Back at the beginning of September I had the great pleasure to attend a gathering at London based Byron Hamburger chain to sample their new guest burger – the Uncle Sam. Byron founder Tom Byng hosted what can only be described as thoroughly excellent, beef-laden evening.
Proceedings got off to a suitable courageous start with a round of Bloody Bulls, Tom’s preferred aperitif is a New York invention, a Bloody Mary charged with hearty dose of beef bouillon. Liquid lubrication continued with a selection of craft beers, featuring beers from local London breweries as well examples from far flung corners of the globe. The good news for beer and burger lovers is the Byron summer craft beers promotion is to continue on a permanent basis.
So, on to the sustenance, up first was a dainty starter – a 3oz miniature spin on the classic Byron bacon and cheese, with the excellent Montgomery cheddar replacing the milder Monterey Jack cheese. The salty bacon and mature cheddar delivered an intense cheesy seasoning that’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but complimented the beef and was universally loved by the gathered Burger aficionados.
Next up, was the main event – the Uncle Sam. This is Byron’s take on a classic American cheeseburger. A 6oz patty is topped with American cheese, juicy thick slices of pickle, ketchup, French’s Classic Yellow mustard all served in a glazed brioche style bun. Sides came in the form of skin on fries, coleslaw, mac ‘n’ cheese and exclusive to the evening – sweet potatoes fries.
The verdict – I’ve tried hard not to eulogise this burger, it is fundamentally a very simple confection, but like so much that is good about Byron the devil is in the detail – this is simple executed very well. The words “McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese” floated around the table, and I sort of agree; however, a self-imposed McDonald’s abstinence of fifteen years or more, make it hard to totally back this opinion. Partly because I haven’t had one in all that time, but mostly because the memory is a fickle thing and while my grey cells might tell me a Quarter Pounder with Cheese tastes as good as an Uncle Sam, I know it won’t and I stand by the reasons for my exile. In Falling Down when Michael Douglas orders that Whammy Burger with Cheese, what he wants, that plump and juicy burger he sees in the picture above the counter is an Uncle Sam, what he gets is a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. For me the Uncle Sam is a quintessentially American cheeseburger, this is Tarantino’s Big Kahuna made flesh.
Even as that evening drew to a close, with my belly full of delicious food and cheered by great company, I knew I had to have another of these Uncle Sam burgers. The missus and I quipped about it throughout September, but opportunities kept slipping us by. Then this Saturday after a long cycle ride across London and back again, somehow this was always going to be a day we both knew was going to end at Byron’s. So with bikes parked we sallied forth our weary legs to the Canary Wharf branch and enjoyed a delicious taste of America for one last time.
This was only my third visit to three different Byron’s and I really have taken a shine to the chain. Which is unusual, for as anyone that knows me will say, I don’t like chain restaurants. They irk me, overly long, unchanging menus, laced with hyperbole and overuse of the possessive pronouns; the cookie cutter approach to the interior, branding the space seems to take precedence over the food. I can get quite cynical about it. So it’s so refreshing to see that Byron are forging a new way, the spaces are simple, individual and sympathetic. The menus are short and succinct, they really are ‘sticking to the knitting’ and all important the staff are jolly friendly, enthusiastic and passionate about the food.
Sadly, Uncle Sam’s guest slot ends this Friday, the 30th September, but for Burger lovers in London, Byron remains a great destination to get a hamburger fix and I look forward to the next special to come out of their kitchens.
Byron Canary Wharf – 2nd Floor, Cabot Place East, E14 4QT
Bryon Covent Garden – 33-35 Wellington Street, WC2E 7BN
Byron Haymarket – 11 Haymarket, SW1y 4BP
Byron Kensington – 222 Kensington High Street, W8 7RG
Byron Northcote Rd – 53 Northcote Road, SW11 9NJ
Byron Soho – 97-99 Wardour Street, W1F 0UD
Byron Charing Cross – 24-28 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0DT
Byron Earl’s Court – 242 Earl’s Court Road, SW5 9AA
Byron Hoxton – 46 Hoxton Square, N1 6PB
Byron King’s Road – 300 King’s Road, SW3 5UH
Byron Old Brompton Road – 93-95 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3LD
Byron White City – The Loft, Westfield Shopping Centre, W12 7GF
Byron Cheapside – Upper Cheapside Passage, One New Change, EC2V 6AG
Byron Gloucester Road – 75 Gloucester Road, SW7 4SS
Bryon Islington – 341 Upper Street, N1 0PB
Byron Kingston – 4 Jerome Place, KT1 1HT
Byron Putney – 22 Putney High Street, SW15 1SL