London’s burger revolution

The king of fast food goes gourmet in the English capital with exotic meats and signature sauces

Think burgers, and you think fast food. A succulent chunk of beef sandwiched between warm buns, topped with melting cheese, onions and tomato ketchup. It’s quick, cheap and fulfilling—everything a burger is traditionally known to be. 

Now imagine associating a burger with a posh, sit-down meal. Hard to grasp? Not for Londoners, who are increasingly warming up to the idea of gourmet burgers consumed not as a quick bite or an in-between snack but as a complete meal. 

You can’t blame them though, for a number of burger restaurants and chains have cropped up in London, each doing better than its competitor. The two leading burger restaurants in London—and we’re not talking fast food—are Byron (www.byronhamburgers.com) and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (www.gbk.co.uk), with branches spread across the city, going packed on weekdays and weekends alike. Byron is about to open its 26th restaurant in London, and has an estimated turnover of £8m (Rs69.9 crore), while Gourmet Burger Kitchen—fondly known as GBK—is almost as ubiquitous as a McDonald’s here.

What sets these chains apart from a regular burger joint is primarily the superior quality of their products, the choice of interesting sides on offer and of course, a fine-dining kind of experience. Believe it or not, burgers have become high-end too, and London’s lapping up the trend along with the mayo and mustard!

While these posh burgers come at a price (starting from £7, or Rs610, and going up to even £13 or Rs1,135), they are well worth the indulgence. Apart from the scrumptious burger itself, there are a lot more side-options than just fries. Golden-fried onion rings, freshly baked skin-on-chips, grilled haloumi…you get the drift. And super-sized milkshakes to boot (the Oreo milkshake at Byron particularly comes to mind).

Honest Burgers (www.honestburgers.co.uk) is another burger speciality restaurant in London. Inspired by great British produce, it started as a pop-up restaurant in Brixton and has now opened a second outlet in the heart of Soho. Going by its success, it looks to be expanding into a chain in the near future.

Then there’s Hache (www.hacheburgers.com), ahigh-end, classy burger joint that has some exquisite burgers on its menu that including Thai fish, jerk chicken, duck and steak, to name a few. Popular pub chain All Bar One (www.allbarone.co.uk) has joined the burger revolution with its special Crab and lobster burger, while it is believed that Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg plans on bringing his famed Wahlburgers chain this side of the Atlantic.

But it’s not just burgers going classy that’s exciting Londoners, it’s the unique flavours their taste-buds are getting to experience that’s adding to the burger craze. Game On, a popular stall in London’s Camden Food Market, has some of the rarest meats on offer—from kangaroo to crocodile to ostrich to venison to wild boar—cooked to perfection in a delicious burger. 

Meat apart, it’s the toppings that matter too. Gone are the days of just onion and ketchup in your burger. Gourmet burgers now come with gherkins, an assortment of expensive cheeses to choose from, rich creamy mayonnaise, three or four different varieties of mustard, and an army of other signature in-house sauces. There are a number of different buns to choose from as well, making eating a burger an experience in itself.

Though burgers are widely considered as the ultimate comfort food, they do not however fall under the radar of healthy food. But fear not, for those looking to eat healthy while getting their burger fix, most gourmet burgers also come in low-calorie options too, sans the mayonnaise and cheese.

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