When I was growing up, burgers were reliably terrible. You bought them from your local Wimpy/McDonald’s/Burger King/white van in layby and they all looked and tasted like salty shoes: sad slabs of greasy meat perched in a limp bun. Fast-forward to 2014 and it’s a different story – the burger is now food royalty, with top-notch encased patties being sold for over £20 a pop. How did this happen?
Let’s take London’s Landmark Hotel as an example. Their upmarket TwoTwentyTwo bar offers seven types of burger. That’s right, seven – and they’re not even a burger joint. I blame Adam Richman. You can order a Foie Gras Burger (£20), an Egg And Truffle Burger (£16), a Surf N Turf Burger (£22) or even a Salmon Teriyaki Burger (£16). A bog-standard Classic Burger is therefore a snip at £13, which is an absolute bargain when you consider the competition.
Like Burger & Lobster for instance. This is a relatively new upmarket chain that sells, as the name suggests, burgers and lobster. And nothing else. You can have a lobster roll if you don’t fancy either of those two, but essentially it’s a burger or lobster for a flat fee of £20. The queues are around the block. Now, for lobster this isn’t that bad a deal: lobster, chips & salad. But £20 for a burger and chips? The world’s gone mad. And if you’re a vegetarian, go stand round the corner and think about your actions.
But it’s not just these central London establishments that have seen the burger bloat. The pub at the top of my road does a delicious home-made burger with fat chips for £11: more if you want bacon or cheese. My friends from outside London guffaw at this price point. I was at another London pub on Wednesday and paid £13 for a burger the size of a squashed tennis ball and some limp fries. It wasn’t terrific value. I also regularly stump up £6 for a burger at Tottenham Hotspurs where this season they’ve run a gastronomic marathon by adding tomatoes and lettuce to their buns. It’s like the 90s are just hitting N17.
When done well and in the right quantity though, the burger can be a magnificent meal. The Greenwich Union does a delicious burger almost the size of my head in a brioche bun with garlic mayo and an avalanche of chips for £10. Bravo them. But £20 for a burger? The joke is clearly on us.
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