The Burger Joint

“Ambitious new food entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of competing with the big boys”

MARK TAYLOR visits The Burger Joint for a decidedly gourmet take on beef mince and fries.

Burgers have never been cooler, thanks to a new wave of independent restaurants giving the likes of McDonald’s more than a run for their money. MARK TAYLOR visits The Burger Joint for a decidedly gourmet take on beef mince and fries.

Dude food. That’s the ‘official’ term being given to the new wave of cool, slightly upmarket junk food restaurants and bars popping up all over the country. In London, these places (and they include the brilliantly named Dirty Burger!) have been very much an extension of street food stalls and mobile catering vans, but it’s a trend that’s fast catching on in Bristol and Bath too, with the likes of Grillstock in St Nicholas Market and Meat and Bread, a new roast meat sandwich van that trundles around the area – and encourages greedy people to track its daily movements via Twitter.

Dude food is all about those wonderful on-the-hoof favourites we love, but probably don’t admit to eating on a regular basis – hot dogs, pulled pork baps, fried chicken and, of course, burgers. But then, if one menu item has proven to be recession-proof, it is the humble burger. Since the credit crunch, a number of new independent eateries have emerged with premium, upgraded versions of the very things high street chain restaurants and street vendors have been selling for years.

Suddenly, ambitious new food entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of competing with the big boys – the McDonalds or Burger Kings – and are taking them head-on with higher quality versions of the old favourites.

Dan Bekhradnia opened his Burger Joint restaurant and takeaway on Bristol’s Cotham Hill three years ago, and it has become so successful that he recently moved the business lock, stock and burger to premises twice the size around the corner.

It’s a larger site, beneath pavement level, but with the added bonus of outside seating. The original flagstone floors remain, and the burgundy and cream walls are dotted with cool jazz posters and pictures of fancy American burger bars.

It’s all very relaxed, buzzy and family-friendly. There are nine burgers on offer, including venison, wild boar, peri chicken and two vegetarian options. The basic burgers come in at £7.50 including one side, which might be French fries, beer battered onion rings, corn on the cob or a green salad. Additional sides cost £1.95.

And then come the sauces (two come free as a matter of course) and the additional toppings (80p each, or three for £1.95). Also worth noting is a weekday lunch deal that offers any burger with two sauces, one side and any drink for just £7.50. (Now, that must be far more tempting than a curled up sandwich at the desk for anyone working within wandering distance of Whiteladies Road.)

We chose well. A 6oz prime beef burger with grilled back bacon, BBQ sauce and melted Cheddar was probably not what the cardiologist ordered, but was very good none-the-less. The smoky-edged, juicy patty was cooked medium and all the better for that, the bacon was trimmed of fat – which made a change – and all the other components within the crisp, toasted ciabatta bun (lettuce, red onion, sliced tomato, gherkin) were present and correct.

Across the table, a Welsh lamb and mint burger with melted Swiss cheese and tzatziki was generating plenty of positive noises, as were the crisp, salty French fries. A mini beef burger was also getting a thumbs-up from the five-year-old member of our party, who went on to demolish most of a shared sticky toffee pudding (£3.50) that was more reminiscent of a tinned Heinz steamed syrup pudding than anything – and that’s a compliment, by the way!

With a gluggable bottle of Italian red, the bill for the three of us still only just tipped the £50 mark. Having moved to these swanky, much larger new premises, the next step for The Burger Joint must surely be to roll it out elsewhere in the region – and then really give the American chains a run for their money. It’s certainly good enough.

The Burger Joint, 83 Whiteladies Road,
Bristol BS8 2NT; 0117 329 0887;

Photos by Jed Alder