Is there anything more honest than a burger? In these strange days there’s something reassuringly straightforward about a disc of minced beef in a bun. If that sounds up your street you’re going to enjoy Honest Burgers.
Except, the humble burger is increasingly, well, full of itself. Few burgers remain unpimped these days – from brioche buns to organic steak to all those add-one that make what was once something for blue-collar American workers to extract maximum calories from their meagre wages to an Instagram phenomenon.
Think slathering, melting cheese, crispy bacon like salty shard of toffee and all the trimmings. And unlike The Fast Food Outlet That Shall Not Be Named, the modern burger usually lives up to its portrait on the menu.
Honest Burger is such an establishment, where you can find thick, meaty patties complemented by a couple of choice ingredients. No nonsense. No jaw-breaking, record-breaking, belly-busting food challenges. And no hipster nonsense (you know who). Just some simple ingredients with a local bent.
Consider the Liverpool Burger: beef, halloumi, spring onion, sriracha mayo and lettuce. It’s be fair to ponder what’s scouse bout that, but that would be to reckon without a twist from local flavour vendors Hafla Hafla.
Beer comes from the Black Lodge microbrewery – no Pint of Non-Specific here, though there are gluten-free and low-alcohol options. The Bold Street Pale is brewed specially and there’s another Black Lodge guest on to boot. There’s Three Graces gin too – another local import.
It’s a smart and welcome move. Honest Burgers may be a national chain, but rather than arrive like an Independence Day saucer and fire out generic fare from a depot just outside Reading there’s a willingness to work with local businesses and spread some of the cash around.
The chips are hot, crispy, soft inside – they’re seasoned with rosemary salt. We’ve had them with beef and bacon gravy and we’ll have them again with beef and bacon gravy, dammit.
It’s not exactly Free State Kitchen but it’s a long way off the Byrons, Five Guys and Almost Famouses of this world. Of the better-burgers, Honest Burger’s food is at least on a par – and everything bar the buns is made by the business, rather than bought in. Even the rosemary-salted fries.
It’s a move that pays off. The chips are hot, crispy, soft inside – they’re seasoned with rosemary salt. Making your own fries comes at a premium but these overlooked sides get as much attention as the meat at Honest Burger. We’ve had them with beef and bacon gravy and we’ll have them again with beef and bacon gravy, dammit.
Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free, er, people are all catered for and there are half a dozen ‘core’ burgers but they change up the menu, with prices circa £9-13 for mains. A deal advertising 30% off for students Mon-Thurs was advertised on our visit.
When we went there was Masa Fried Chicken – the result of a colab with Mexican street food outlet that combined buttermilk-fried chicken thigh with bacon, American cheese, guava glaze, charred corn slaw, habanero mayo, lettuce and pickles. And that Liverpool Burger? Made with Hafla Hafla halloumi fries.
The restaurant takes up the entire site of the former Petticoat Lane, an unusual and intriguing indoor arcade of tiny independent shops. We imagine the arrival of a Tesco, McDonald’s or Nandos might have raised hell here. Not so with Honest Burgers. With a tasteful makeover, unfussy food and a sense that this national chain wants to work with the local economy – rather than against it – this is an import that doesn’t feel out-of-place on Bold Street, Liverpool’s homemade headquarters.
Honest Burgers100 Bold Street,