I quite like Byron hamburgers. And I've got the receipts to prove it. Just after they opened their first branch in 2008, I was a regular visitor to Universal's offices, which are alarmingly close to Byron's High Street Kensington outpost.
Despite my best efforts at willpower, I always seemed to get lunchtime appointments at the offices which meant having to walk past the smell of grilling beef at the point I was getting peckish. Trying to resist was always a struggle and so I succumbed to the relative delights of their burgers on several occasions. Ironically, while I agreed with the consensus that Byron were now probably the best chain burger restaurant in London, the dishes that impressed me most were the vegetarian ones. These were the courgette fries - light, crispy, tasty and, as anyone who's ever grown the irrepressible buggers will know, any inspiration for courgette recipes is always gratefully received - and, on one seasonal occasion, a watercress salad that was one of the best things I ate in 2008. And contrary to general opinion, I also quite liked their bun: it held its shape and soaked up the juices which is, frankly, all I want it to do.
It had been a while since I'd visited Byron. While I was aware the chain had expanded at a reasonable pace, it was usually in postcodes I didn't frequent with any regularity. And, as much as I thought they offered a decent enough product, it wasn't something I was necessarily going to go out of my way to get. I also thought that it was all too easy to rattle up a £20 a head bill without eating an awful lot and there are many places I'd rather spend £20.
Still, the news that they had: a) opened a Soho branch; and b) added a slightly larger pure chuck burger made me think it was time to give them another shot. So I did, with my friend (and new blogger) Jen. The results were, in some instances, pretty much business as usual. Service was friendly and efficient. The menu was admirably brief and to the point. The milkshake was thick and rich and very good indeed. Fries were... middling to average, nothing to write home about, which is pretty much what I remembered (but hey, that was the reason I discovered the watercress and courgettes).
The courgettes were a disappointment though. They were still tasty and decent inspiration for the inevitable zucchini mountain we'll have this summer, but they were slightly thicker cut than before and a bit greasier.
The Big D was nicely beefy, with a satisfying texture, and cooked perfectly rare (as the nigh salacious photo above shows). It was certainly an improvement on my memories of the standard issue burger but - and I'll probably get kicked out of Bloggers Club for saying this and/or hauled across a flame grill - at the end of the day, it was just a burger. A pretty decent burger, to be sure, but no better or worse than several I've had in London. And at £21 for, effectively, one main, a half share in two sides, a milkshake and a coffee? Hmm. I'm really not sure that represents great value - particularly when you think of it as almost a week of goat Moolis. The Goat Mooli is a great sandwich. The Big D... well, I think I know what the "D" stands for anyway.