St. Peter's burger, The Meating Room
Here in St Albans, the locals (well, me) occasionally refer to the Cursed Restaurant. It's a large, open space in the Maltings (the main shopping area). It's ever so slightly tucked away, but visible from a main road. And it's cursed. Ever since Deep Pan Pizza closed in the mid 90s, nothing has stuck, and the last two occupants have left the restaurant overnight, the tables still set for diners who will never come. I'm pretty desperate for an awesome Mexican to fill in the space (come on, Wahaca) but until then, it's empty.
There used to be another cursed space, near the clock tower. Restaurants would come and go. It's a (particularly awesome) Italian now, but for a few golden months it was a gourmet burger restaurant, and it was amazing... not just because they had a bring-your-own-bottle policy. And that was it for the St Albans burger movement. Apart from a few great pub burgers (forever weeping about Bar 62 closing their doors after this beauty), there's not been anything.
Until now! (Yeah, I was getting somewhere...)
It's easy to spot food trends by keeping an eye on what's happening in London. Burgers have been a big deal for a while now - I'm talking good burgers, you realise, not the crappy McDonalds kind - but these London trends take a while to infiltrate the rest of the country. I mean, I know people who only discovered pulled pork last year. For reals. Anyway, in the last few months, not one but two awesome burger restaurants have popped up in my little town. And you should visit them both!
The Meating Room
Props for the pun-tastic name, whatever the opposite of props is for the terrible website. Guys, sort it out. You can see the food menu here and the drinks menu here. The Meating Room specialise in a few, great burgers - they keep it simple, but tasty. The rosemary salt chips are amazing, the meat is perfect, and the milkshakes are excellent. I had 'The Meating Room' burger, which has pretty much everything - cheese, bacon and an awesome BBQ-chilli sauce. They use turkey bacon - not pork - and all their meat is Halal. Also, there's a salted caramel milkshake. And a blueberry one. YUM!
I highly recommend a visit because their food is awesome - if you just want a good, simple burger, you'll love this place. However, their online presence really lets them down. They're in an easy-to-miss position, so they need all the help they can get. All their website needs is the 'grand opening' image replacing with the menu pdf (that's honestly all anyone wants to see) and the person running their twitter needs to learn not to reply to every tweet with a fullstop at the start. Your followers don't want to see your conversations, they want to hear about your product! (The food is really good though)
The Meating Room burger and salted caramel milkshake
Relish opened a couple of months after TMR, and it's a very different burger joint, which I approve of - it's great to have two restaurants offering the same product in very different ways. Whereas TMR only has a handful of simple burgers done well, Relish has a much more extensive menu, including some more unusual items. For instance, on our first trip Matt had the Thai fishcake burger which he was really impressed with, and I had the Greek which was lovely (although I wish the burger had been lamb).
We went back on Saturday night for Matt's birthday and both had the Yanky which was EXCEPTIONAL - one of the best burgers I've ever had. The burger was juicy and well cooked, the BBQ sauce was just sweet enough, and the crispy onions added amazing texture, even up to the point where a burger is just mush that you're cramming into your face. Plus cheesy onion fries (yum) and the peanut butter and jelly hard shake (double yum). Next time, it's going to have to be the ribs. Or the sliders! It's very, very nice. You should go! I loved their whole presentation, especially the milkshakes in mini milk bottles - adorable AND practical AND peanut butter...
I have no doubt that the creators of Relish have done their research. They know what's popular right now - the sides include sweet potato fries, for instance - and there are lots of hard shakes on the menu too. They also have an extensive brunch menu - everyone loves brunch right now! They're in a more pedestrianised area than TMR, and their online presence does a lot to support that with a great website (although I have to point out that 'menus' shouldn't have an apostrophe in it) and a decent twitter account. I didn't actually intend this to turn into a criticism of their marketing and social media, but I can't help but compare when one does it so much better than the other!
From top: Thai fishcake burger, Big Fat Greek burger, peanut butter milkshake, sweet potato fries and crispy cheesy onion fries
The Yanky burger, Relish