The Saver Double Cheese Burger is roughly the same.  Small, squat, thinly garnished with 'stuff' but not inedible.  At £1.50 the 'Below £4.00 and it tastes bad rule' still applies, but this is nicer than other cheap-assed burgers.  I even got two pickled gherkin slices...lucky me.

In conclusion.  I keep finding the McDonalds surprises me with stuff that doesn't taste that bad, but I know it is all an illusion.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The 'Build-A-Burger' - Morrison's In-store Cafe, Exeter

The week before payday is often taken up with inventive ways to eat out for not much.  Catapulted mercilessly into the week, the shock of returning to work meant that after a busy day at the coal face the idea of cooking food let alone deciding what to cook was mostly out of the question.  It didn't matter how much food we had in, it was going to be traumatic given how tired we were feeling and the lack of motivation.

Last week whilst shopping in Morrison's we had noticed that they had revamped their menu and this included the inclusion of a new Build-A-Burger menu which let you construct a burger for £4.  The deal seemed pretty good as it included a drink as well, so what a perfect opportunity to have a look see.

The thing that you have to remember about Morrison's Cafe is that there are a few things they do well.  Fish and Chips is one thing that I have had a few times and on the whole, its been good.  They are normally very speedy in the serving the food, rarely under 10 minutes which is perfect for a filler up before the trauma of food shopping.  Despite a few strange things to appear from behind the till in the past, the polite staff and the service has always been friendly and never anything but pleasant.


So what was the burger going to be like?  Given it is £4 (and remember my Staple Hill Rule 'If you pay £3.25 for a burger it is more than likely going to be horrendous') you get the following.  A cheap burger, a bun, some lettuce and if you paid 60p extra, a slice of cheese...and some chips...did I mention the lettuce? You're meant to get tomato too but given we had waited 30 minutes for our food, I was hardly going to send it back.  One of the options was simply a sauce, hmm... Not really 'building' anything here.

Add a slice of bacon and some cheese for 60p each and you have an averagely priced burger £5.20.  The value part of this isn't really adding up to be honest.  But I mustn't grumble too much as you do get a drink too?



Yes dear readers (have genuinely always wanted to write that and not sound too cliched), we waited so long that I actually noticed people ordering, getting their food and then leaving, and that generally speaking isn't great news.  I then noticed a steady stream of people walking up to the till clutching receipts and looking very annoyed.  It wasn't until after we had become one of those receipt-clutching, stern-faced hungry people stomping up to the till, that we were told that one of the staff hadn't turned up for their shift.  Its strange how anger dissipates to sympathy when you are told that there is a reason why the food has taken so long, and even though I was so hungry I was digesting my own stomach lining it wasn't something I could easily stay annoyed.
They were doing their best, and although one of the checkout girls had been drafted in to serve, it still didn't seem to be quite enough for some diners who were demanding refunds and looking very pissed off.  Free top-ups on our drinks made up for it, but unfortunately the burger wasn't really worth the wait.

These days Burger Addicts like Fatso here (me) are treated to the glories of Gourmet Burgers in more places than ever which are made with good quality meat and have generally good ingredients with lots of thought behind it.  When you get a taste for good meat, it is more obvious when you get a cheap burger bulked out with onion and other bits.  The promise of building a burger is fine, but when you get a tiny burger with a few pitiful options, it makes the whole thing a little hard to swallow.  The chips were nice though but not enough of them...


Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Mexican Burger - The Green Ginger, Torquay (Wetherspoons)




Where?: The Green Ginger, Torquay (Wetherspoons)

What?: The Mexican Burger

How much?: £6.99 with alcoholic drink

The Verdict:

Torquay is not known for its a la carte Cuisine.  There are a lot of places that sell fish, there are a lot of cheesy looking bars and a few nice gastro-pubs and some really nice restaurants.  According the Trip Advisor the nicest restaurant to go to in Torquay is The Orange Tree.  It has five green circles and 400 odd reviews and to be frank it looks fantastic.  Closely followed are a whole bunch of other places that really do look nice, but were no where near where we were geographically and monetarily.

So we had to settle for the nearest option which was The Green Ginger.  It is architecturally monosyllabic, grafted on to the side of a shopping centre like some modernist warty appendage.  Which is a great shame because it is really quite a nice place to sit and drink, eat and watch the world go by.

Like most Wetherspoons they have a good selection of Ale, and they had the Gourmet Burgers on offer too. So being the burger-eating type of person that I am, I took the oppurtunity to have another burger from their menu.  Last week it was the Brunch Burger with their rather wonky portion control. and this week it was going to be The Mexican Burger also with dubious portion control.  All four of us had a burger of some sort, and all four of us had varying quantities of chips.  I know I am being anal about this, but how hard can it be?

So what makes this burger a Mexican burger, opposed to anything else.  The answer my friend, is in the large dollop of Guacamole that adorns the whole thing, intermingled rather sparsely with some chillis and a couple of onion rings.  The whole thing held was together with stick and the vast splat of salty green stuff, and a 6oz rather tasteless burger which although cooked well was really like eating polystyrene.

By the end of the meal, the whole thing had collapsed.  I was left with green avacado fingers, the bottom of the burger had disintergrated and the two slices of tomato and 'salad' had ended up on the otherside of the plate.  I hate to say it Wetherspoons, but your Brunch Burger was so much nicer.
Although I found fault in most aspects of the meal, the saving grace was the pint of Fox from Exmoor Brewery which brought back some memories of sitting on Aberystwyth Seafront in a pub called the Glen Gower Hotel, not sure why, just did.

I don't think The Mexican Burger really works, it is tenuously Mexican. It needs more to it, more mince and spices and tomatos and onions.  Just more.  Nearly Wetherspoons, but no cigar.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Jonny Makes a Pasty - The Craft Beer Channel


My old friend Jonny visits The Rashleigh Arms to cook a pasty with meat marinated in Admiral Ale from St Austell Brewery.

Git.

The Brunch Burger - The Imperial (Wetherspoons), Exeter.

Where?: The Imperial, Exeter (JD Wetherspoons)

What?: The Brunch Burger - One of their Gourmet Burgers, with which you get a free drink

How much?: £6.99 with an alcoholic drink, a bit cheaper if you have a soft drink

The Verdict:

For the price, this is one seriously good burger.  They might not be the first name for 'posh nosh' but there are two things that Wetherspoons do well (Real Ale and Cheap Good Burgers) and it comes together in this 1000+ calorie crippling burger that not only hits the spot, but vaporizes it too.

The Imperial was originally built in 1809 and was called Elmfields given the plot of land that had existed before it was built had been covered in Elm Trees.  The Orangery had orignally been attached to Streatham House, just up the hill and was installed in the 1920s.  It was said to have been designed by Brunel.

It is my local geographically speaking, so as a result I end up here most Fridays and some other days too if I am feeling sneaky and it was today that I was feeling sneaky and just had to give in to the ultimate temptation.  They had Hunters Brewery's amazing Crispy Pig, a light session ale that has been at the top of my all time favourite Ales for a while and will be BBB Beer of the week at some point soon.

Get on with it!...

The burger itself was a sight to behold.  Although it seemed strange to arrange the onion rings as they were arranged, I couldn't complain.  Two thick rashers of bacon, cheese, a fried egg on a 6oz beef pattie with a thick cut tomato and some salad.  The burger was cooked well, not incinerated but definitely done a la BBQ.

The chips in Wetherspoons are generally very nice for the price.  A few years ago they changed their recipe which added an extra crispy coating to the chips, so I have been quite a fan of their new variety since this change but 'spoons are not immune from a pet hate of mine.  'Not Enough Chips' syndrome which can ruin a good meal, especially when the other side of the table has more chips than me.

Unfortunately on this occasion the chips felt that they'd been served but the meal had waited for service to get to it, and as a result it wasn't quite as hot as you would expect it to be, but not inedible and the ones that were hot were quite nice.  "Normally they're hotter than this?" I thought. Ah well never mind.

Tori had a BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich which came with infinitely bigger onion rings and many more chips (portion sizes?) but I resisted the urge to steal half of hers as I have learnt from previous cases of Spousal Chip Theft that it doesn't pay and often leads to Chip Wars, which never work out well for me.

So big thumbs up for the drinks and real ales.  Thumbs up for the burger and thumbs up for the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.  Thumbs down for the not quite hot chips, and the weird portions.

But ultimately the value of the meal shines through. And without going on about Real Ales too much, there is a lot to be said for Wetherspoons and the encouragement and growth in popularity in the work of Microbreweries.  I've banged on about this over at Eating Exeter, but for all their flaws, 'spoons have certainly proven themselves.




Sunday, 11 May 2014

New Design Work! Thanks to Tori Dee Illustration



Eating Exeter's in-house illustrator has just produced some fantastic new pieces of design work for Beer, Burger and Beyond.  Tori Dee has created a couple of new pieces of identity for this fledgling blog, to a very vague brief (mostly umming and murmuring) and I am very pleased with the results.

Her website is currently undergoing some changes, but you can see a portfolio of her work at www.toridee.co.uk and follow her at @toriboard on Twitter & Facebook



Beer Of The Week - Royal Hunt from Hunters Brewery

Although I announced it on @beerburgerandbeyond's Instagram account, I forgot to put it officially onthe actual blog bit.

This week's Beer Of The Week is Hunter's Brewery's 'Royal Hunt'.  This award winning ale is weighty in ABV, at 5.6% it is definitely one to savour!




'The Uncle Sam' - Gourmet Burger recipe


Ladies and Gentlemen I present the Uncle Sam.  This is how it is meant to look at any rate.

If you want to have a go at this at home, head over to The Cheese and Burger Society website to get the recipe.  Or if you want to make the Beer, Burger and Beyond version, scroll down.

When it comes to the humble beef burger, it is very hard to get it wrong so when you eat out and realise that places actually get it wrong and manage to mess it up, it makes it even harder to forgive.

Cooking the burger perfectly can be a challenge and given the laziness factor, I opted to buy in my burgers. On reflection I realized that this was not the best idea as the burgers swelled up and became somewhat unstable in a 'burger in bun' configuration.


The first word that comes to mind is 'Post Modern', in the same sense that Picasso is considered a post modernist.  It isn't conforming to the traditional up and down burger configuration, yes it is a bit top heavy but this about taste and not overly about presentation, well kind of.

So how do you make the 'Post Modern' Uncle Sam?

4 Beef Patties
3 Slices of Chorizo
A Sliced soft Ciabatta bun
10 Sliced Cherry Tomatos
1/4 Red Pepper sliced in to strips
2 slices of Bacon
A tea spoonful of Cheese Spread
Sliced Scottish Mature Cheddar
Lettuce
Red Onion

1. Slice Pepper, Tomatos and prepare lettuce to assemble in to Burger.

2. Slice Ciabatta, layer the Bacon (cooked) and Chorizo.

3. Cook the burgers.  Two minutes before the burgers are ready put a couple of slices of cheese on the burgers to melt them.  On two of the burgers put a small teaspoon full of Cheese Spread.  These will be your bottom burgers, the cheese spread will solidify and help stick the two burgers together.

4. Stack the burgers, assemble with vegetables and anything else as you so desire.











Monday, 5 May 2014

The 1/4 lb Cheese Burger - Staple Hill Servery, Trago Mills, Newton Abbot.



Where?: Staple Hill Servery, Trago Mills, Newton Abbot.

What?: The 1/4 lb Cheese Burger 

How much?: £3.25

The Verdict: 

There are a few given things in life.  If you drive off a cliff, you will die.  If you cut your finger off, it will bleed. If you pay £3.25 for burger and chips, it will be a bit of a shock.

Often places that do really good breakfasts like the Staple Hill Servery at Trago Mills (and Eating Exeter has already been here and had a breakfast or two), are good at breakfasts and not much else.

For what is technically an 'in-store cafe', I've always been quietly impressed with the service and the speed that you are served and seated.  The breakfasts (£4.65 All Day Breakfast) have never been anything other than impressive and for what you get, the value is really quite good. The portion is large, there is cheap tea and the servery itself is so large that you can sit far from the rest of humanity if you so choose to.

But stray from the path with trepidation, for you might find yourself with a 'Cheese Burger'.

After last night's visit to The Hub Box and my recent visit to The Oddfellows, and as an academic exercise I felt that it would be interesting to see what the 1/4lb Cheese Burger they had on offer actually consisted of.  I wanted to see what the Trago Mills interpretation of a burger was, as burgers are becoming something of an art form these days.

The Trago Mills Cheese Burger consists of the following.:

1 x Economy Burger (mostly made up of wood shavings and onion)
1 x Cheap White Bap
4 x Slices of Plastic Cheese (mostly made up of paint, rubber and cheese flavouring)

It is an odd thing really because the burger wasn't too bad (it was edible) but the painted rubber cheese seemed to give the whole burger itself a rather chemically after-taste.  The burger was a typical 'distant memory of school canteen' burger, its cooking process a little of a mystery but more than likely heated in a microwave by a lady called Michelle who had an argument with her husband.

Then there were the chips, which actually had potential and were cooked well but were 'warm' at best and by the time I had finished the burger had gone cold.  So I resorted to throwing them at passing people but found this hard as I couldn't muster the courage to. So I threw them at my wife instead, but couldn't muster the courage to.  So I just thought about it and drank my cheap tea which spilt everywhere as the teapots are poorly designed and poured everywhere apart from the cup.

Despite the misgivings, the chemical flavored cheese, the poorly designed teapots and the burger that might not be a burger, I will return to this place for the breakfast and the cheap tea.  But whether I will have a burger again is another matter.

The Classic Cheese - The Hub Box, Sidwell Street, Exeter






For a full review, head to Eating Exeter's page.

Where?: Hub Box, Exeter

What?: The Classic Cheese (with Blue Cheese)

How much?: £5.95

Beer?: Harbour Brewing Company, India Pale Ale

The Verdict:
For a full review of Hub Box, head over to our sister site Eating Exeter who conducted a full review a few months ago.  The Big Kahuna was the burger of choice, which will be appearing on BBB soon!

The Classic Cheese is very much one of the starter burgers.  Its not too big, but there is enough there to keep you busy.  A 7oz beef pattie cooked nicely with a BIG tomato and fresh salad sprinkled with Cornish Blue Cheese.  For me, being a cheese head, more cheese would have been nice though.

The meal came with the classic rape seed oil cooked fries, which were crispy and cooked brilliantly and Pork + Brisket Burnt End Beans which consisted of generous pork brisket chunks in a BBQ sauce with lots of big beans.

Accompanying this meaty orgy was a bottle of Harbour Brewing Company IPA, light and fizzy with a gentle hoppiness and across the table was a bottle of Camden Town Brewery's 'Camden Pale Ale' which was hoppy with a capital H. Hoppy in fact.

http://www.hubbox.co.uk/

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The 'Not Mushroom in 'ere' Burger - The ODDfellows Gastro Pub






Where?: The ODDFellows Gastro Pub, New North Road, Exeter

What?: The 'Not Mushroom in 'ere' Burger

How much?: £9.00

Beer: Butcombe Brewery - Haka


The Verdict:

Each Thursday is @meateasyexeter night in The ODDFellows.  On hand is a special burger menu with some interestingly titled Burgers, and by far this one had the best name, so it had to be the one for me.
It is an 8oz beef pattie with sausage, bacon and cheese and mushroom brought together in (on this occasion) a Brioche bun.  The whole meal came with a really stonking fresh side salad, whips (cross between wedge and chip) and some 'slaw.

So far, since starting this blog, this has been the best cooked burger which I have had. Perfectly done with a bit of pink in the middle to give it a perfect meaty taste.  Accompanied by one of The ODDfellows real ales, a pint of Butcombe Brewery's Haka

Some others on the menu that got my fancy included The BC (Bun, 8 0z local beef pattie, pulled pork, BBQ sauce) 'You've Pulled' (Bun, 8 0z local beef pattie, pulled pork, BBQ sauce) and The Pineapple Express VI (Bun, 8 0z local beef pattie, pineapple ring, onion ring, cheese) to name but some.

The beef patties are made in house with steak mince sourced from West Devon Meats in Okehampton.

Without repeating myself, you can find a full review of The Oddfellows on Eating Exeter.



Friday, 2 May 2014

My Beer Of The Week is Yellow Hammer from O' Hanlons Brewery

Beer Of The Week:

It has to be Yellow Hammer, an absolute classic that has been available in Wetherspoons this week. Hanlon's Brewery is as local to Exeter as you can get located in Half Moon Village, which is a matter of miles away from Beer, Burger and Beyond HQ.


A light fruity pale ale, it is exceptionally golden in colour and light in taste.  More information can be found here.

The Chicken Fillet Burger - KFC, Sidwell Street

What: The Chicken Fillet Burger

Where: KFC

How much: £2.49





This is one of the lowest common denominators when it comes to burgers that you can buy within a 2 mile radius of the centre of Exeter.  It can be found at any one of the typical fast food, multi-national, nasty old big name restaurants like KFC, McDonalds or Burger King, of which we have plenty.

Beer, Burger and Beyond would not do itself justice as a blog about burgers if we didn’t look at the lower end of the spectrum, and did a review of the cheap, the nasty and the down-right terrible in the burger consuming experience.

Go to some shops in Exeter and on the back of your receipt you’ll find a voucher for a Chicken Fillet Burger or a Bargain Bucket from KFC.  It is quite simply a bun, a burger, token lettuce, and some mayo.  The bun is a bit soggy, the chicken is a little dry but not inedible, the coating is very ‘KFC’ and it is all presented in a wrapper stating that this has been hand breaded by our ‘chefs’.  Hmm. You’re not fooling anyone KFC.

http://chefsblade.monster.com/news/articles/1247-kfc-is-slammed-over-advert-claims

...is a good article about how KFC might just be a little misleading about the freshness of its ingredients, but chefs? Really?.

This squat little burger is quite small, and looks like a turtle that has run through a bag of sesame seads. It tastes like cheap buns, but I couldn't fault the chicken for dryness as it was cooked well and tasted mostly of chicken.

The chips were hot and not as limp as they have been, so whether someone knew I was coming or we just got them on a 'good day', the result was mostly quite satisfying.  I had to top the whole thing up with some Hot Wings which I attempted to devour with dignity, but this is a task that I have little luck with mostly and got a slight look from the other side of the table as I made horrible noises, semi sucking and chewing the meat off the bone.

KFC is, and always will be just KFC.  The burgers are functional, the food is average and they're a little expensive for what you get.  And they make you realise that there are plenty of better burgers served by passionate individuals who run independent establishments.