Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Is This The Best Burger in Reading?

Edited: You may want to read my updated post, on Handmade Burger Co in The Oracle at the Riverside...

Secretly, I've been on a bit of a mission to find Reading's best burger. And over the last few months, whenever I've gone out to lunch in  town I've always ordered a burger (honestly, the things I do for you guys...) so I can compare them and work out which is the best.

Now, before I reveal my overall winner, you need to know two things. The first is that I've not managed to get round to every single burger-serving restaurant in the town. I've been to the main ones most people would think of when they fancy a burger but may have missed other, up-scale restaurants that serve their own burgers. I'm working on that, and as I get around to more I'll post updates as I go along. (I haven't been to Brown's for example, but that's next on my list.)

The second thing you need to know is that when I visited these places I dined completely incognito. I selected the places myself and there were no invitations via restaurant owners or PR companies. I turned up and ate just as you would - no special service, no extra toppings, no being more careful about how they cook the burgers - nothing. So my views are completely unbiased and objective.

So, on to the burgers. *cue drum roll*.

Here is, in my view, Reading's best burger. Doesn't it look good?


And I ate it at Jamie's Italian, on the Riverside near the Oracle. Part of me hates to admit it, because I'm a bit wary of the celeb-chef restaurant chain thing, but it was brilliant. You get a seeded bun, with a burger made from British chuck and flank steak. A crispy slice of mortadella sits on the bottom and a slice of fontina cheese melts over the top of the burger. I loved the soft texture of the bun and the heat from the whole, green jalapeño chilli which lurks underneath. I now find I can't eat a beefburger without a few jalapeños tucked inside, otherwise I'm disappointed. They've also squeezed in some sticky balsamic onions and a slice of tomato as well as a bit of lettuce. The only annoying thing is that you don't get chips alongside it but have to order them separately, and at £10.95 per burger you'd expect the chips to be included. (If you like a bit of extra carb with your burger a portion of funky chips (tossed in garlic and parsley) will set you back an extra £3.25). But a gorgeous burger it is, with or without the chips.


And the ones that got away...

But I couldn't end there, without a run down of some of the other places I tried, and although many of them served great burgers, why I didn't think they made it to the top. I ate some truly awful burgers, and I don't want to name names here. Well not right now, anyway. But there were just a few that were pretty close calls and very nearly pipped Jamie to the post. The Giraffe Burger (Giraffe is just behind Jamie's) came a very close second but I think the bun let it down for me. It just seemed to lack the texture of Jamie's, and it did fall apart about half way through, meaning I had to resort to using my knife and fork. But the burger was meaty, and, unlike Jamie's you can choose what you want inside it and tailor it to suit your preference. Bacon, fried onions, chorizo sausage... you can pack quite a bit in there if you wanted to. And for £10.95 (you pay extra for the extra toppings) you get your fries in, too.


The Giraffe Burger - a very close second
After trying their steaks, I had high hopes for the burger at Miller Carter, but I was disappointed - the burger itself was fantastic (Miller and Carter cook meat very nicely indeed) but for me there weren't enough extra toppings. My £1 worth of added Stilton was modest - and I would have liked more mayo and lettuce to make the whole thing more juicy and moist.

I also went along to TGI Fridays. I tried their Jack Daniels burger - with a sweet Jack Daniels dipping sauce, the Black and Bleu - oozy blue cheese inside the bun along with the burger and a blue cheese dip; and the Monster Burger. The Monster is 12oz of beef burger with bacon, Colby cheese, Cajun-spiced onion rings, all squeezed into a bun with some salad (Yeah, I went OTT). But the best there was the Smokehouse - slathered in BBQ sauce, with salad, cheese and bacon. But although it was a perfectly good burger it didn't seem to have the distinct flavours and textures that the Giraffe and Jamie's Italian burgers had.

So, at least for me, Jamie's it was.

Do you eat in Reading? What's your favourite burger? Have you eaten a burger that's better than Jamie's? Let me know and I'll go and check it out!

Image of Jamie's Italian Burger provided by Jamie's Italian - with thanks.