Eating Out: Bunsen is for those times when all you want is a really good burger
6-8 Hill Street,
028 9031 2330
WHAT do you want on your burger? Cheese, onion and brown sauce, like a fine, upstanding, quietly heroic individual? Or an onion ring, a steak and kidney pie and a Vauxhall Corsa, like what seems to be an ever-growing section of the burger-scoffing population?
More, more, more, that’s how they like it. And that applies to burger places themselves, which are springing up all over the place, each taking greater pains than the last to set themselves apart as bigger, better or more “proper” than the next.
A step up from McDonald’s and Burger King, including in price, these upscale “craft” burgers are becoming almost as ubiquitous as craft beer. An awful lot of them go down the pile-it-high route, usually multiplying the meat content with additional pastrami or brisket or pulled pork on top of the burger.
All that has its place but sometimes all you want is a really good burger.
Bunsen are well established in Dublin, while they had also opened an outpost in Cork before turning their gaze north and landing in Belfast city centre.
The friendly, enthusiastic staff look perfectly suited to working in this sort of place – ie they’re young – and buzz around a room that with its dark wood, bare grey walls and metal-framed chairs is aiming squarely at stripped down, hipster cool.
Things are stripped down to the extent that a list of every bit of food they offer can fit on to a business card. It’s not often you can republish a menu verbatim but here goes: Hamburger: £5.95; Double: £7.95; Cheeseburger: £6.75; Double £8.75; Hand-cut fries: £2.50; Shoestring fries: £2.50; Sweet potato fries: £3.95.
That’s it. Burger and chips.
There are soft drinks and milkshakes, as well as a selection of beers (craft obviously included) and a few wines.
You can get any combination of the standard burger toppings – lettuce, tomato, onion, (very good) gherkins, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise – but you’ll still just end up with burger and chips. In this case, lucky you.
It’s all about the burgers here. If you’re going to operate such a limited menu you have to get the star attraction just right. No margin for error. They’ve piled even more pressure on to themselves by fixing the default setting for the burgers at medium. A burger that’s pink inside is an unforgiving beast. The meat needs to be very good to pull off that trick, and it obviously is here.
They will cook them through if you’d prefer, which asks more of the burgermaker’s skill in finding the right combination of cuts and fats to stop you thinking you’re chewing on acute sadness inside a bap.
These burgers were beefy, juicy and, in the case of the double, fantastically unwieldy.
The cheese is nothing special but perfectly fine and, like it, the roll plays its, er, role, perfectly, and they’re mercifully not brioche, which far too many new, hip burger “joints” (God help me) seem to think is the best bread for the job.
If you want something rich and sweet which, if it’s any sort of decent brioche, will be too light to maintain the structural integrity necessary to hold a burger, knock yourself out.
This one holds its own both in flavour and construction.
The skin-on chips, both “shoestring” that were really more like the thin sort you’ll find in McDonald’s et al (not a bad thing) and the thicker hand-cut, were hot, crisp and actually tasted of potato, especially the hand-cut, which also boasted a treasure trove of crispy bits.
The sweet potato ones most other people seemed to be getting looked good too. Maybe next time.
There will be a next time, where the chocolate or strawberry milkshake could get a spin, though the vanilla example would take some beating.
If you don’t want a burger, Bunsen isn’t for you and you’d be better off heading somewhere else. If you don’t want one of these burgers, then burgers just aren’t for you.
Double cheeseburger £8.75
Shoestring fries £2.50
Hand-cut fries £2.50
Gamma Ray beer £5
Vanilla Milkshake £3.95