It is here, it has arrived. It opened a few weeks ago and being the burger loving sort that I am, we just had to go down to Burgerfest which had just opened a few weeks ago on Bartholemhew St East (behind the old Mama Stones building). Tori and myself were joined by our mate Lewis, owner and general all-round top bloke from OMG Comics in Fore Street. We went, we ate, we liked. I had a few minor negatives that stuck with me, but there wasn’t anything there that made come away as anything but a satisfied burger-head who conceded that the diet is going to start again on Monday. Would I recommend it? Yes. Top value, great atmosphere, and two-for-one cocktails.
Burgerfest is Exeter’s fifth Burger joint, sitting alongside HubBox, Ruby Burgers, Urban Burger and Byron Burgers. Naturally we’re not counting McDonalds or Burger King given the difference in the output. With Gourmet Burger Kitchen which is opening soon in The Dining Quarter, we will have six altogether. Is this good or bad? I’ll answer this in due course (maybe not in this review).
For the moment I am going to say that the variation between each burger restaurant is enough to make the experience in each place slightly different, and I would definitely disagree that they are all the same. However, any more burger restaurants and Exeter would definitely have a saturation.
There are three (the others are in Torquay and Taunton) Burgerfest restaurants which are owned by The Lifestyle Hospitality Group, who also own Tiger Bills. The USP is the quirky geekiness. How many other restaurants in Exeter have a Sega Room? Or a Ping Pong Dome? Yup, there is a genuine Sega Mega Drive set up in a room which diners can play for free and a Ping Pong table located in the dome of the tower old kiln. I literally squealed with delight when I discovered this.
The value is pretty good. None of the burgers broach the £10 mark, and the sides are reasonable as well. Drinks are averagely priced; we were lucky tonight as they are having a sale on tinned beers from another one of their sites so this kept our bill down along with the 20% student discount. Yup, students get 20% off with a valid form or ID.
We arrived at the restaurant about six o’clock after a sneaky half in The City Gate. The one thing I have to say that I liked on first impressions was the easy access from the pavement, not really an issue if you’re not able or sure footed but given Tori was on crutches today, the lack of stairs in to the restaurant was welcome. This was the first time that I had been to this building, I had never been whilst it was Casa Maroc or even when it was Gino’s or whatever it was before that.
This isn’t a restaurant where waiters flit around taking orders, it is casual and informal and you’re told how it works as you step through the door. You decide what you want, you go to the bar and order. Pay before-hand (a la Wetherspoon’s) and you get your burger brought to you. Personally I like this, there is greater independence and it frees up service to deliver food to the table. It doesn’t mean that staff are less attentive, and throughout our meal there was always a member of staff at the bar.
The menu is just as quirky as everything else about the restaurant. On the front is the menu items, on the back is a paper aeroplane with instructions about how to create it. It was nice to have something to make and play around with as we waited for our burgers which took about 20 minutes to arrive. None of us managed to get anything to fly, despite many attempts. Lewis won the award for distance as he managed to get his plant nearly across the restaurant.
I went for The Bad Boy (£9) which consisted of two beef patties, American cheese, smoked streaky bacon, stuffed with seasoned fries, BF Sauce, tomato, baby gem lettuce. Add on to the Skin-On Fries (£2.50), Sweet Potato Fries (£3) and Onion Rings (£2.50) we had a pretty almighty meal. Tori went for for Dirty South (£7) which consisted of a Beef patty, American cheese, Cajun mayo, red onion, roasted red peppers, tomato and baby gem lettuce. Lewis, the bravest out of all of us (although none of us were brave enough to go for the Bronut, which consisted of doughnut and jam!) went for the El Diablo (£7) which was a Beef patty, chilli cheddar, jalapeños, soured cream, BF Sauce, tomato, red onion, baby gem lettuce and hot sauce.
Tori and Lewis were very happy with their burgers. Lewis sweated through the scorching heat of the El Diablo, and definitely win award for Burger Devoured In Under Four Minutes. I had to divide my burger in to two separate units so I could fit it in my mouth. Tori was happy with her burger, although the burgers were a little dense for her taste.
The burgers themselves were not overly greasy, they had a nice juice level, not so much that it decimated the bun, but not dry either that you had to chew your way through the patty itself There is nothing worse than a soggy bottom. I didn’t feel sick or painfully stuffed, which sometimes the grease of a burger can exacerbate, there was a feeling of great satisfaction afterwards which I haven’t had for a long time after eating a burger. Good work.
The sides were quite a sight. The onion rings were, for lack of a better description, were nearly the size of actual proper onions, less rings moreso tubes with a light fluffy batter that just popped with air and crispyness. The Sweet Potato Fries were masterfully cooked and definitely a bonus, maybe even matching Urban Burger’s which up to now have been our favourite provider of fries made from this hard to cook vegetable. My Skin-On fries were really nice, there was a lot of them and they definitely filled a hole of three. I was impressed with the value of the sides, which really finished off the meal.
So my minor points.
What is the secret ingredients in the top secret recipe mix? I don’t like secrets, especially with food. Sorry. #partypooper On the flipside of this, in this world of food transparency, here is a restaurant still has the guts to say ‘actually we have a recipe for our burgers that is different from other burger restaurants and we’re not telling you what it is’…This is brave and I have to say I like what they do with the burgers, but some indication might be good.
The patties themselves were slightly flamed/charred, which is something I am a fan of; that slightly burnt, slightly well done but still pink in the middle effect is definitely a good thing in my humble opinion. But some burger lovers in this world might not appreciate this particular style.
It’d be nice to have some optional cushions for the barrel stools, as they started to get a bit hard on bum after a while.
We all felt a great air of satisfaction after the meal. I liked the design taste and the interior itself, which was very funky. Burgerfest only goes to show the variation in Burger Restaurants in Exeter, and it is a welcome addition to the family. There are cocktail offers, Hot Dogs, and a specials board too which looked very appetising.
I really hope Burger Fest is here to stay, with their Sega Room and their Ping Pong Dome. As the restaurant got busier, the buzz of the atmosphere made it hard to leave. I wanted one of their super-amazing cocktails that they have been showing off on Facebook, but that might have to be for another night.
The Old Malthouse,
Bartholomew Street East,