Normally I skip past the announcements on social media that it is #nationalferretday or something equally tedious, but #nationalburgerday did grab my interest and fill my Instagram feed with pictures of people making the effort to get a burger in their day. Not wanting to be outdone I decided to head to Gourmet Burger Kitchen Oxford to join in with the fun and get my burger on.
While GBK do an impressive range of meaty burgers including classic beef, chicken, lamb and even buffalo making an appearance on their speciality menu, I am afraid you will see none of that in my review due to me being vegetarian. Having said that I have been to one of the London branches with a carnivore friend and he assured me at the time that his meaty burger was top notch!!
Welcomed in by a waitress and shown to the table I was told how things work at Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Pretty straight forward really; you choose what you want from the menu, head up to the counter, tell them your table number, what you want, pay and then head back to your table to wait for it to arrive. As a vegetarian I had a number of options to choose from…. a Falafel burger, the intriguing sounding ‘Californian’ or I could go for any of the meaty burger options and simply opt for a veggie patty instead. It was the Californian at £8.75 that I went for which is made up of a homemade and pan-fried bean patty with mature Cheddar, avocado, harissa mayo, crispy onions, relish and salad all served up in a brioche bun.
A man cannot survive on burger alone and fries are a must-have so a portion of the Skinny Rosemary Fries at £3.25 were added to the order, along with a chocolate milkshake at £4.15 to complete the circle of life. I wasn’t long back at my table before the milkshake arrived and I have to say it was right up there with the best milkshakes I have ever tried. It comes served in a large metal cup full of delicously cold chocolately goodness but the real surprise are the tiny pieces of chocolate mixed in. The combination of these crunchy little fellows along with the creamy chocolate shake is a must try for any shake aficionado.
Happy with my shake I started to have a good look around the restaurant and that was where the experience was let down for me…. it all looked and felt a bit grubby. The menu had seen better days and had an attractive looking lump of congealed ketchup stuck to it. A number of the original funky lightbulbs had been with replaced with what looked like Tesco Value 100w bulbs so that a few tables away a couple were sat opposite each other, with her bathed in lovely muted lighting while he was subjected to dazzling spotlight illumination.
I also noticed that there were old chips that had been stood on under a few of the tables and other signs of previous diners littered around the room. At first I gave them the benefit of the doubt as they had been open since 11:30am and they were obviously busy so how do they clean around eaters? But then I changed my mind, I would rather wait a bit longer for the table and surrounding area to be given a proper clean than leave with someone elses half eaten chip stuck to my shoe. None of these issues were showstoppers or enough to put me off visiting again but they were enough that I noticed and to detract from the rest of the experience.
I had been so intent on being British and tutting at the squashed chips that I didn’t notice I had slurped my way through my shake and was now drinkless which gave me a good excuse to try out the Summer Ale from Brooklyn Brewery. This pale ale had a light, floral flavour and went down a treat, big thanks to the helpful chap who served me for the recommendation!
So… onto the main event, the burger. First off, it came served on a plate which may sound a bit obvious but I was pleased to see no sign of slate, random bits of wood or stupid little baskets for the fries for that matter. We perfected plates, bowls and dishes while we were still fighting off dinosaurs and sabre-tooth tigers – a plank of wood does not a plate make!
The burger was an impressive size but not so ridiculous you couldn’t pick it up and dive in. The brioche bun had been warmed before serving and wasn’t too sweet so didn’t detract from the flavours of the burger itself. The toppings were generous and in proportion, all working well together with the harissa mayo adding a nice bit of background heat to proceedings.
The bean patty was very good with a crunch to the bite but lovely and soft in the middle. It was a bit prone to collapse which made eating it a bit of a challenge but I always see eating a burger as a ‘hands on’ affair, none of this knife and fork rubbish thank you please.
The skinny fries were VERY skinny, I think shoestring would have been a better description and due to them being so small and fiddly I found myself grabbing them by the handful and shovelling them in just to get a decent mouthful – not very attractive. In future I will avoid them and go for the chunky alternative as the rosemary flavouring wasn’t anything to write home about. They looked a bit pale and unappetising as well, as if they needed another few minutes cooking to give them a bit of colour.
Overall a mixed experience from Gourmet Burger Kitchen but the things they were marked down on are all easily resolved with a bit of care and attention. It does what it says on the tin, serving up decent burgers without too much fuss and messing around and while not somewhere you would loiter (how long does it take to eat a burger after all?) it is a good place to stop off for a quick bite or a catchup with friends before heading on to a bar, which is just what I did!