Burger Meats Bun48A West Regent Street,
0141 353 6712
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
A trend I don't relish
Review published on 12/08/2013 © Sunday Herald
What is it with Glasgow and burgers? It seems that every other opening in the city these days is a burger joint, or a burger joint thinly disguised as a US-themed restaurant. There is even a blog - James vs Burger - dedicated to reviewing the city's burger portfolio. The eponymous James (who must surely be the most single-minded and diligent carnivore in Scotland) is on the "ultimate burger journey" and organises the reader-voted Best Burger in Glasgow award.
Good on James is all I can say. He does a great job, chewing over the city's rapidly expanding burger menu with all the chindripping relish of the true buff, a sterling service to those who share the enthusiasm for permutations of minced meat stuffed in a roll. Someone has to do it, if only to record Glasgow's burger trend for posterity, but I'm heartily glad it isn't me.
Burgers are turning into a civic obsession, and it's becoming boring, another greasy piece of baggage, like the deep-fried Mars bar, with which to saddle and stereotype the city's culinary reputation. If half the mental effort being lavished on the burger concept by restaurant start-ups was focused on any other type of food, then Glasgow's eating out scene might blossom. As it is, burgers are the attention-grabbing brat in the city's culinary family.
It's easy on paper to confuse the newish Burger Meats Bun with the also newish Meat Bar. Both are blocks apart on the same street. Both inhabit dark basements. Of the two, Burger Meats Bun is the scruffy relation. It tries to make an advantage out of its low-roofed, cramped, crepuscular, frankly unattractive premises by throwing in quasi-industrial materials (iron sheeting, reclaimed timber) and exploiting the increasingly hackneyed riff of austerity dining: beaten-up cutlery served in recycled tin cans, water in old lemonade bottles, and disposable everything else. You don't even get a plate or a board for your burger, it just comes wrapped in greaseproof paper under a sticky label that reads The Beef, Chic Chic Chicken or Nae Meat. There's no standing on ceremony here.
Our "fiery" burger came in an unexceptional bun and was indeed piquant - put that down to the chipotle (smoked chilli) mayonnaise and jalapenos - so much so it overpowered the meat. It came with a cheese misspelt as Toma Raschiera; I think they mean Raschera, a mild, melting cheese from Cuneo in northern Italy.
I couldn't bring myself to order the Hot Chic, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, so I went for the Clucking BLT (no rhyme with the F word intended I'm sure) after being assured by our waitress that the chicken was not only free-range, but also organic.
It was the better of our two burgers, the confit leg meat remained succulent, with mellow mayo and a daub of salsa verde moistening it further, although the flavour of the nice, dry, smoky bacon rasher slightly dominated the bird. Things went downhill with the softskinned, sticky-sweet Seoul chicken wings, which really didn't make one feel like a "happy eater".
Chips, nearly excellent in that they were ultra crisp, had spent too long in the deep fat fryer, emerging moccasin-brown. Slaw of carrot and red cabbage was workaday, without any flash of flair, the sort you eat because it's good for you (not because you really want to) or push to the side.
Desserts are themed round visual puns. Burger & Shake - a homage to Ronald McDonald perhaps - consisted of a thin, flat French-style macaroon with chocolate, raspberry and mango goo inside it (the burger), and a shake, served in a mini milk bottle. Maybe the latter was meant to taste of vanilla, tonka bean, even chocolate, but it just reminded me of UHT milk. Still, it was miles superior to the Donuts & Dipping sauce, a stack of soggy-centred, cube-shaped doughnuts, once again fried to a rich mahogany, served with a cloying chocolate sauce. A nutritional car crash of a dessert, and just what you don't need after a stomach sinker of a meal.
I put my cards on the table. Yes, I just don't get the whole burger thing; it's not my bag. And Burger Meats Bun hasn't converted me.
Review published on 15/07/2013 © Sunday Herald
A full roll of kitchen paper on every table? Seen it. Drinks served in half-pint tumblers, burgers served in greaseproof paper, checked place mats and cool bare light bulbs? Seen that, too. And in the background, Bruce Springsteen breaking his heart over some Jersey Shore tragedy. Ho-hum. Its certainly a burger joint.
But so far Cutlery in a tin, toy farm animals nailed to strips of artificial turf on the bare wooden backs of the seating, even more greaseproof-paper wrappers. Yip, seen most of that hoo-hah too.
Chicken wings fried to golden crispness not difficult, so why dont most places do it? covered in a Samjang Seoul sauce of bean and pepper paste, honey, garlic and sesame. Not seen much of that before. And hang on, these are good and different and spicy.
Everyone who is anyone is going brioche now. But at first bite, this crumbly burger in a shiny brioche bun has enough seasoning so you can taste the meat and enough quality to send juices rushing out of it and on to the wrapper. Pass the kitchen roll, Luca. This is different. For Glasgow, anyway. Inside, theres a slice of tomato, a cucumber pickle, some cheddar and a bite of burger sauce. And a lot of flavour. Maybe not pink inside but definitely tasty. Yes, I know: no deep-fried onion rings, no haggis strips, whisky sauce, hash browns or any of the junk that fills your average Glasgow burger in a desperate bid to bury the fact the meat is awful.
Its only day two after opening and already there is a constant queue of people drifting down into this basement. I hear Twitter being mentioned. I notice that many of the customers, unusually nowadays, are male.
Anyway, Debs orders the fiery burger with jalapenos, chipotle mayo and something called Toma Raschiera I think they made that last thing up unless its the Italian cheese of an almost entirely different spelling. Same juicy burger, though, same balance of meat-bun-meat-boom flavours. OK its not yet quite the simple burger and bun that strange people like me dream of, but its really not far off.
There are proper skin-on chips, fried to a proper crunchy crisp with a floury interior and a dusting of salt. There are even more chips, this time doused in Thai spices, green chillies, spring onions and laced with melted cheese. So wrong. So right.
Those buffalo wings? What can I say? Inexplicably, given everything else is good, theyre utterly hopeless. Yes, the chicken is once again fried to a golden crispness but what flavour is this sauce? Im getting vinegar and water, and thats it. By the way, a Diet Coke in here costs £1.50. Thats extraordinary nowadays.
Two desserts are all they offer to finish off. Some cute chopped doughnut strips in a good but too-watery butterscotch sauce and a little culinary joke called Burger And Shake. This is a clever take on a macaroon that looks like a bun, with a chocolate filling that looks like a burger and a slice of fruit shaped to look like processed cheese. Its actually really tasty and while the shake in the little milk bottle that comes with it is good, it could and should be much colder.
Burger Meats Bun then, folks? Is this the latest incarnation of the Man v Food revolution thats blowing through Glasgow? Yesiree Bob, it sure is. Somehow the cult television show has encouraged people to raise standards of American food and its paying off big style. Just a few yards up the road is The Meat Bar: same idea, slightly different take. Two quality burger joints side by side after years of mediocrity can only be good. And more are on the way.