It would have escaped few people’s notice, but if you like your vittles within a bun, and accessible to the mouth with just one hand, you’re living in the right place.
Many of the London-based casual dining burger chains seem to reach for Brighton at an early stage in their development outside of the capital, while a number of homespun purveyors of premium patties have carved out their own legions of loyal followers, and the pubs of B&H aren’t exactly averse to a burger or two on the menu.
Honest Burgers would at first glance seem to come from the first category, after initial and widespread success in London, they have opened their first Brighton restaurant in Duke Street But this likeable and growing chain has plenty of BN1 in its backstory.
The founders met while studying in Brighton and working at Riddle and Finns, and their first foray as Honest Burgers began with a stall at Brighton Food Festival in 2010.
Nine years on they have an impressive 31 branches, and have snapped up the prime location, vacated by Pascere in December.
The interior looks and feels good, giving off the vibe of a foody pub, with light woods, lots of white and natural sunlight during the day and warm lighting at night for a cosier atmos.
There’s also an outside seating area for those who want to be bang in the middle of the glitz and glamour of the Lanes while chomping their burgers or drinking.
The menu is straight-up, and, as intended, honest, with one price covering the burger and chips. And in comparison to the aforementioned casual dining chains the prices are also good, with a standard burger and chips priced at £9 and a few pounds more for others.
In a crowded market Honest Burgers has successfully created something new and do it superbly well.
The concept, in a nutshell/bun, is the kind of burger you’d eat in your Wellies at a British Farmers’ Market, rather than American style. It’s an excellent identifiable idea, but if anything, the burgers are even better on the plate.
Made entirely from Highland Beef, using only cuts of chuck and rib cap, and simply seasoned and flavoured with just salt and pepper on the flat plate grill.
The result is a peerless patty. A perfect crust on the exterior giving way to a tender interior and mammoth meaty hit.
They have a great juicy texture, which is due partly to a higher fat content of the beef cuts, and the quality of the livestock
The flavour is especially good when cooked medium-rare – a privilege accorded to Honest Burgers because their meat is finely chopped and not minced, and comes from their own butchery.
I’m nobody’s fool and chose the surf and turf option of the Brighton Burger.
In addition to the previously discussed wonder burger you’ll find a beer-battered cod’s cheek, Mayfield Smoked cheese, shoestring fries, lettuce and homemade tartare sauce within the bun.
Sure there’s plenty going on in there, but the combination of the crunch of the cod goes swimmingly with the beef and is tied together with the creamy tartare.
The showstopping burger was originally intended to be on the menu only for a short time but has so far been retained because of its popularity. Let’s hope it’s given a permanent spot
Elsewhere on the relatively small menu there’s a chicken burger, two variants of veggie burger and one plant-based option. Two of the latter also found their way to our table. The plant burger was one of those remarkable new generation meat-style but meat-free creations, and one of the better examples we’d all tasted. While the fritter burger was a more traditional veggie burger, a Southern-Fried fritter with cheddar and the welcome extra hum of some homemade chipotle slaw.
Amid the meat and non-meat I glugged a Holler pale ale, “The Duke”, which the local brewer created especially for Honest Burgers, Brighton, while the ladies sipped some Honest Gin and tonics through straws.
For once in my life I’ve left the chips until last.
The Observer restaurant critic wasn’t far off when he described them as the ‘edible equivalent of crystal meth’.
They clearly make the effort on their crispy, triple-cooked, skin-on, chippies, dusted with salt and rosemary. Honest Burgers also go through the added aggro of avoiding frozen chips in favour of their own fresh variety and their endeavours are undoubtedly worth it.
The wonderful whiff of rosemary on hot chips is not to be sniffed at, their texture is great, and we flew through our portions in a blur of fingers and spuds.
Ultimately, all the extra touches make perfect sense – if, virtually, all you are offering to eat is burger and chips, both of those element better be pretty spiffing.
This is could be why Honest Burgers have, so far, proved such a success.
By concentrating on the two most important parts of the equation, bonzer burgers and consistently cracking chips, they could find themselves among Brighton’s favourite burger joints.
By Steve Holloway