Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
I have always been a fan of Honest Burgers, having blogged about one of their London outlets way back in 2014 (in the early days of the blog) and the post title refers to me being rather pleased they have arrived due to how they cook their beef burgers.
Back then I really liked the quality of the meat in the burgers, that all the burgers are priced with chips included and that they cooked their beef patties with a blushing pink core. This was all brought together by a nice relaxed ethos and always a nod to locality (in Bristol they work in collaboration with Westcombe Dairy and the fabulous Pilton Cider). In short it ticked a lot of my boxes.
From humble beginning, with Festivals to a bricks and mortar outlet in Brixton Market, their rise to a multi – outlet “chain” has been inexorable. Since my blog post in 2014 they have expanded considerably, now having over 30 branches (predominately in London, but with branches also outside of the Big Smoke).
The Honest Empire (something rather dystopian sounding about that) now includes a newly opened Cardiff branch.
Many deride the expansion of burger chains and indeed (some) the proliferation of independent burger shops and I am certainly not a fan of the likes of Shake Shack and Five Guys (expensive for what you get, which is just not very good in my opinion), but I have no qualms as to a new burger joint opening in Cardiff city centre if (and it is always a big if) it is a good one.
Be it chain or indie my key concern is “Is it any good?”. If you start small and are successful enough to expand and maintain quality then good on you I say.
With the end of Burger Theory’s residency at Kongs and Hoof moving out of the town centre (yet to try the latter’s new creations at their Richmond Road base within the relocated Sticky Fingers – reports from reliable sources are very good though) the city centre is if anything (to my mind) a bit light on the (decent) burger front.
From previous experience I have been impressed by the Honest offering, so what did I make of the new one in Cardiff. Has its quality and charm been maintained or has its expansion led it down the route, all to often of chains, of bean counters (who care not a jot about the food, but rather solely about the bottom line) running the show?
Located on the newly developed strip of shops on St John Street (along side the soon to open Pho and Botanist and the already open Mowgli Street Food), it has a relatively unassuming exterior that at first sight suggests a rather small space.
Once you wander through the door it goes back a bit but is not that big, with seats down the back
and to the front. Actually not that many covers.
It has quite an curious mix of cosy and industrial to it.
The menu is fairly stripped back with 4 beef burgers, 2 veggie ones, a chicken burger and a local special (the “Cardiff”), which uses local produce in the form of Hafod cheddar and Tiny Rebel beer braised leeks (would be nice if they could use Cardiff Salad Garden stuff in this burger as that is super local and delivered by bike). In addition, there is a rotating special which on the date of my visit was the rather interesting sounding “Good Karma”
Whilst fried chicken (including in a bun) is very much my thing at the moment, one of the real attractions for me of Honest is they cook their burgers pink as standard (you can, of course, request them more well done).
Due to strict H&S rules (set out in a 38 page document!), a pink burger is increasingly a rare beast (eating one would seemingly trigger a World War Z style apocalypse according to some), but Honest (with their own butchery) are able it seems to meet the rather draconian requirements that need to be in place to allow their burger to retain a bit of pink.
I can understand why smaller operations don’t do this as it comes at no small cost and a great amount of ball ache (I would imagine), but I think Honest should be applauded for taking this less than easy route to give us, that rarest of things these days, a rare(ish) burger.
As I prefer a beef burger pink, I decided to “chicken out” and go for one of their beef offerings.
Whilst tempted by “the Cardiff”, I went for the Tribute (£11.50 including chips), which is effectively a bacon and cheese burger sans Honest’s usual onion relish (and plus a few added extras).
Nice looking plate, with a decent sized burger and a generous portion of chips.
The bun had a nice squishability that enabled a full bite of the patty and all to be taken. Said bun wasn’t at all pappy or too sweet and most importantly held together until the end. Ony issue I had with it was it was perhaps a touch greasy.
Under bonnet the centre piece (as should always be the case – can’t be doing with millions of whacky toppings) was the patty. Nice char on it, if lacking some of the caramelised knobbly bits you get with a smashed burger.
Nice yielding texture and a properly beefy hit as I bit into it, revealing a gratifying pink interior.
Nicely seasoned, this was a good burger with the bacon (not too crisp), the burger sauce (not too sweet) and the veggies (nice and crisp, including some good pickles) all adding nicely to the mix. The only let down was a seeming paucity of gooey American cheese.
The beef was top knotch stuff, living up to the blurb in the booklet on the table.
My friend went for the standard honest burger (£8.50 inc. chips) and added cheese (£1 extra) to it.
With a better covering of cheese than mine she enjoyed her burger, although she thought there was a bit too much of the onion relish for her tastes (I tried a bit and found it a touch too sweet).
Again a nicely pink interior and a very nice bit of beef in the patty
As mentioned chips come as part of the price with each burger and these were nice and crisp on the exterior with a soft fluffy interior (lots of nice scraps in there).
The rosemary salt on the chips was less pungent than I remember (a good thing as too much rosemary can make things taste a touch soapy, at least to my palate). Very pleasant, but they did have the effect of making me quite thirsty (a deliberate ploy, I wonder), which leads me rather nicely on to the drinks.
A fairly short and succinct list, it comes with a nod to local producers, with a gin from Hensol Castle Distillery and various beers from Tiny Rebel (interesting this with their Cardiff bar, which sells burgers, a mere stone’s throw away) including a beer specially made for Honest by Tiny Rebel in the form of the Church St. Pale.
On the wine front they have a pretty limited choice. A sauvignon blanc from Spain, which I would bet money on being from Rueda (if so why not a verdejo from there, a grape which is know as the Spanish sauvignon blanc), a French rosé and garnacha also from Spain. If the latter is from Borsao, which it was when I visited five years ago in London, then the mark up is just about OK as it retails at £6.95 and is £20 on list here.
If am honest I am very wary of buying wine where no details as to the year or (more importantly) the producer are given. As explained in my post on Fly by Night the retail price of Spanish garnacha wines can vary massively, as can quality. You therefore need to know what it is, including who makes it.
As it was a Friday, I had a cheeky half of the Church St. Pale (£2.95 for a half/£5.10 for a pint). Not sure personally why you get stung so much (proportionately) for a half as against a pint, with two halves equating to 16% more than 1 pint?
Decent easy drinking stuff this, which worked well to cut the richness of the patty and in quenching my thirst. Quite hoppy, with a touch of floral but not to potpourri levels, I thought.
My friend had an ice tea (£3). Made inhouse rather than bought in,
she said it was very nice.
Not sure what is wrong with using a proper glass for the ice tea, if am honest.
With the retreat back over the bridge of Burger Theory and Hoof (how the people behind it find the time for it and Nook, Ember, Dusty Knuckle and the soon to be Warden House is beyond me – starting to think @Cardiffbites clone theory is the only logical explanation) having moved out to Richmond Road, this to me is now the best burger joint in the city centre.
It is a chain and I know some people tend to rile against this, but it dishes up a good overall product. Be it independent or chain, that’s gotta be a good thing.
Good indies may be more prevalent than good chains, but (as a good chain) Honest should be applauded for producing good food and actively supporting local producers. I also really, really, like the fact that they serve their patties pink.
Price wise it aren’t cheap, but to me the price is justified. Their prices are in line with the likes of Shake Shack and Five Guys and the burgers are infinitely better to my mind.
We paid £27.50 (sans a tip) for two burgers and chips and two drinks. Interestingly on my visit back in 2014 the price of the standard cheese burger was £8.50 and for the Tribute was £10, so they have both gone up £1.50 in 5 years (not excessive I would say, but somewhat above inflation rates over the same period).
This place is also good if you are gluten intolerate with gluten free beer and buns (extra cost for the bun – a quid I think – I am afraid) available.
Would I go back? Yes. I had a very nice, cooked how I like it (pink), burger at a fair price (a lunch time offer would be nice mind – altough I suppose that could be the straight burger and chips at £8.50) and the place is conveniently located for me in terms of a work day lunch or food before an night out in town (the latter an increasingly rare event for me).
Hoof (on the very good authority that is Gourmet Gorro – need to get my arse over there) have upped the ante with their new burger and sides menu at Sticky Fingers (we also have Got Beef, Spit and Sawdust and Bwytiful in the burbs) and Honest’s arrival has certainly upped the game in the City centre burger wise.
If I’m “honest”, after the bad news of Burger Theory’s departure, I think this is good news on all counts if you are a burger fan.
Address: 10 Church Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BG
Tel: 029 2130 3446
Website: Click here (might be an idea to update photo on webpage 🤔)