Hitting a new burger high? Hills, Brecon, South Wales.

Mrs. SF and I have conflicting theories as to the reasons for some of my blog posts being more popular (when I say popular, it is very much a relative thing) than others (discounting wine posts, which always bomb – I ain’t going to stop doing them you know). I believe (because I am a cynic and believe the worst in everything and everyone) me not liking a place makes a post more popular, whereas Mrs. SF (having a much less jaundiced view of the world) thinks popular post are nearly always burger related.

There is a bit of correlation here as I tend to reserve my ire for burger places (love a good burger, loath a crap one), but my view is that is purely coincidental.

Based on this post, we shall see who is right 🤔.

I have been meaning to try Hills in Brecon (as in making the trip up there) since, back in the dark days of lockdown (thankfully they seem eons ago and almost unthinkable now), when I had one of their make at home meals (and very nice is was too).

With my sister and brother in law touring Wales in a rather plush motorhome,

with a stop off near Brecon, this provided me with the perfect excuse to make the trip to sample Hill’s famed burgers (which have been subject to much acclaim from Cardiff’s bloggerati) cooked by someone who actually knows what they were doing (I actually thought my home made effort wasn’t bad at all).

Me and the boy (my dog Oscar – they are very dog friendly) were suppose to go up, but the boy had to have an operation and the cone of shame was not conducive to a road trip on a mega hot day (actually I am quite enjoying this summer if I am honest, despite the daily “we’re doomed, doomed I tell you ” weather forecasts, especially as I have transitioned to a more flexible working model so have more free time to enjoy it).

As a result (with Mrs. SF dog sitting – the boy and other dogs) I hopped into the mobile blast furnace (the aircon is a tad temperamental) aka the jalopy (an ancient Volvo I am intent on driving until the wheels eventually fall off – it is open to debate as to which will last longer me or said Volvo, with the Volvo odds on favourite) and headed North to them thar Hills.

A good hour or so drive (rather nice one, probably would have been even better if my aircon had been in full working order- on the plus side I probably sweated off a good few pounds pre my burger binge) from Cardiff, it is in the middle of nowhere with lovely views over towards the Brecon Beacons.

Nice and airy inside, with decent spacing between the tables and a fine looking bar.

It is clearly popular, as whilst I was waiting from my sister and her husband to arrive (they had cycled the 6 miles uphill from Pencelli  – the lunatics –  in the heat that day) multiple cars drove in and departed having been told they were fully booked (I had, by the time my sister and brother in law arrived, perfected my smug face).

So to the menu, which has an interesting mix of the classic (my usual preference) and the more adventurous/specials

I must admit a few item on the classics would be on more in my “adventurous” list, with me being firmly of the opinion that a burger that you can’t eat relatively easily with your hands is a very odd thing indeed (once you need cutlery, to (not) handle a burger, I am out). 

As a result the chips and gravy cheese burger (flying out of the pass on the day) was discounted (I love a good gravy, but not in 88°F + heat and not if it precludes me manhandling – not sure if allowed to say that anymore, with autocorrect, which seems to have re-awakened after dyslexia had pummelled it in to submission, actively hating that word 🤔 – my burger) and, whilst interesting sounding, I passed on the Juan Hilardo (I do like sobrasada, but find it can overwhelm other stuff) as I wanted the patties (they double up as standard here) to be the stars of my burger show.

The stuff coming to the open kitchen (as we perused the QR code menu) looked very promising.

To me the best burger combo is either a simple cheese burger (Juicy Lucy– why do so few places do these – or standard on top placky cheese) or perhaps a bacon and cheese burger (if I am feeling a bit of a fancy dan).  I know it sounds boring (I am a bit), but if done right these two are the heart and soul of what a burger should be (got to be all about the meat in the patty in my book, with toppings complimenting rather than overshadowing said patty(ies)). After much deliberation I decided to go full on “last days of Rome” and a bacon cheese burger (£13.00) was duly ordered.

My double patty bacon cheese burger was a thing of rare beauty. 

A decent seeded bun,  that did its job admirably in retaining structure until the bitter end, encased two gnarly patties, copious amounts of melted gooey cheese and a tangy burger sauce (not overly applied, which is good) and a couple of bacon rashers. The latter could perhaps have been just a tad crisper, if I was being a picky bugger (and oh I am, I really am).

The beef has a good dry aged touch of gameness to it, a nice loose texture and a decent carmelised crust.

We were told (on ordering) it was cooked medium well and when I asked if I could go rarer the answer was no (begone foul demon – I made that bit up, service was very good). Shame that as I am firmly of the view a quality burger is best served medium rare, but I understand that they don’t want the H&S stormtroopers vapourising the place using “You’ll get a zero star-killer base“. Having said that the quality of the meat shone through here, with the patties rightly the stars of the show. As such I didn’t really mind that they weren’t done my preferred medium rare.

My sister went simpler, going for a cheese burger. She cited her having too small a gob for anything too loaded, which (for those that don’t know my sister) is like an elephant claiming it has a button nose.

She then committed the heinous crime of using a knife to cut her burger in half, at which point I offered my brother-in-law free legal support in the impending divorce (grounds being present the minute she used cutlery 😱 on her burger).

Notwithstanding the knife crime (I had to go outside to compose myself), this was again a very good burger and whilst this may sound like heresey (“burn the Sadowitz“), I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think it was a better burger than mine san the bacon (and £2.50 cheaper at £10.50 to boot).

For reasons best known to himself, my brother in law decided to load up on the toppings and had a lamb kofta burger (£16.50).

Absolute beast of a burger this, with what looked like 4 patties (personally I think it could have done without the salad). He manfully tackled it head on and I have to say I was pretty impressed that he finished it before I did my (diminutive in comparison) cheese and bacon number (commendably with only about 500 napkins and without recourse to cutlery).

So burgers top notch, how about the sides?

Fries (£3.50) were ok (we wisely ordered one portion between the three of us),

but lacked the craved for crunch and golden hue. They could also have been more generously seasoned and I didn’t detect the promised rosemary element at all (was it the green bit on a few of the chips I wonder?).

Yet to understand the allure of skin on fries, other than to the person who would otherwise have to peel them I suppose.

A “crispy” potato spiral (£5.00), whilst impressive visually, again lacked crunch, seasoning and above all flavour,

even with the liberally applied yoghurty mint sauce. Bit disappointing this and the least favoured (and flavoured) dish for all three of us.

Fried chicken tender (£7.50), however were bob on.

Lovely crisp crumb coating (not claggy at all), with a touch of spicy heat and tender, well flavoured, chicken

It was all complimented by a good chilli (good heat, but not blow your socks off) sauce and a splash of cooling yoghurt and mint.

The final side in the form of lamb koftas (£8.50) perhaps suffered from our greed and by comparison to the chicken, as to me it was simple a dish too far and we didn’t finish it.

Even if I had still been ravenous, I not sure I would have entirely warmed to this.

Koftas have a bit of a first impression/image problem to my eye (💩), so they need to be really on the money flavour wise.

The spicing here was good, but the meat was ground too finely for my tastes, with it having a bit of a mealy texture in the mouth. They also (not their fault) suffered from having cooled a bit by the time we got around to them.

A bit of a mixed bag sides wise and I think we would have been better served by sticking to simply the fries and the fried chicken.

On the drinks front there is plenty of interest, with that classic burger combo (no it isn’t beer) in the form of shakes

One’s in yellow are vegan (why you would come here as a vegan is beyond me, but heyho).

On a side note, it has always rather perplexed me that restaurants, which are otherwise dedicated to meat, are now seemingly required to offer a vegan option. As vegans make up only a split pea over 1% of the population it can’t be for commercial reasons, otherwise liquidised food would be an ever present menu option with our ageing population, so it has never been clear to me why they do it (I do wonder how much vegan stuff is wasted at the end of each week)?

Coincidentally I have yet to find any vegan restaurants offering a meat option on their menus (or anyone who complains about meat being lacking in such places) and nor should they feel any pressure to do so in my opinion, but that works both ways doesn’t it? I suspect a lot of vegans would be more outraged by a vegetarian/ vegan restaurant offering a meat option than they would a steakhouse daining to shun offering a vegan option.

Anyway, back to the shakes (probably now a vegan with rage), I am a big fan of vanilla (I am very vanilla or as J would say beige).

No idea why vanilla is deemed to be “boring” with it being a killer spice in my view (with an interesting place in history, with Aztec nobility liking a dash of it in their hot chocolate before ritual sacrifice time prior to Cortes and his conquestadors’ arrival).

Much as I like a vanilla milkshake it was just too hot for a lactose overload, so I default to beer (hoping it would be Ice Cold in Alex cold – it was bloody hot). As I was driving, it was nice to see a decent selection of ultra low alcoholic ones.

.

The Drop Bear (a local brewery, specialising in non/very low alcohol beer, from Abergavenny) New World lager (£3.40) was a really nice drop.

Very thirst quenching (we got through six in all), it had a nice fruity hoppiness to it. Blind I would never have pegged this as 0. 5° abv and regardless I would drink this over the vast majority of the mass produced full alcohol lagers (utter phish). So nice for us drivers to have genuine options drinks wise and at £3.50 a can I thought it very fair value.

Enjoyed this, as by far the best ultra low alcohol beer I have tried to date and am quite tempted to order a case of these direct from the brewery.

I walked it off (well probably about 12 calories of it) along the rather lovely Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal,

whilst waiting for the bikers to arrive back in Pencelli (by the looks of it there is a rather nice pub backing on to the canal in the form of the Royal Oak).

The verdict

The burgers here are immense. My bacon cheeseburger had great quality meat and everything with it (bun, cheese, bacon – could have been a tad crispier, burger sauce) was pretty much bob on. My sister’s cheeseburger was even better.

Personally I think the side here are a bit weaker compared to the superlative burgers and next time I will probably stick to the fries (albeit they could be better) and the fried chicken (very good indeed) and pass on the potato spiral (bland) and the kofta (bit mealy in texture).

With the burgers and non – booze, booze, this place is a very impressive outfit and well worth the trip up from Cardiff (got the glorious Beacons to explore, while your are up there, as a bonus).

It isn’t particularly cheap, but nor is it really expensive. Our bill for 3 with too many sides and a fair few beers was just shy of £85 (of which £20+ was the drinks).

For the quality and quantity of what we had, burger wise, I think that is decent value for money (if stick to the burgers and fried chicken).

Compared to the slight disappointment of Smashed, this was much more like it. More money, but worth the extra cost and effort (to get there).

The details

Address: Bishops Meadow, Hay Rd, Brecon LD3 9SW.

Website: https://www.hillsbrecon.co.uk/

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