Review: Byron Hamburgers, Islington

29 Nov

“The streets were full of insane and dull people. Most of them lived in nice houses and didn’t seem to work, and you wondered how they did it.” – Charles Bukowski, Post Office

We’re in Islington, seeking out Byron, a dedicated burger joint. Sure it’s part of a chain, but only a little one. It is to burgers what Wahaca is to Mexican ‘street food’. That’s to say, purer quality than ‘street grade’, yet true to original recipes, or at least the original recipe concept.

Mugatu would love the ‘derelicte’ stylings

With this in mind, perhaps Byron’s real pleasure, for me at least, is that it promises a relief from the constant disappointment of the typical British burger.

After all, William Burroughs said, “perhaps all pleasure is only relief”.

Wahaca offers exactly the same pleasure, incidentally. To anyone that’s eaten real Mexican food, the restaurant’s creamy mole, crispy  tostadas and, soft-shell fish tacos are closer to what you’ll find in Central America’s biggest country than the crass imitations we’re usually offered:  chile (Texan) or large burritos (New Mexican).

What I want to find out is: Is Byron true, burger-Heaven pleasure – or simply respite?

Space burger - Burroughs

Burger heaven or hell?

“Maybe this planet is another’s hell,” mused Aldous Huxley many burgers ago. Arriving at Byron, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a bombsite, if not quite Hell. I guess that’s what you get with derelict-chic, darling.

*Whistles* It'll cost ya


Mugatu in Zoolander  would be proud. London Chow is right when it says it says the decorators seemed to have left mid-job. For me, I don’t care too much about the styling. I’m here for flavour. It’s quite cramped, though. Some tables are better than others, but the worst ones are really bad. You have to snap a few bones to fit in. But when it comes to food, what’s the dealio, yo?

The menu and the order

The Byron menu is beautifully restrained. There are a few salad options, a chicken burger (charred yet succulent breast), but I don’t care about them. Most people don’t. Kang apparently visits Byron as an incentive to exercise – you simply go here to meat up. With that in mind, I order: a Byron burger, medium rare (their default is medium, and usually comes pink); some skin-on homemade fries (awesome); and a superb Modeno beer. Within 10 minutes the burger arrives. But there’s a problem.

You're especial, oo so especial

Pavlovian response – it looks absolutely spot-on,  I start salivating. And as I begin to bite in, all seems good. The burger is a nice size, not a gastropub ‘cricket ball’ that sits in your stomach like an unexploded WW2 depth charge. The proportions are spot-on, too – the bun encloses the patty, the tomato slice is the same diameter as the meat, and a thick slice of maple bacon doesn’t poke out the side. Biting in, the bun feels soft outside but grilled inside so as not to become soggy, although it’s neither sweet nor subtly flavoursome. Still, it’s a better bun than any other I’ve tried in the UK, if not the US.

Trouble is, the meat is overcooked and dry. Sending it back, the waiter agrees that it’s overcooked, but doesn’t apologise. My fiancé, H, is left to finish her meal whilst I wait for mine to be re-cooked. It’s no big thing, just a bit of a pain. It draws my attention to the service as a whole tonight, it just seems to be a beat or two off. I thought that they might have comped me a beer, but no. I didn’t feel the love in Byron tonight. The Movember moustaches had gone, too – perhaps that act had had cosmic reverberations? Still, it’s what comes back out of the kitchen that counts. And I’m so hyped about the next burger delivering bang-on flavour that all crinkles in the service dimish in importance. So how will the next attempt turn out?

“You’re making me moist,” is clearly what the coarsely ground meat of my new burger was thinking before it hit the grill. And aout 7-10 mins later, it arrived as beautifully bloody. And it oozed juciy, succulent flavour. It was really spot-on. The fries – my only side – were delicious. All in all, a step in the right direction towards burger perfection.

Scores on the doors (for this particular visit)

  • Food – 7/10
  • Setting – 7/10
  • Atmosphere – 8/10
  • Service – 6/10

I defintely recommend going. Indeed, it’s my top recommendation so far. Check it out and enjoy.

But don’t take my word for it. You’ll find a couple of fantastic reviews of Bryon with lovely photography here and  here.

Post by Scot Devine


3 Responses to “Review: Byron Hamburgers, Islington”

  1. Kang November 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Yeah, when it comes out bloody and juicy, the patty is really great. But depending on which branch (and how busy) you go to, they do tend to overcook it, especially when you order it medium. That’s why I always go medium rare.

    You tried the Hawksmoor stuff yet?

    • scotdevine November 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

      Haven’t tried Hawksmoor yet. However, since I’m looking for a recommendation for this week, I’ll give it a try.

  2. Josh December 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    I’ve been to the Byron on Wardour Street (the first one, I think, though I could be making that up). I was impressed, thought it a step up from the likes of GBK, Hamburger Union etc. The service was fairly sharp, the burger was good (probably a seven like you said), and I liked the chips too. Tables were quite close together, which is fine because you aren’t sticking around that long.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: