Call me radical but I like a good old fashioned burger bun – sweet, seeded and soft. One of my favourite examples comes, somewhat controversially, from McDonald’s. Yes, really. When I saw this post about Haché back in June, I was reminded of my loathing for the trend of sandwiching a burger with an inappropriate bun. Ciabatta? For a burger? No.
I commented on the post that I thought it would be a rather interesting experiment to take a Maccy D’s bun and put it either side of a proper burger. I resolved to make it happen and put the idea out on Twitter where the lovely @byronhamburger jumped in and offered to make my dream a reality. So it was that I found myself in McDonald’s a few weeks later asking, “could I just have three plain buns please? No nothing in them, just plain.” “OK” the guy said, “but you’ll have to pay for the full sandwich.” “You what?” I countered, “but how can they be worth the same when there’s nothing in them, can’t you just charge me for one?” Apparently, there was nothing he could do. In fact, he was so resolute about it that he just kept repeating the same phrase in a slightly scary robotic fashion. “OK, thanks anyway,” I said. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do,” he replied.
Burger King on the other hand, were more helpful. Three buns, toasted – £1.99, and I got a few funny looks thrown in for free. I stashed them in my bag and toddled off to meet Lizzie, Ollie and Chris for the bun-off. Tom Byng, the MD at Byron was waiting and oh my giddy aunt if he hadn’t had their bakers (Miller’s) make up a selection of buns for us to try! “Have you got the er, you know?” he asked me, referring to the BK buns. “The dark side has indeed passed the threshold,” I replied. He’d even made up tasting sheets. There were 9 buns in total and for each we first tried the bun au naturale before moving on to bread and burger combo. This was serious business.
Here’s the pick of the bunch. First, the BK bun. On its own, too dry and bready but with the burger? Great. Sweet flavour and the all important robust structure – there’s nothing worse than being reduced to eating a burger with a knife and fork. Shockingly good.
Next, the brioche, a strong contender for my favourite too; sweet, buttery goodness, which complemented the meat perfectly. I loved it at Hawksmoor and I love it still. The only problem here is structural – it tends to wrinkle up and deflate somewhat on top. Oh and it needs seeding.
The worst bun on the night (no surprises here people), was the ciabatta – just too much effort to eat. Ciabatta is an event in itself, it is hard work, has a strong, yeasty flavour and it hogs the limelight. I think I’m right in saying that none of our party even took another bite after dusting off our floury faces.
Others included a wholemeal version (just plain wrong), onion sour dough (too much sourness competing for attention), sesame seed (pretty damn good, more sweetness needed) and the plain white (the Byron standard, actually very good, simple, doughy but lacking seeds). So my dream bun then? Well, it would combine the structure and seeds of the BK offering with all the sweetness and fluffiness of the brioche. Operation bun – phase 1 complete. Now I just need to work out how to make this ‘ultimate’ version. Any tips will be hugely appreciated.
A massive thank you to Byron for making the whole thing happen in the first place and entering into it with such enthusiasm. I didn’t confess this on the night, but I’d actually never been to Byron before. I cannot tell you my relief when I bit into one of their burgers – perfectly pink and juicy with plenty of beefy oomph. Fresh, crisp salad and carefully considered saucing. An absolute pleasure to try, all nine of them. You can see what a good time I had by the state of my tasting sheet above. I can’t wait for phase 2 – recipe testing. I’m going to be eating a lot of burgers this summer…
300 King’s Road
Tel: 020 7352 6040
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