22 Essex Street East
This week, as our usual Sunday meet up was so rudely interrupted by the holidays, we postponed a little and chose instead to meet in that period of time between Christmas and New Year which Buzzfeed refers to as “the Festive Perineum”. That week where you don’t know what day it is, the only clothes that exist to you are Christmas pyjamas. and when all you’ve eaten are meals cobbled together from turkey leftovers, chocolate, mince pies and brandy cream. This festive hangover, before we’ve really started on phase two of the celebrations is the reason the blog arrives so late. It’s hard to appear witty and urbane when you’ve brushed your hair for the first time in days and found pastry crumbs, even though the mince pies were finished aaages ago.
And so amongst all these seasonal excesses it seemed the only salve would be a return to the basics. Good, simple food done well. The natural choice for this obviously needed to be Bunsen. Bunsen Burger. Can you see what they did there?
When we started this blog, it was with places like Bunsen in mind. Somewhere with a reputation for going right back to the basics and doing those basics really, really well. Well. for me it was. Opinion is divided even within our group as to what makes a really good burger. A thick or thin patty? Real cheese? Bacon? Extra toppings? And today is not the day that I’m going to sucked into that particular quagmire. Today I’ll simply tell you what I liked about Bunsen (or did not as the case may be).
Bunsen has a big reputation to live up to. It’s the hipster’s favourite, as the tiny, credit card sized menu envinces, and a lot of people have really bought into the hype. As such we really struggled to find ourselves a table. Readers may remember, this was not our first attempt at an official visit, in fact, for the second time we didn’t even make it into the Anne Street location, beaten back by the queue of hungry diners snaking out of the door. Last time we opted instead for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, this time we decided to stick to our guns and stroll down to the larger Essex Street branch of Bunsen in the hope of getting in there.
Essex Street was busy, but luckily a spot opened up just as we arrived. We were quickly seated, and the wait staff were attentive and courteous. Ravenous as we were, after an arduous trek through the vast hordes of post-Christmas bargain-hunters, we all ordered the double cheeseburger and fries. Normally I would have added a milkshake at this point, milkshakes being my ‘thing’, but I thought, no… it’s Christmas… have a beer. You can get a milkshake after, like a glorious liquid dessert. And there were some lovely beers to choose from. Ryan was particularly impressed that Brewdog Punk IPA and Sierra Nevada were offered on the menu. What made me happy was being offered a choice of how I’d prefer my burger to be cooked. It’s a small thing, and for burger purists there probably is only one right answer, but it was nice to be asked all the same. I like the option to have my burger cooked to within an inch of it’s life if I so choose. Sometimes a girl just craves the taste of charred meat, OK?
However charred these burgers were not. I was worried that given how much hype surrounded this place, they might not manage to live up to such expectations, but thankfully, for the most part, I was wrong. The burgers were all freshly made to order, and given how packed out the place was, they still managed to come out pretty quickly. What we at first mistook for a layer of grease actually turned out to be meat juices, leaking onto the waxed paper that the burgers came wrapped in. We were impressed. Unfortunately in our greed we made the mistake of ordering doubles, when a single burger would have easily sufficed. These things were huge; thick patties of solid, juicy, well-flavoured meat. However, with so much meat we managed to sail past critical mass, and the structural integrity of the bun was destroyed. Meaning, much to our embarrassment, and the bemusement of our waitress we had to send for cutlery reinforcements. I couldn’t even squish it flat enough to fit it in my mouth! That’s not really a complaint as such, and I think if I’d only stuck with the single burger the experience could have been almost perfect. But since we are greedy pigs, and had to go with the double, the experience was somewhat marred. We managed to ruin the perfect ratio of burger to cheese and bun. Possibly as a result of this I felt that mine was slightly under seasoned.
Normally in the course of a DBC review we make mention of sides at this point. However there really isn’t an awful lot to say on this occasion. We all ordered fries, but they were little more than a garnish on the side of this beautiful meaty behemoth. By the time I had managed to tear my attention away they were stone cold and mostly left untouched. I also never got near to even thinking about ordering a milkshake.
Overall I’d say this was a pretty good choice. The burgers were good value for money. Not as big as some places we’ve eaten, but packed with good quality meat, and not just a bunch of money-saving, space filling novelty additions. The restaurant itself was busy, and quite noisy, with a fast paced turnaround, but it didn’t matter so much because this really was all about the burger.
Sides 7/10 (Only because they were cold by the time we got to them)
Service and surroundings 9/10
Overall Rating 8.5