I never go to Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I went once about six or seven years ago but found its burgers to be woefully tasteless – around the same time I also discovered that another burger joint, Ultimate Burger, served anything but. However, when I was recently invited to go along and check out GBK's latest limited edition addition to its menu, The Windsor, I was intrigued...
Rather than create a kind of PR burger that would take advantage of the Diamond Jubilee, GBK explained to me that they have looked to create something a bit more special in The Windsor – so called because it's made using beef form The Royal Farm's Sussex cattle reared in the grounds of Windsor Castle. According to GBK, "The Windsor is 8oz of unrivalled beef".
Perhaps, I thought, GBK is actually taking note of and responding to the burger revolution happening around them. Interesting. But what can they add to the scene, I wondered – hence accepting their invitation to go down to the Soho branch and try one out. Here's how my burger arrived:
So what is a Windsor Burger? It's an 8oz 100% beef patty (made with a blend of chuck, rib cap and brisket) served in a brioche bun with a mustard mayonaise – with a lettuce leaf, a slice of tomato and a ring or two of red onion on the side so you can add what you want. There's also some "smoky chipotle ketchup" served in a ramekin. I tried some. It was like some foul tasting jam. So I didn't add any! I brought a friend along for the ride so we cleft our Windsor in twain to have half each:
It looks kind of juicy here which was promising, but of course, you should never judge a book by its cover, as Alex and I found out shortly after taking this photo. Alas, the burger wasn't juicy to eat but was on the dry side of things. Even worse than that, it was bland. Bland beyond belief, given the spiel.
A combination of factors, I assume, were to blame: it was under seasoned and the patty itself didn't have a high enough fat content to actually taste the age-iness of the beef and make it juicy throughout. In fact, rather than taste the beef, the predominant flavour was that of the rich buttery brioche, then the hot English mustardy mayo. Beefiness played no discernible role in the overall taste of the Windsor at all. And for £12 (er, that doesn't include fries) you can get a far superior burger (and fries) from numerous places in town. Disappointing.
In the name of science, Alex and I ordered a regular GBK burger, to see how it measured up to a Windsor. It looked like this:
I definitely want to say THANK YOU to the guys at GBK who, it should be noted, looked after us extremely well – apart from serving us bland burgers and beyond-weird dipping sauces (below). Will I go back? Er, probably not. I simply don't feel GBK caters to my needs as a consumer of high quality, well conceived, lovingly made burgers. In this day and age, serving bland burgers just isn't on, quite frankly. As my dining buddy Alex said as we left GBK: "I feel sorry for the cows." Quite. Cows, especially Royal cows, shouldn't be slaughtered only to end up as mouthfuls of poorly conceived blandness.
Under-seasoning a burger (or over-seasoning, for that matter) happens. I can understand that. Although when GBK's Head of Food (no less) is personally preparing a burger for you (and you're an invited burger blogger) you'd think they'd get it just right. Sticking a very mildly beefy patty in a bun that out-flavours it - now that DEFINITELY shouldn't happen. Adding a creamy-but-hot mustard mayo as well? I just don't get it, there's no concept, this just isn't a dish in they way it ought to be for the price.
Please, please, please GBK, I beseech you to go out into London (ahem, use my iPhone app if you must) and sample the burgers that are being raved about in our glorious city by us, the diners, bloggers and tweeters who really love burgers. You describe the Windsor as a burger "of unrivalled quality and exceptional taste" and also as "a connoisseur's dream" but these words are nothing but hollow PR hyperbole. Until you understand what you're up against, you can't possibly hope to compete.