Thursday, 21 June 2012

Gourmet Burger Kitchen The Windsor

£11.95 GBK invited me to come and try their latest menu addition, The Windsor, made with aged beef from the Royal Farms in Sussex...

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:

And it tasted of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL, bar the tomato and relish in it. The very definition of bland. So here it is: if you like regular GBK burgers (which taste of precisely fuck all), the Windsor will possibly seem like a step into the realm of gourmet luxury. If, however, you've had any of the four or five star burgers reviewed on this blog, then I'm afraid that there is a very real danger that The Windsor will seem like an insult to your sensibilities and intelligence.

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.



thetrollspantry said...

Phew, I thought I might have some competition in Brighton there for a second.

Juicy Lucy said...

I travel within burger circles, and it seems that there are more than a few noses being turned up whenever there is a mention of GBK. I guess as it's a chain that has undergone a lot of changes since it first emerged it can be accused of a lot of things.

I have eaten a few times there and have always given feedback to them if I am unhappy at all. Their latest offering, the "Frenchie" and "Taxidriver" are proof that they are attempting to excite us burger fans, I particularly like these two burgers. Not too sure what you found wrong with the aioli which is almost exactly the same as Byrons.

I am not defending them, but considering I have nothing but sneers at GBK I wonder if this post was always going to have that slight bias against it.

Burgerac said...

@Juicy Lucy I went along with an open mind, hoping to get a tasty burger - I've got no interest in sneering at a burger / burger joint for the sake of it. I've had countless crap burgers that I haven't written up for the blog simply because I'd rather this blog provided a mostly positive experience.

I went along to see if GBK's claims that the Windsor is "unrivalled" were remotely believable. When you're told one thing only to find another, it's always going to piss you off. People are getting paid to come up with burger concepts at GBK and price points for said creations. What's the point if it's done in isolation with no regard to the market you operate in?

You make a fair point about the aioli, though - it was the only dipping sauce that tasted as it should. But with four other sauces that were like weird sugar syrups, I didn't single it out for praise.

tony said...

I don’t care where the burger comes from it HAS to be 80% or it must contain 20% fat. 90% turns out like a hockey puck, or a bloody hockey puck. just sayin’

Anonymous said...

On another note, you have to try their onion rings. Quite possibly the best onion rings in the world & reason enough to visit GBK...

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