Pretentious Burger

Alexander’s plea is definitely from the heart – or at least from the mouth. He asks:

“Where can I get a decent burger in Greenwich?

Since GBK opened a few years ago it seems every pub and restaurant Greenwich has opted to try and replicate their Tower Of Babel style burger. The Greenwich Union was one of the first to follow suite with their 28 day Angus burgers for a whopping £12, a price almost as difficult to swallow as the burger itself, but now everywhere seems to be doing it. The last bastion of a normal burger, the Richard I, recently started a GBK style menu as well.

It would be nice to be able to take the kids somewhere to eat a burger in pleasant surroundings without them having to deconstruct their burger each time because it’s often brought out bigger than their tiny little heads. The Wimpy was a good stop gap measure for a while but now even that’s gone, so it’s almost a case of McDonalds or bust.

Burgers should be flat and round, not tall and impossible to consume without having to unhinge your jaw. Would you or any of your readers know where to buy a good old fashioned unpretentious flat burger in Greenwich these days? Preferably in a pub with a beer garden.”

Can anyone help Alexander and his tiny-mouthed offspring? I confess that I have eaten in GBK the grand total of once, for precisely that reason. It tasted just fine – actually rather good, but the towering pile of food was a nightmare to eat. It’s definitely a knife and fork job, which would normally not be a bad thing – a very civilised way to eat. But as I plunged the knife in, despite trying to hold it together with the firk, the innards all shot out across the table, ease of propulsion lubricated by the various pickles and sauces inside.

I have no idea where you can get a ‘normal’ burger these days. Comet to think of it I haven’t seen one of those burgers of my childhood for years. All the pubs seem to want to reconstruct the Gherkin, and most trendy restaurants are firmly in tower-building mode with everything from potatoes to carrot-batons. I guess it’s just the fashion, though I’m happy to say that there do seem to be moves against the stack-’em-high construction methods of posh food these days.

My review of the new brewery is still to come (which ticks the pub-garden box with a giant green tick), but I didn’t have a burger there, and didn’t see anyone else having one. I know that someone emailed me to say they had had one there. They omitted to mention the size of it, but since the price was a bit of a whopper, I’m suspecting another tower-job.

I went to the Wellcome Collection the other day. They currently have an exhibition (gruesome as only the Wellcome guys can do it) about obesity (curiously they also have one about personal identity – perhaps the two aren’t that far apart) and there was a display about ‘ideal’ portion sizes and ‘average’ portion sizes – a chilling little cabinet indeed. We tend to blame this obsession with supersizing on the big chains – but here we’re sitting firmly in ‘gourmet’ territory. The food might be better quality – but is there just too much of it?

31 Comments to “Pretentious Burger”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Seems like only a month ago you were knocking 'Nouvelle cuisine Schmouvelle cuisine' (, now all of a sudden portions are too big and too expensive.

    As far as the price goes, you get what you pay for. The menu at the Old Brewery is very competitively priced. There is a range of interesting dishes that you don't see in other places, as well as stuff like burgers for the terminally unimaginative. They are well made with good quality ingredients at a price that reflects the quality of the staff, the ingredients and the surroundings. The day before eating there for the first time I ate at a restaurant that was priced the same where the quality of the food was far worse. If you want a cheap burger you'll get worse ingredients, no service, exploited staff and plastic surroundings. The new Meantime place plugs a gap in the Greenwich eating market between the low end chains (inlcuding RBK) and the upper end places like the Spread Eagle. Enjoy it, it's great.

  2. Dave says:

    Burgers are not made with fillet steak….. £11 for a burger at The Old Brewery is over priced.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What about Trafalger Road/East greenwich ? There are plenty of cafes there, addmittedly – not much beer or garden space available.

  4. Alexander says:

    I also forgot to mention my other pet hate which is being asked how I'd like my burger done, to which I reply "cooked", and then I'm the one that gets the look like I'm talking nonsense.

    When the Richard I reopened after being refurnished it did great home-made burgers which you could buy straight from the BBQ in the garden for about £7. I'm hoping they start offering that again this summer.

    I'll probably be returning to The Hill and The Plume Of Feathers to see what they're like these days. The Prince Albert, which seems to be stopping and starting a lot recently, will also be worth a look when that reopens. I always thought it would be a great venue for the alternative denizens of Greenwich, purely for the name alone.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Try the Green Pea, Hardy's Pub.
    Unfortunaltely the small garden area is now given over to the smokers but the restaurant is welcoming to little 'uns.

  6. Michael says:

    Damn has the Wimpy gone….the last of the old style Wimpy bars. My mum's over for Easter and we spoke about having Wimpy's for a treat (may sound strange to you but it's a tradition). Both gutted.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Star Burger on Woolwich Road, opposite where The Woolwich used to be (apologies – the nearest junction name escapes me).

  8. GG says:

    Work for, or connected to, the Old Brewery Anonymous (1st)? ;-)

  9. Anonymous says:


  10. Wolfe says:

    Michael, you can still keep your old mum happy but you'll have to go to Woolwich. There's still an old-style Wimpy in the main square across from the giant TV screen…

  11. Pedro says:

    Yes, anonymous #1, that sounds a little like a press release!

    The Old Brewery is fantastic; terrific beer, beautiful surroundings, a real asset to Greenwich and a far better place to eat than GBK. But let's not pretend the food ain't a little bit pricey (doesn't apply to everything there – coffee, for instance, is cheaper and better than Rhodes which has recently hiked some prices).

  12. Anonymous says:

    I'm 'anonymous #1'. I have no connection whatsoever with the ORNC or Meantime – just a satisfied punter. If my writing is like a press release well, I guess that's something I have to work on.

    But I stand by what I wrote.

    Name me one place where you can get comparable beer in such good surroundings and food of that quality at a lower price, and I might accept that it's overpriced.

  13. Julian Oliver says:

    My own theory with GBK is that the pile of novelty ingredients is there to disguise the cooking of the burger itself. There is a fine line between "char-grilled" and "burned". I sent back the first one a couple of weeks ago, which was well into charcoal territory; its replacement was passable but no more than that. Never thought I would regret the departure of Burger King from the centre of Greenwich!

  14. the hobbit says:

    there are any number of faceless kebab shops on trafalgar road that will serve a flat, limp burger with minimal taste – ideal at 2am staggering home. However, most pubs have happily recognised that customers prefer better quality hand made burgers which are much thicker. Admittedly it is a also a reason to charge more but surely overall a change for the better?

  15. hitherqueen says:

    You could always make & cook your own…

  16. Ruth Nia says:

    Not sure why anyone would want to go back to the days of flat, bland burgers. Seems like a strange request. Half the fun of a decent burger is in the eating, who wants to eat a burger primly? Break it up, pop it in your mouth in morsels and get your hands dirty. I personally like my burgers pretty rare, so am always pleased when I am asked how I want it cooked.

    As for the Old Brewery, I think it's great. And a much needed addition to the Greenwich culinary scene. For fab ingredients, amazing setting and decent service you can't expect to pay burger chain prices. Let's stop moaning and enjoy!

  17. Ruth Nia says:

    ps. Nothing wrong with the way you write 'Anonymous'. I thought your contribution was great.

  18. Oliver says:

    As someone who can't eat much wheat, I get my GBK burgers without a bun, which makes a knife and fork pretty much obligatory; if eating the full up version is a problem, try bun-free as an alternative. Another alternative would be to try the buffalo burger with minimum garnishings – can't be that big, can it?

  19. GG says:

    On the subject of Burger King…anyone know what is planned for the old site (after the sad, cough, cough, departure of Pizza Luna).

    They seem to have the lampshades lit up behind the boards so I guess it is imminent.

    I did read Frank was opening up a fish and chip restaurant in central Greenwich – does anyone know if he has bought this place up?

  20. アダルト被リンク says:

    That's interesting, especially the pretentious burger.

  21. Tim says:

    Burger + Kids + Garden = Pilot

  22. Johnson Ruin says:

    Have to say I agree with Anonymous 1. My first visit to Old Brewery was the best dining experience I've had in Greenwich. Lovely, tasty food, with great beer and impeccable, very friendly service.

  23. Rod says:

    "did read Frank was opening up a fish and chip restaurant in central Greenwich – does anyone know if he has bought this place up?"

    My information is that he is converting the Cricketers into a chip shop. I shall say no more, lest I let myself down by swearing

  24. Royal Hill Rover says:

    Might be worse Rod, he might be thinking of setting up a Polynesian-themed chip shop.

    Also, to join in the chorus aboutthe Old Brewery – its great, the staff are great, and the burger while pricey is very nice indeed and the accompanying chips the best I've had for a long time.

  25. Alexander says:

    I'm not sure why a flat burger equates to a bland burger. Is it not possible to have a flat home-made burger without being bland? What has shape got to do with taste? How long will it be before pizza stops being flat and round? It's almost as if they're obliged to make 'ball-in-a-bun' burgers so as to inform the customer that the 'home-made' line on the menu isn't a lie. "Look! We really did make it ourselves! Look at the unstandardised shape!"

    My Dad used to take me to McDonalds and Wimpy when I was younger (this was before Burger King was around), which always seemed like a treat, but I think I'm just too middle class to go there other than in an emergency these days. I don't think Star Burger or McDonalds have the same kind of 'family restaurant' feeling that similar places had 30 years ago.

    I'll be making my first trip to the Old Brewery (Restaurant) this Friday so will be reserving judgement until then, although I won't be having a burger as going out to a restaurant in the evening and having a burger seems awkwardly wrong.

    Which is essentially the entire problem I have with gastropub burgers – they've taken what is essentially a convenience food (in the strictest sense of the phrase) and made it inconvenient. The idea of going to a restaurant and ordering a burger without a bun just seems ludicrous – that's just your steak that somebody's messed with.

    It seems that the answer is obvious though – the next time I'm asked how I'd like my burger cooked I'm just going to have to specify "flat and round".

  26. Anonymous says:

    having visited the old brewery in the evening, the food is excellent as is the beer and the ambience.

    Staff are attentive and courteous. You should pay this a visit. The problem may be in the summer as the bar area is quite small.

  27. Anonymous says:

    try the plume of feathers
    handmade but very nice!

  28. Alexander says:

    I tried the Old Brewery on Friday. The food was very good, as was the service, although both were still a little rough around the edges. We averaged £37 a head for a 3 course meal. It's up there with restaurants like Inside and Spread Eagle (and the Rivington I suppose although I never really enjoyed the food there).

    Back on the subject of burgers, a friend of mine pointed me at a picture of a burger she took at the Richard I in 2008 (as she's a reviewer), when they were simple, homemade and tasty! Quite different from the babel burgers on offer at the moment.

  29. Dancinbean says:

    I'm afraid I can't help with recommending a place but I will recommend steering clear of Richard 1 since my initial foray in their new menu resulted in two returned meals and a dressing down in the reasonably busy bar from the manager because I had the audacity to complain.

    I'm not even a fussy eater, and have never returned food in my life but if you're going to describe over the top burgers and charge me 9 quid for them then at least make sure they consist of all the parts your menu describes!

    Having visited the pub and enjoyed their garden on more hands than I could blurrily see I will never go there again.

  30. Max says:

    This comes a little late but I think I have a solution to the mountain sized burger fiasco. The kings arms serve a ‘burger platter’ which is essetially 8 or so mini cheese and bacon burgers in mini baps, served with salad and onion rings. £9.99, but one portion will serve two.

  31. Charlotte says:

    I feel obliged to comment and share my love for The Union, it is quite simply the best burger in Greenwich. Try it