I freely admit to loving a good burger (and loathing a poor “ice hockey puck” one) and I am quite particular about my burgers.
I generally like them pink, despite Environmental Heath’s dire warnings of imminent death or zombie mutation should you look at a burger with an interior that had even the slightest ting of pink.
I have double checked, based on my pink burger predeliction, for signs of zombification and worryingly my skin tone is rather pallid (think the Farrow and Ball colour chart calls it “Never sees the sun ting of blue“) and (as people who read the blog know) I do rather moan (about stuff) a bit. Could my hair falling out in all the places it should be located and growing ferociously in all the places it shouldn’t be a sign of zombification due to my fondness for a pink burger, I wonder? I could be the new EH poster boy to scare the kids – “Eat pink burgers and you could look like this!“).
I also (unlike my blog posts) like my burgers to be unfussy, without superfluous additions.
To me the more toppings, salad (tomato – begone from my burger, foul desecrater of the bun), wierdo donut buns etc. a burger has the less likely you are to get a decent patty and after all that is what a burger is all about. The bun is really only there for ease of getting the patty to the gob without the hassle of cutlery or greasy fingers.
If the size of the whole shebang, with a bazillion topping et al, is such that it is topping out above the Burj Al Arab and is impossible to maneuvere to the gob, let alone be capable of getting a decent bite (bun and all) out of it, without the whole thing shooting out the back as a sloppy mess (not the prettiest analogy, but needs must 😱) then it all becomes pointless frippery (or should that be sh*ttery). This sort of stuff just detracts from the beauty of the main event patty (like putting a wig, sunglasses and a flowery top on the Venus de Milo).
This bring me to Hench, the hottest new burger joint in town. As per usual I am light years behind the cool kids in terms of visiting, but from what I have read it sounded like it would be worth the wait. It seems my tardiness actually worked in my favour, in terms of my simple burger tastes, as a basic cheese burger has been a relatively recent addition to their menu.
It is located in what I would call an old fashion “no frills, if you want a cocktail you can smirn off” kinda boozer.
The decor and the menu can be described as interesting for quite different reasons,
with the former a bit of a shrine to boxing and, in particular, the boxer Jim Driscoll (I am a big fan of the noble art)
and the latter setting off a fews alarm bells in my head.
“The Mighty Cardiff, ……” , for instance, uses the loathsome phrase “It’s banging” (what does that mean? Don’t know), whereas the Beirut badboy (a unisex burger, being Hezbollahers) seems a bit OTT with hummus, crispy chickpeas, Lebanese slaw and an RPG-29.
I am also not really a fan of the loaded fry fad. What I want from a chip/fry is a really crisp, crunchy exterior and a soft fluffy interior, with a simple seasoning of salt (and plenty of it), vinegar and/or a decent mayo. Anything else (at least to me) usually just detracts from the chip. With loaded fries, you all too often just get a soggy, confused, mess.
I do make an exception when it comes to poutine, but a vegan one (as is the case here) seems to me to be a potential hate crime against the people of Canada (particularly with the reference to “cheeze“, bless you)!
At first blush there appear to be no veggie/vegan burgers. I suspect that the vegan fraternity’s renowned extreme reticence in terms of discussing anything vegan related means no one bar me will have brought it up before 🙄. Never fear, however, as tucked away in the bottom left hand corner of the menu is the following:
Symplicity patties (no idea if good or not) seem to assudiously avoid using a fake meat moniker (my trademark for “beleaf” is pending – actually not bad, off the cuff, I thought) whereas VFC uses the ghastly chick*n moniker.
Back to the beef burgers, I am a man of simple tastes (some would say just simple) and as such like a pretty plain burger. Put cheese (of the American plastic variety) on it, a burger sauce and put it in a potato roll and it is generally done for me. You can even add a pickle, if you like.
Here the patties are of the smashed variety, which lack the pink interior I usually crave, but this is made up for it by the benefits of extra flavour brought through the application (if done properly, rarely is if truth be told) of the maillard reaction (and the lack of Environmental Heath stormtroopers raiding the place and giving it a Mos Eisley star(wars) rating).
Based on my simple burger tastes, I went for the “Straight up” (£8). Apart from it being in the post title, this (to me) bare bones cheese burger is the best way to reap the flavour benefits of a smashed patty.
Good looking beast this,
on both the outside and the inside.
The beauty was in it’s simplicity with just the bun (excellent squigability), bovril mayo, two gnarly patties and copious amounts of gooey, creamy, tangy (in a guilty pleasure unabashed ultra processed, way) cheese.
The patties were rightly the star of the show, with a crisp caramelised exterior with lots of flavour bomb gnarly bits. Nice fat to lean ratio that kept the thin smashed patties nice and juicy.
The beef was top notch with that rich butteriness, just a touch of funk and bag loads of umami you get from the quality (dry aged here I suspect) stuff.
I loved the fact that this burger was all about the beef.
Despite the double (beef juice oozing) patties and copious amounts of gooey cheese, the bun did its job and maintained structural integrity admirably until the last delicious bite. Thankfully size and bun squishability allowed easy access to the gob, without the need for unhinging the jaw (or committing the heinous crime of cutting it in half using 😱 cutlery).
I really liked the gherkin and pickled red cabbage on the side,
which brought a pleasing acidity to proceeding and acted as a nice counterpoint to the richness of the burger.
All in all this was a very good burger.
On the sides front, I didn’t fancy the fries with jerk seasoning (assume can have sans if ask) and thought I would maintain the KISS approach by going for the chubby chips (£3.50), which I thought came unadorned.
As it happens these came with said jerk seasoning in any event (probably would have gone for the fries had I known).
Decent, rather than stellar, chips these.
Some nice crispy edges and a fluffy interior on most, although a few were a touch more flabby (still don’t really get skin on chips, if I am honest). The jerk seasoning was nice, adding a touch of fruity piquancy without being overpowering, but made it all a bit drying on the palate and I wished I had ordered one of the mayos for dipping and lubrication purposes.
Next time will either do that or just go for the fries (plain) and avail myself of the places extensive condiments offering.
As I am a pig, and to rub J’s nose in the fact she couldn’t make it due to pesky work, I ordering the blowtorched corn on the cob (£4) as a side.
Very nice these, with the sweetness of the corn working well as against the heat of the chilli butter (not sure where the advertised coriander came into play) and and the smoke infused salt. Not convinced it needed the mayo on top
Be warned the cobs were ferociously hot (temperature rather than spice), which somewhat took me by surprise on my first bite. Luckily I maintained composure, rather than spitting out the “your mouth has just been blow torched” hot corn on that first bite!
Drinks wise I was driving so no booze for me. The selection looks limited on the beer
and wine front.
I initially mistaken read the last bottle on right as “Dead Man’s Dick” (very hard to swallow, I suspect). On closer inspection it turns out it was actually Dead Man’s Dice (as a malbec it would probably work well enough with the beef here).
I had a coke, which was wet and brown, but thankfully had some carbonation (a rare thing when poured from the tap/ shower head).
This was definitely one of the best burgers I have had in Cardiff, with the smashing of the patties doing its job in extenuating the flavour of the top quality beef.
Whilst some of the burger combo here look at bit “fussy” for my tastes, I would put this “Straight up” burger in Cardiff’s top tier (along with the Celt burger from Ansh, high praise indeed).
The price for my burger, chips and corn on the cob was £15.50. In reality I didn’t really need the corn, as the chips and burger were more than enough (portion sizes are generous). When I went to pay they had left the latter off the bill. It is hard enough for businesses in hospitality these days, with inflation, energy (that was initially auto corrected to enemy which seemed quite apt) prices and tax (the recent increase in corporation tax is a killer for small businesses), to name but a few, so rather than be a sneaky shxt and keeping stumm I said I also had the corn and as I ate it it was only fair that I should pay for it. I found it a bit sad that the response to this was “That is very nice of you to be so honest“. I mean honesty really should be the absolute default position and with the razer thin margins in hospitality this can be the difference between a tiny profit and a big loss.
Address: Royal Oak Pub, 200 Broadway, Cardiff, CF24 1QJ