The internet has been responsible for many changes to the way society works. Previously people’s obsessions and quirks were kept guarded. Depending on how left of field it was, some people resorted to visiting shrinks, but there was no major outlet for the monomaniac among us. You just didn’t talk about that sort of thing.
Now however, there are forums for that sort of thing. People gather to reassure and goad each other on to new heights of obsession and depravity. Whilst this, as with so much in life, mainly focuses around sexual fetishes, food has not escaped this fate.
Discussions such as ‘The best burger in town” or “When did Ranch dressing take over the world?” can be found on sites such as Egullet.org,Eater or Chowhound to mention some of the bigger American ones. Yet in London the discussion seems to be firmly centered on twitter. Having been scornful of it before I started blogging, I now spend far too much of my time on it talking about food.A chance tweet offered the opportunity to get involved with a ‘burgerswarm’ and I signed up immediately.
This is how I found myself arriving at a pub off the Strand to meet a load of people from the internet and eat burgers with them. We got chatting and it was clear I was in good company from the oohs over some custom St Johns burger buns somebody had brought with them. My kind of people, as the rich say.
Arriving at the Covent Garden Byron it seemed fitting that we were led downstairs away from the punters proper. Tom Byng, the owner of Byron was behind the bar shaking up a Bull’s blood to kick everybody off. This was consisted of vodka, Worcester sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, tomato juice and beef bouillon. A beefy bloody Mary that went down well and prompted a conversation about drinking gravy. Like I said, my kind of people.
Whilst I was savouring this, my eyes were drawn by the American craft beers. I had an conversation with the bartender, a fellow enthusiast, and settled on a American Belgian style . Light and golden, it has a bit more character than your average blonde. Apparently frustratingly hard to get hold of, if you see it grab it with both hands.
Ushered further into our own space, we sat down and began to nibble on some dip and salsa. The salsa was a little reserved in my opinion, solid but lacking kick.
Tom then announced that we would be kicking off the meal with a small burger before making our way onto…another, slightly bigger burger with all the sides. I was more than happy with this plan.
Our Starter (Thanks to Burgerme for the photo)
The first was a three ounce bacon cheeseburger. The bacon was just the right side of crisp and cut into small pieces so it didn’t fall out of the bun. The cheese was top notch, Montgomery s cheddar, one of only three unpasteurized cheddar still made in the traditional way. Normally this is the businesses, but for some reason the taste was lost in the burger storm. The burger itself was juicy and enjoyable. A good start.
The Uncle Sam (Thanks again to Burgerme for photo)
Having eaten our first set of burgers, the conversation then naturally turned to burgers we had known and loved. I have never been at a table where a conversation about the best way to grind and mix hamburgers even got going, let alone went on for over half an hour. These people were serious about their burgers. As the pro on your table, Fred Smith of the Ad Cod pub held court whist we talked techniques and cuts.
This conversation was only interrupted by the arrival of the main event. The Uncle Sam. If the other burger was English, this bruiser was all American through and through, think Tom Cruise in Top Gun but with less flight overalls. Best imagined as a pimped up big mac in terms of flavour profile. Slightly sweet due to the dill pickles, a soft bun and a juicy juicy patty. The plethora of sides was almost too much. Almost being the operative word, as I continued to cram sweet potato fries into my mouth long after I should have stopped.
It would be remiss if I didn’t mention the service which excellent and extremely friendly. I think the staff were slightly scared by the huge number of cameras on show which made the table feel like a burger based red carpet at times. They were intrigued to realise that we all knew each other from the internet.I had to abscond from the madness relatively early and felt real disappointment at doing so, a testament to how nice everybody was.
For me Byron is an example of a chain done right. They care about the food and that shows in the finished product. It isn’t the best burger I have ever had, but it does what it sets out to do, and it does it well. Definitely worth a visit, especially to get your hands wrapped around an Uncle Sam.
A big thanks to gubgub08 and Tom for organizing it and a shout out to the rest of the swarm:
@hayleymudge, @razzbingo, @marispiperbingo, @faerietalefoody, @meat_twoveg, @eatingsoho, @fredsmith_ @joelgershinson, @ladyvelo82, @grobelaar, @theskinnybib, @dave_rowlinson, @danpeters, @aoafoodie, and @Hollyw2277.