John Porter: Burger this, I'm off to the pub

Related tags Hamburger

It was - and I think it's important to name and shame on these occasions - at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Soho. We'd been to a show and Mrs P has...

It was - and I think it's important to name and shame on these occasions - at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Soho. We'd been to a show and Mrs P has been keen to try one of the new breed of upmarket burger joints for some time.

We walked into a three-quarters empty establishment to be greeted with a look of incredulity from the member of staff behind the counter, whose expression suggested we'd committed some hideous social faux pas​.

"I think we're only doing takeaway now," was her opening gambit. "I'll check." Given that we'd arrived 90 minutes before the published closing time, this seemed a bit extreme, but another member of staff emerged from behind the scenes and showed us to a table.

We duly ordered two burgers and chips - and I should point out that chips are a side order at these establishments at an extra cost of £2.65 a pop, not integral to the meal. "Do you want any sauces with the chips?" we were asked. Mayonnaise, we suggested.

With the exorbitant cost of a small bottle of lager and a glass of the house red thrown in, I parted with 27 quid at the till, and was sent back to my seat.

Ten minutes later, the two burgers arrived. Just the burgers, no chips and no drinks. "Enjoy your meal," said our server - the same young lady who had initially 'welcomed' us and taken our order minutes previously. I pointed out the missing elements.

Reluctantly, she went back to the till and checked our order. Forced to acknowledge that we had, indeed, paid for chips and drinks, they were unceremoniously produced. I asked about the mayonnaise. "Aha," she exclaimed, clearly pleased to have finally caught us out in our attempts to defraud her employers. "You didn't pay for mayonnaise."

I accompanied her back to the till, a further £1.50 changed hands, and a small pot of mayonnaise was produced.

The meal was, frankly, very ordinary. The burgers were good quality but indifferently cooked, and had been kept hanging around a little too long, leaving congealed meat juices on the plate. The chips were dry and lukewarm.

During our meal, if the conversation lapsed at any point we were able to listen to a Basil Fawlty vs Manuel-style exchange going on behind the till between the manageress and the girl who served us. The latter's faults were being pointed out in some detail, criticism which was perhaps justified, but not something that should ideally have been discussed in front of customers.

As I left, the best part of 30 quid lighter, I reflected on the fact that within a few minutes walk there were at least ten pubs where we could both have had a better meal, and in my case a decent pint of cask ale, and spent at least £10 less.

Burger that for a lark.

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