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Restaurant Review: Byron Hamburgers in Kensington High Street

This is a burger review with a side of Billy Elliot.

Jen and I made a rare jaunt to West London today to brave the men who wear shirts on their days off and women for whom blonde is a religion. We were tempted there by the Darwin Cocoon at the Natural History Museum (fascinating and resplendent respectively) and a detour to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the new Medieval and Renaissance Gallery (makes one proud to be the descendant of the world’s first modern Empire which gave it the chance to steal the best stuff).

Whilst being trapped way out West we thought that it would be worth giving Byron hamburgers a go as I had read and seen reviewed that they were amongst the best burgers you will ever try. Having been there I slightly worry that those reviews were written by people whose taste is to be as trusted as an Orthodox rabbi running a bacon review site.

This might be too ominous as the burgers aren’t bad and the meal as a whole was enjoyable. However, this is no Hawksmoor, you aren’t going there for a chunk of unmolested pitch perfect beef and the menu is honest about this. Whilst Byron may rabbit on about using good quality beef and cooking their burgers “medium”, this is not a pure burger joint. This is a place to get the sides and the menu lists them expansively; slaw, mac n cheese, shakes, floats, malts, chips etc.. And Byron is all the better for it.

The branch we went to in Kensington High Street was a refined piece of franchising. Nice black enamelled tablewear, black tables, efficient but forgetful service, high turnover. Check, check, check, check.

As mentioned the service was forgetful; the slaw was left lost in the ether, my chocolate milkshake sat lonely on the side for ten minutes whilst I gazed at it. However, all was forgiven when they deposited our two burgers, thin chips and a mac n cheese.

The mac n cheese was unexpectedly a small pot of glutinous joy. Creamy, piping hot and demanding to be eaten first. The chips were the style I prefer. Not the triple fried Heston Blumenthal inspired pretentious bits of over handled potato (as emulated by Hawksmoor) – just thin cut fried chips. Spot on.

The burger was, as said above, not a spot on Hawksmoor. It wasn’t even playing in the same league. This was a medium cooked beef patty with some nice salad in a bun. It was not and didn’t pretend to be 100s of grams of premium meat, dripping blood in centre and cooked to perfection in a one off quite special homage to American burger joints (hint to Hawksmoor again). Byron is a franchise at the start of its career (remember when Wagamama first came to in Soho) where the quality is good but not revolutionary.

All in all the meal was good and I will definitely go back again (though likely to the Wardour Street branch).

Finally, as mentioned the side of Billy Elliot (at the Victoria Palace Theatre). I cannot emphasise how much you should avoid this. It takes what was a sensitive film which dealt with a localised community being ravaged by the frictions of a globalised economy and made it a pastiche. What I learnt from the theatre version is that Northerners swear, the whole time, irredeemably. They also like to hit their kids, brothers, wives. Gay people cross dress. To be working class is to be stupid desperate and damned.

  • Price – £30 for two for a very full meal
  • Address – everywhere in London

3 Comments

  1. valchess

    Re Billy Elliot – just out of curiosity.

    Your verdict is extremely tough and leaves no room for arguing at all. But how will you explain that enormous success of the musical – both at West End and Broadway? OK, you probably will reply that there is a lot of dumbed down people with primitive artistic tastes who happily fill the theatre every night for five years. However it has been almost unanimous critical acclaim too – plus numerous Olivier and Tony awards, high accolades from a plenty of really esteemed people, etc. Don't you think there can be something you just missed and this case is not so simple as you'd think recommending "avoid" it?

  2. Tom

    Valchess, the strange thing is that I was really looking forward to going. We got free tickets via a friend (who used to review on Londonist.com) but this meant that our expectations were even less and we were all the more ready to be impressed.

    I would also admit that after we watched it Clair, Jen and I turned to each other and asked ourselves "did we watch something different?". The other audience members loved it. The reviews and award shows, as you highlight, also love it. Still, it was at best an insulting and an overwhelming negative treatment of a segment of society who were ravaged by economic policies we may now be appearing to regret.

    The humour mainly consisted of small children saying "f@!k" and "shit" and Northerners hitting their children and telling them to bugger off. If I am different in disliking that and judging it as a bad play I am happy to be so.

    The food equivalent would be that I as a kid used to love Pizza Hut… tastes change and develop though.

    Not sure whether you have seen it yourself but if not I would be curious to see whether you actually agree with me…?

  3. valchess

    Thanks, Tom, for your reply. I'd found your review by chance and left my comment as I said "out of curiosity" – not expecting a discussion…

    Yes, I have seen BETM – and quite a few times, actually 10+ during 2 years. Moreover, I did some research and know a lot about many different sides of the production. I can definitely tell you that "Pizza Hut" is not my kind of food – neither "art food". I have some issues with that show, and yes, I'd rather turn down some swearing. However, I believe this musical is really very, very good and is extremely interesting on many levels (including a very innovative direction). Your very approach to the theatre puzzles me: do you really judge an artistic production of a fictional story just counting bad words there? Or expecting it to match your political views? I, for one, do not share the political views of the authors (which, by the way, are quite leftist).

    Although, in my opinion the depiction of that "segment of society who were ravaged by economic policies" is very compassionate, not negative at all. And children there do not only swear – they show incredible skills and really unique talents that provide one-of-the-kind uplifting experience for some spectators…

    Well,I understand everybody is entitled to his/her own views which depends on so many personal aspects, and probably no point to argue. I have actually written a detailed essay in which I did try to explain (to myself, first of all) why this show is so amusing and worth to see once and again. I don't think you (who probably want to forget your unfortunate experience) need to read it (it is really lengthy and specific, and its English is not exactly light – as I am not a native speaker). Nevertheless, the link:

    http://valchess.livejournal.com/107443.html

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