Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Byron (Soho)

Food porn can never be the bane of our lives. And to prove it, this is the clearest example (veggies et al withstanding). From that capture alone I learnt that Byron had opened a branch in Soho and there was this off-piste special called the Big D. So much for reading blogs or nosing around twitter, but I found about the two things from my Flickr friend/contact that’s Mark. Being the soppy fart that I am this post is dedicated to him. Click again (his shot deserves a million hits).

First came here with my daughter. We were both relieved that we didn’t have to go to either the King’s Road (pretentious and poncey diners) or Westfield (I hate malls and she’s perfectly happy with her little Brent Cross) branches. She went for the eponymous Byron and I, the Gruyère. Unlike our experiences at Westfield, the burgers were cooked perfectly medium and decent eating; in fact I think it’s Byron’s policy (well at the Soho branch anyway) to have all burgers cooked medium unless you insist on having yours charred to death. The accompanying fries whilst edible looked underdone, pale anaemic yellow as opposed to goldenlicious. No worries as it wasn’t too apocalyptic, like father like daughter, we’re both not the greatest champions of carbs.

Byron is fine as a whole and certainly better than the other ‘proper’ burger chains like GBK. As for the latter the original West End Lane branch was a revelation but then it started to go downhill when the subsidiary decided to expand its interests across blighty. Give Macs its due at least their burgers taste consistently and perhaps brilliantly approximate. I wait in anticipation if and when Byron goes nationwide and then heaven forbids, complacency sets forth.

Dinner would be a perfect time to devour an 8oz patty. Came here again with two hi-fi geeks, Pete (anti-foodie) and Lowey (possessor of a bird-like appetite). And it was just as well that I booked, the restaurant was packed (I didn’t even know they took reservations as there was no indication of it on their website and in any case I only called a couple of days earlier to ensure that the Big D wasn’t a mythical tease). The evening crowd (a Friday in this case) was quite different to the sedate lot from my first visit. It was devoid of both kids and more mature lost souls like the three of us, the diners were vibrant and complimented the cool that’s Soho.

Don't you just love those tentacles of anglepoise lamps encroaching above the diners

Likewise the friendly and competent waiting staff, especially the waitresses (I’m sure looks play an important part if one is serving here). Word of advice if you’re allocated one of those diner style tables along the Wardour Street side, you’ll need to be super slim as the tight seating is a bastard to negotiate if your waistline exceeds 34". You’ve been achtunged!

The Big D premium does not appear on the menu, you’ll need to enquire about it or maybe even reserve one or two in advance. It’s made from bespoke bovine meat supplied by London’s Number One Premium Butcher (they coined that, not moo moi). As you can gauge it’s not extravagantly bigger than Byron’s usual, but it did provide a hint of luxury about it.

Once again perfectly medium, but even more moist and gregariously beefy. I’m convinced that this is more than a very good burger and so should you, let’s just hope the Big D becomes a permanent fixture on the menu. A triumph for a chain, well-done Pizza Express, oh sorry Byron!

Hang on sec, Pete said it was good but…

But what???

Well it’s a burger it’s needs some bacon and cheese. It’s… you know a bit bland.

No I don’t know, that’s a serious patty there on your plate, it doesn’t need more than the lettuce, tomato, onion and gherk. Sometimes you must take the purist route and wakey up.

Bloody snob, bloody foodie!

So what’s the best burger you’ve had then?

That place you took me to in Camden

Haché? Oh yes that’s rather good as well*.

Pass the bottle please…no you #*%!, the ketchup!

Meanwhile Lowey was struggling with his 6oz Byron burger (c/w dry cure bacon, mature Cheddar, Byron sauce) and to which I’m sure Pete was gawking at. Lowey said his burger was very good but a little too much for him to finish.

The Home Made Skin-On Chips were better cooked than the fries from my first visit, the bowl of Courgette Fries was emptied in no time and the mediocre Coleslaw wasn’t a patch on KFC’s (no, I’m not going to spell it out).

We all skipped desserts but Pete had a tasteless cappuccino, Lowey, his bedtime hot choc and I finished off the bottle of the ever so-so Italian Kabbs Soveeonn.

The location, the service and most important of all, the burgers are good enough reasons for Byron Soho to get my fat thumbs up. Food. By Mark thank you.

*When burger baiting I can’t help but wallow on a debate about where the best burgers can be found in the capital. My next post will showcase what I believe is the best and that’s at Goodman.

Byron At The Intrepid Fox
97-99 Wardour Street


Unknown said...

Thank you. Those burgers look incredible.

I had wondered what had become of the old Intrepid Fox. Seemed shuttered up for an age. This seems a reasonable reincarnation.

Su-Lin said...

oh boo. My Big-D was overcooked when i had it. Yours looks perfectly cooked.

foodbymark said...

Wow what an honour. Thank you Les.

Sulin - My first Big D was overcooked and we weren't allowed to choose how we wanted our burger cooked. Second attempt was to order and so perfectly cooked it could've killed us (rare to medium rare goodness).

Monkey Gland said...

That photo is a beaut.

bellaphon said...

Dan- You're welcome. With Byron's unlimited budget they've done more than a Lazarus on the Fox. Keep an eye out on the Bricklayers Arms on New Quebec Street. It's being refurbed big time into a posh gastro.

S-L- I hate to say this, but every time I settle down at any resto and plonk my camera on the table, the staff notices. I've a sneaky suspicion a special word goes to the kitchen; food blogga, don’t f**k up! (Don’t get me started on deliberate food contamination because of that reason!)

Mark- No, thanks to you more like!

MG- Indeed so, the young man carries immense talent.

Gav said...

I haven't tried the Hawkesmoor yet but the O'Shea's or big D burger is quite simply the best burger I have eaten in London.

All the sides are excellent and the courgette chips are really well done, not soggy at all.

Byron gets a huge thumbs up from me.

Nice to see a new blog

Wild Boar said...

*sigh* going through my RSS feed while waiting for lunchtime probably isn't the best thing to do...

Looks like an awesome burger. Will try to get my hands on it soon. I had a Byron burger once couple of years ago and thought it a bit dry then but there is a lot of good feedback on them lately.

Gastro1 said...

Glad you back great post.

Is the Big D really not on the menu ? Have always seen it in the Kings Rd , Gloucester Rd ,Soho and High St Ken branches

The Shed said...

Oh god I need a burger right now!!

Bittersweet thanks, Bellaphon.


bellaphon said...

I'm answering the following comments from deepest Godmanstone, Dorset; they have flakey broadband here!

Gav- Hi, thanks for stopping. Big D rocks! In terms of human years my blog is post teenage.

Wid Boar- Am I on your RSS feed, you never! I think I may have been a bit harsh on Westfield, massive covers, and the lady manager who rules the domain there is super heroic!

Gastro1- What pleasure to have you passing by, I'm bore upon. I was going to mention in the review that it was actually you who single-handedly put O’ Shea’s on the map but I couldn't pen it eloquently enough. Thank you.

The Shed- Don't deny yourself a bit of sin, enjoy presently and worry later. See you Sun!

Mr Noodles said...

Must give Big D a try - previously been nonplussed by Byron as bun was a bit of a let down.

bellaphon said...

Mr Noodles- Yowser. Personally both Macs and Goodman provide the best eating buns, and Haché uses ciabatta which is sinful but they always get away with it because their patties and subsequent trimmings are ace. As for Byron, their buns are OK but hardly half-baked like GBK's. I think we all need to remember that Byron is now a growing chain so it would be inevitable that we're all drawn into a lottery phenomenon by how our burgers eventually end up on our plates. Good luck, noods.

Helen said...

I agree with Mr. Noodles that the bun was a let down but in their defence - Tom did let me do a bun tasting there where we tasted everything from brioche to a burger king bun. It just goes to show that they don't take themselves too seriously. The way they accommodated my silly little whim was so lovely. I think Byron is so much better than Hache. Ciabatta bun at Hache. I need not say more. Sorry for leaving yet another tedious comment on someone's blog about burger buns. I can't help it. It's like my fingers move without me even thinking about it.

I heart cupcakes said...

We visited Byron a couple of weeks ago as I used to live above the Intrepid Fox in my late teens on and off and was keen to see what they'd done with it.
We went on a Monday about 3pm for a late lunch. I had a cheeseburger, hubby the Byron and we shared courgette fries. Oh, and I had a coke float (diet naturally!).
The burgers were really nice, and I loved the courgette fries (could've eaten the bowl myself but I was trying to be restrained!)I really liked the bun, was soft and tasty and you could eat your burger with your hands easily, I find in places like GBK you can't bite into it properly with the hard rolls.
I would definitely go back - they've done a really good job with the place.
The only downside were the two eejits that came in and decided to sit near us - one was over dramatic about everything and his female companion decided after two bites she was "full" and he asked for a "doggy bag for my fat friend" - she immediately stormed out shouting "I'm going to throw up now!" and went outside, informing the other 10 or so diners that she'd vom'd while outside on her return. Thankfully this was all just as we were paying up and leaving or else I'd have had to restrain or slap her - I don't let silly drama queens put me off my food ;)
Oh and finally - the loos are MUCH nicer than the days of the Fox, and so is the beer quality (hubby had a sierra nevada)

bellaphon said...

Helen- A totally deserving rant, I'm with you all the way. If only the burger folks can stick to one standard bun like the salt beef purveyors with their simplistic rye bread...if only.

♥♥♥- A thoroughly enjoyable mini-review, could we please have some more of it on top of the cupcake ones. How I wish I was there to video the couple from hell, surreptitiously of course!

Gastro1 said...

If I find something good I'm always keen to spread the word especially when there is so much marketing BS around rather than focus on excellent produce.

If you want to try the O'Sheas of Knightsbridge ultimate Cote De Boeuf their 48 day aged Irish Black Angus Grass Fed Barley Finished are avaialble at Racine in Chelsea and from today at Goodman's.

Henry Harris at Racine cooks them beautifully in a cast iron pan with added butter whilst Goodman's use their amazing jospers - anyway both amazing !

bellaphon said...

Gastro1- You possess an enviable wealth of knowledge on all things bon vivant. We should all be thankful for that. I went to Racine four years ago and had a wonderful dinner but felt ill at ease with the presence of the ‘I say, I say’ diners! Oh well I’m much older now so I shouldn’t give a monkey’s, Racine’s on my list now. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I went to the Byron at Kingston. I had the Byron Burger with special sauce, and while it was decent, we all felt GBK down the road could have done a better job.

I'm not sure it warrants a return, or whether I should just try a different branch... or take a day off and try the Hawksmoor burger once and for all!

bellaphon said...

LMR- You what I mean about chain expansion, Kingston! I know that I'll be stalked to death for saying this but Kingston is ever so lucky to have the Thames attached to it, otherwise... You reside so near Hawksmoor, report soon please!