Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
The somewhat sleepy Marches Cathedral City of Hereford is, perhaps, not where you would expect to find a burger joint that garnered the award of the “Best Burger” at the World Food Awards in 2015.
Unlike some very dubious awards you see plastered over wine bottles in the supermarkets (“Highly Commended” at the Phnom Penh Wine Fair doesn’t tend to impress me if I am honest), this seems to be pretty legit. and being held in the USA (where they like to think they know a thing or two about burgers) it is pretty darn impressive that the Beefy Boys of Hereford beat the Yanks in their own back yard (especially when the prize money up for grabs is $10k for best burger, $100k for the grand prize).
I have read many a good thing about the Beefy Boys ( presumed to be a play on words of the 80s/90s Beastie Boys) from the likes of Gourmo Gorro and The Plate Licked Clean (both discerning gourmands) and as ever I am light years off the pace in getting to this place.
After dropping off Mrs. SF and the dogs in the West Midlands on a Saturday, I decided that a slight detour home via Hereford was in order so as to check this much fêted of places out.
As my ETA was only known after dropping Mrs. SF off, I rang before setting off and (after being on hold for a while and having to listen to quite possibly the most irritating “on hold” message know to man – some feat that – ring the number at peak times if you don’t believe how horrific it is) was told (on getting through to a human) they were fully booked all that Saturday (the online booking system had rather unhelpfully offered 12.30 on Wednesday – I drive quite sedately, being a middle aged man with a Volvo, but …). They did say there was a no booking policy outside and with the weather set fair I tapped Hereford into the sat nav and crossed my fingers that a table for a walk in would be available.
I didn’t actually get to look inside, as on arrival I was told they were pretty rammed, but they had a pleasant enough outside terrace which had plenty of space so I plonked myself there. With the weather at the time rather fine, this was perfectly fine.
The window by my exterior table highlighted (rather depressingly) two of the things the place does that I couldn’t partake of, due to me driving, in the form of beer and cocktails.
No matter, as I was there for the burgers.
The main menu is split between “classics”, Speciality”, “Chicken” and ” “Veggie” burgers.
There are also ” Specials” on offer, including (on the day of my visit) the alarming sounding “Hell Boy” with ghost chilli and latex gloves in the description (I assume the latter is to pick up the incendiarily hot burger rather than to eat, although I think I would rather eat a latex glove than a ghost chilli)
On the burger front, I prefer the simple approach with minimal toppings. I want to taste the patty rather than whacky, multiple, toppings masking it’s flavour. On this basis I went for the “Beefy Boy” burger (£8.50). This is one of their most basic burgers, with just the patty, bacon, cheese, their secret sauce, lettuce, onion and pickle filling the bun (only the “Lonely Boy” trumps it for simplicity with just the patty, cheese and bacon in a bun).
On ordering, I noted the menu referred to their patties being cooked medium and I asked if it was possible to go a bit rarer. The chap taking the order agreed on a “as rare as the kitchen is legally allowed to go” approach. Very flexible, I thought, although it could merely have been a very diplomatically way of saying “you”ll get what it says on the menu matey” (if so it was said very nicely).
What arrived was a fine looking burger. A decent size, with a nicely bronzed, lightly toasted, demi bioche bun (made by Malvern Hills baker, Peter Cook), it sat very prettily on the plate.
Under the bonnet, the American and Swiss cheese could have been just a touch more melted to achieve maximum gloopiness and the leakage on the plate (whilst signifying a satisfying rareness – putting pay to my cynicism) suggested the patty could perhaps have been rested just a tad longer.
The all important patty was nicely pink (yay), with a caramelized exterior and a course ground yielding texture.
The meat had a very good depth of flavour that came from proper dry aged (21 days here) quality beef and when combined with the tangy secret sauce and the bacon (nicely crisp, but not nuked) was pretty much bang on seasoning wise (without the combo of the sauce and the bacon it may be regarded by some – me – as a bit light on the salt front).
Importantly the bun did its job and held its structural integrity right up to the last bite. This rarely happens, so kudos to Peter Cook.
This was a very good and deeply satisfying burger.
With my burger I ordered (perhaps rather greedily) a side of bacon fries (£4.50)
What arrived was somewhat larger than I had anticipated. I really should have taken more notice of the “(Great to share)” on the menu.
This was bacon to the max, with slices of crisp streaky bacon, bacon bit and baconaise. The chips were nice and crisp, but I was defeated by the size of it and the richness of the baconaise (the kitchen was just a bit too heavy handed in applying this I thought).
The saying goes “bacon makes everything better”, but I think I reached possible bacon overload with this dish. Definitely a two person rather than solo affair, which I couldn’t quite finish.
I think it would have been wiser for me to have gone for a side of the plain (£2.50) or millionaire fries (£3.50 – with parmesan and truffle al a Arbennig)
On the drink front, as I was driving, my options were limited. I therefore decided to not even bother looking at the booze offering, bar from on the ” Specials”
From these I would surmise that the wider booze offering is likely to be rather interesting.
With no booze for me I defaulted to the soft drinks and fancied a mllkshake with my burger and fries.
Going back to my minimalist approach (which I, perhaps foolishly, departed from with the fries), I went for the vanilla one.
Very good shake this, with a really pleasing hit of vanilla. It wasn’t as thick as some you get, but I prefer that to be honest ( I find super thick shake far too much like hard work as you go dizzy trying to suck the only slightly loosened ice cream up a straw – here rather heinously a plastic one).
Water was provided on request and it was nice that it came with ice and a slice.
In what appears to be a ring “chain” of mediocrity, surrounding it,
the Beefy Boys’ place is a shining light in the culinary darkness of Frankie’s & Benny’s, Zizzi and their ilk.
It was no surprise to me (but rather heartening) that the Beefy Boys’ place was packed to the rafters inside (room only outside, where you can’t book, for walk in), whereas the chains surrounding it looked pretty empty (at 17.00 on a Saturday).
The burger I had at the Beefy Boys was a very good one, with locally sourced meat and a dab hand in the kitchen transforming it into a juicy, tasty, patty.
Would I go back? Yes. I enjoyed both the burger and the shake (and the fries before my pigginess defeated me), with the whole set up being a pleasant and relaxed, yet very efficient, one.
Certainly one of the best burgers I have had this year, but (possibly controversially) not the best.
Now this may get me thrown out of the Cardiff blogger’s union (I don’t think I was actually ever a member), but to me the Beefy Boys’ standard burger (good as it was) is not as good as the Hawksmoor burger. The longer dry aging of the beef (35 days at Hawksmoor as against 21 days at the Beefy Boys – I believe) and the liberal use of bone marrow in the Hawksmoor one just gives, to my mind, their patty a greater depth of beefy, umami, flavour.
Perhaps the fact that I enjoyed a rather nice glass of red with the last Hawksmoor one I had effected my judgement, but I just preferred their burger. This surprised me as the Beefy Boys cooked my burger as I requested, whereas Hawksmoor were unable/unwilling to acquiesce to my medium rare request.
Both burgers are very good mind and knock the socks off anything Cardiff currently has to offer in my opinion.
There was talk a while back of a Beefy Boys in Cardiff, but this seems to have been well and truly put on the back burner. Shame that as I think it would be a fine thing (in the unit, opposite John Lewis, that Byrons pulled out of, perhaps) to have them set up shop in Cardiff . Unlikely, it seems, but one can hope.
Address: The Meat Boutique, Old Market, Hereford, HR4 9HU
Tel: 01432 359209
Website: Click here
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 12.00 – 21.30; Sun: 12.00 – 20.00.