Sunday, 31 August 2014

The 8oz Beef Burger (with Blue Cheese and Bacon) - The Brasenose Arms, Cropredy, Oxfordshire

Where?: The Brasenose Arms

What?: 8oz Burger

How much?: £10.45.....I think?

The Verdict:

It isn't very often that BBB gets to eat out in a grown-up restaurant.  OK, well on this occasion it was a posh-ish pub in the delightful little village of Cropredy (Crop-reedy or Crop-ready?) in North Oxfordshire which we were lucky to visit on a recent trip

Two weeks previously, had you come during the middle of the Fairport Cropredy Convention then getting in to this place would have been nearly impossible as it hosts a very successful 'Fringe Festival' to go hand in hand with the main festival just up the hill.  Not sure what I am on about? Then read here and consider going next year as it is absolutely the best thing ever, which I will at some point write about in another blog.

As we were floating (literally as we were on a Narrow Boat holiday with chums) back towards Cropredy, having been to the festival then floating down to Oxford and back again, it was decided that we needed some sort of posh sustenance, ultimately this was going to be by either The Red Lion or The Brasenose Arms in Cropredy, and through various conversations at various locks it was considered that The Brasenose had the best food and ultimately would be the place to think about going.  The menu was a really well engineered entity with reasonable prices as well, so without a hesitation our table was booked (good idea as it was VERY busy) and we were ready for what they had to offer.

Busy pubs that order at the table, rather than the bar always scare me a bit, as quite often you'll find that the bar staff are the ones who are looking after the diners as well, and there has been quite a few times where we have found ourselves having to go up to the bar to order out of impatience or we've just been forgotten about full stop.

Given it was busy we were seated pretty quickly, but menus weren't really forthcoming so I had to hunt for them myself.  But I'm happy to do this, its not a massive issue as this isn't exactly Michelin Star standard.  Happy it wasn't as my burger would have been tiny...tiny burgers are bad even if they taste good.

Starter was going to be garlic bread as the shared camembert was out.  Had we been told this as the menu was handed to us, which they weren't then the crippling disappointment of Camambert denial would have not been an issue but it was and I weeped quietly in the toilet (not seriously...just metaphorically).
The Garlic bread was amazing and perfectly sized for sharing.  I made many approving noises as I ate this much to the amusement of those around us.

The Burger, for me, given the apathetic fish ridden mess of the Greene King Surf Clucking Bell thing I'd had a few days before left me hankering for something beefy and brilliant.  Anything 8oz would have be close to that?
The Brasenose Arms has to be commended for not trying to introduce 15 different burgers with creative names.  Leave this to the Gourmet Burger professionals please, and they have.  Listed as an 8oz Beefburger with either the addition of Blue Cheese or Bacon. Sorted, nothing more nothing less.

The burger appeared, moreso it hoved in to view.  A massive wedge of meat cooked well and as I found out biting in to it, one of the best burgers I have had since The Oddfellows Meateasy night.  Thick, juicy and with a stunning taste that really punched a meaty home in my mouth.

The rest of the meal disappeared from my memory after this.  The fact that we were forgotten by the service when we were deciding on our desserts seems to just fade in to darkness, the fact that we were sat right by the fire door which people seemed to keep trying to exit, but couldn't because it was either locked or broken, nah that doesn't matter either.  The burger is the one thing that I remember and the one thing that I'll take home with me is this amazing memory.

The Brasenose Arms:
Station Rd, Cropredy, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX17 1PW

01295 750244

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Ultimate Surf, Turf & Cluck Burger - Greene King Pubs (Wig and Pen, Oxford)

Where?: Wig and Pen, Oxford

What?: The Ultimate Surf, Turf and Cluck Burger

How much?: 9.99

The Verdict:

As a visitor to Oxford, I quickly realise a few things.

1. There are a lot of Chinese tourists all snapping away and fulfilling the 1970's Viz stereotype of Chinese tourists.

2. Oxford is not as expensive as you think. You can pick up some really good food for not much, like you can in any large university town if you know where to look.

3. The architecture in Oxford is as beautiful as you might imagine.

Lets concentrate on the second point here. You can eat well for not much in Oxford if you know where to go. You can have a damn fine breakfast from The Oxford Cafe for 5.95, so long as you're willing to share personal space with strangers and be partial to conversations about cats and how they poo in particular places.

And we found ourselves marching up and down Broad St eyeing up some really nice places in our hunt for some food. We nearly hit The Grapes, a Bath Ales owned pub with some lovely ales on draught but were put off by the apathetic service and the overactive air conditioning.

So we braved the noisey and chaotic climate of The Greene King owned pub The Wig and Pen next door.

Despite there being a Gourmet Burger Kitchen just down the road, I was unable to persuade my marital unit that this was something we should consider, so I comprimised and decided to have a burger here instead.

Like Wetherspoons, they do ale, a large menu and the usual 'order at the bar with your table number thing'. However, unlike Wetherspoons they have music playing so conversation became a little hard without shouting a lot.

Ignoring the rest of the exhaustive and mostly average menu the one thing that I spied was The Ultimate Surf, Turf and Cluck Burger. For 9.99 you could have the behemoth on the menu with every sort of meat imaginable.

Beef burger (size and meat unknown), Southern Fried Chicken, Bacon, Cheese, Tabasco Sweet Chipotle and Cola Sauce and Scampi. Combined in to a massive burger which makes you truly believe you're getting your money's worth.

I decided to do their 'Burger, Fries and Drink' offer and upgrade that offer up to the Surf, Turf and Cluck burger for an extra 2.50. Unfortunately they don't let you choose any real ales with this, which is frankly baffling given Wetherspoons are able to do this with their similar offer?

So after the usual awkward 'shout and order' given the music volume was rising on a timer somewhere in the backroom every 20 minutes, we waited about 10 minutes for someone to put things in microwaves, or whatever they do, and boom. It appeared.

No one really knows where the meat comes from, the cheese seems to be a generic cheese that you can create at home with bacon fat and an airfix model and the bacon is...well bacon and the Coleslaw is mass catering's finest. But I felt that whatever they were trying to achieve, a hole filled and a photo taken in my case, was achieved and although it was a little average on the whole this is something I would definitely have again. The combination worked (although the justification for calling it 'Surf' comes from the two solitary bits of scampi skewered mercilessly to the top) and the chicken, well I was impressed with this as it wasn't dry and was cooked very well. The beef itself was kind of generic and cooked to 'inch of life' but it was pleasant.

Good one Greene King...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Smokey Mountain - Urbanburger, Exeter

Where?: Urbanburger, Queen St, Exeter

What?: The Smokey Mountain

How much?: £8.25

The Verdict:

You have to hand it to Urbanburger, the first Gourmet Burger joint in Exeter has been open for a number of years and they’re still going from strength to strength.  The site they occupy has in my recent memory been a Fish Restaurant, Exeter Sausage and Grill and then a few years ago Urbanburger opened with its bright yellow menu and sunny disposition.  With the launch of their new Smoke Shack BBQ menu (Eating Exeter review to follow!) its endorsement from the Exeter Cheifs Rugby team (see the video here!), they are proving to diners in Exeter that great things are happening in that basement kitchen.  Recently Beer Burger and Beyond were invited down to see what’s happening down at Urbanburger, and sample some of the things that makes this a great restaurant. 

The first thing you notice about Urbanburger is the large opening doors at the front.  These let lots of natural light and air in to the restaurant space itself and on a hot day like a few that we have been recently having, this was nothing but a relief when we visited last week.  The second thing you notice is the blackboard sign with a breakdown of where their ingredients come from and the emphasis on locally sourced ingredients that I love about many of the independent restaurants in Exeter.  This little visual prompt makes you realise that what you are about to eat is more than likely from within five or ten miles of the restaurant, you can’t get any more local then that and add in to this 95% of everything that Urbanburger serves is made from scratch on the premises.

Urbanburger has to be given credit for its new menu.  The white easy read nature of the menus and the information about the food around the sides and has been introduced in the last couple of weeks.  There is also information about the Man Vs Food challenge which quite frankly is slightly mad.  20 minutes to eat seven 6oz patties, seven slices of American cheese, seven pieces of bacon, an organic bun and a little salad.  If you win it, you get the whole lot for free (costs £24.95 regularly), a t-shirt and your name on the leader board and photo on the website.  As far as I am aware, there is no where else in Exeter that has a similiar challenge meal, only the brave should enter.

Beer Burger and Beyond focuses on a particular burger.  This includes the sides it comes with and the beer you can drink with it.  And on this visit, it was going to be the turn of The Smokey Mountain (£8.25).  A wonderfully smokey burger with a fantastic taste from an amazing combination of salad, BBQ mayo and smoked bacon topped off with a glorious helping of smoked cheese encapsulated between a soft locally baked bun.  You get a choice of the burger being either medium, well done or rare and if you want gluten free bread? You can; making the whole burger completely gluten free.

The beef used in the pattie comes from Greendale Farm (on the Sidmouth Road just outside Clyst St Mary) and are made fresh on site.  One of the things that Urbanburger pride themselves on is that the burgers are all gluten free, no bindings,these burgers have nothing added to keep them together. 

On the side we ordered Double Fried Fries and Sweet Potato Fries which we were able to share between us.  The Double Fried Fries were wonderfully crispy and we got a generous bucketful.  The Sweet Potato Fries were perfectly cooked with a crunchy shell and soft insides which given how hard Sweet Potato can be to cook, were certainly some of the nicest I have had in a long time.

As a local Ale lover, eating at Urbanburger and their quite amazing selection of local bottled ales made me feel quite at home. To add to the collection of mental gold stars that I had been collecting in my head, they have Hanlons Yellow Hammer in a bottle and also Avocet Ale (produced by Exeter Brewery at the bottom of the hill from Urbanburger).  So there I was sat with my locally produced burger, sipping on my Yellow Hammer which incidentally is brewed in Half Moon which is a couple of miles away at best.  Tori went for the Blueberry Bros amazing Blueberry Ale which is brewed by a BBB favourite, Hunters Brewery out at Ipplepen in the Teign Valley.  A lovely dark ale with a lightness and slightly sweet aftertaste which had distinctive blueberry’ness’ to it.

Our server was a lady called Nicole who has been at Urbanburger since the start.  From North Carolina, she has a southern lilt which gave her away, but her attentiveness to our needs and welcoming nature made us feel very much at home.  She also gives her name to Nicole’s Peanut Butter Pie which is without a single doubt one of the nicest desserts that I have ever tasted.  We shared one between two of us, as it was so rich but it had such an amazing peanut punch to it balanced with a sweetness and the slightly salty nature of peanut butter, the whole thing had the most delightful texture which just melted like a cheesecake but with the density of cake.
The Smoke Shack menu is the first of its kind in Exeter, and has to be seen to be believed.  In the near future keep a look out for a review on Eating Exeter of this menu as it looks amazing and really needs to be sampled.  Urbanburger has a fantastic menu with some really friendly staff and a really good local bias to its food and drink.  The gluten free burgers are really accessible to those with special dietary needs and the new accessible menus are a real bonus.  The menu is not exhaustive but gives a good balance between choice and a well engineered menu with its own distinct flavour to the food and the surroundings.  This will certainly be the first visit for Beer, Burger and Beyond but not the last.