An example of how to do a chain restaurant. Truly excellent.
This blog should be renamed Fatman'sbaphands because all I seem to do it go to burger restaurants. Perhaps it's a sign I have restricted tastes, or maybe it just backs up my theory that the burger is the safety net of foods. It's borderline impossible not to enjoy a burger, however bad it is. That's why McDonald's rages on. A crap burger is still a burger.
Byron, however, do very good burgers. The buns were straight out of a burger van, but the meat is well seasoned and cooked rare and the vegetables are fresh. The Byron sauce was almost completely flavourless, but the crispy bacon gave all it had. Strangely, the gherkin was served on the side and was cut rather thickly, so when you added it to the burger it was like two railway sleepers poking out the sides. But all in all a glorious, sticky mess. But the onion rings were the stars of the meal. Crispy, oily, herby and gooey on the inside they were a real treat. You could taste the bad, feel the calories, revel in your slowly closing arteries and bloated stomach.
But even the onion rings couldn't hold my attention for long. Byron does a spectacular job of seeming personal and unique despite being an enormous, faceless chain. This Charlotte Street "offer" as they say in the business, is in a converted pub. During it's time as a boozer is musty have been quite a dingy dive. It's long and thin. It's windows hardly let any light in. You can imagine opening the door onto old men in flatclaps, who cover their eyes from the daylight, toothless mouths agape.
Now it's got white and black tiles, chrome around the bar, US-style booths and even, on the way to the loo, a walk way where you can look down on the diners. For some reason that pleases me, to see the balding patches of tubby men from an angle they never expected to have exposed.
But for all this there is one thing that makes Byron a GOOD chain, rather than just a chain. And that is the beer list - full of US and UK craft beers. Amercian IPAs, Hells lagers and porters. Whether they are matched to the food is hard to tell, but they all have high ABVs and more than coped with the strong flavours and textures of the meat. It's an exceptional touch, proof that a little thought can put you miles ahead of any competition.
It is, of course, being ahead of the competition that can send you spiralling off into faceless chain mode. But for now, Byron deserves it's success and it's crown as the best burger chain.