We like our colloquialisms and slanguage here at Northern Soul and, to be frank, the more vernacular the better. Happily, some experiences lend themselves to such vocab, and none more than a meal at Byron, Manchester’s newest hamburger joint. And so, this review begins with O.M.F.G.
This is a landmark for Northern Soul: our first five out of five for an eaterie. Don Giovannis came close with a four-knife ranking but Byron takes city centre scoffing to a whole new level.
We arrived at 6.20pm, ten minutes early. It was a heady Summer’s evening (please god, not the last one this year) and the tables outside were nearly full. Inside, it was equally busy but there was so much space between the tables, this wasn’t immediately noticeable. How uncommon – and how refreshing – for a restaurant to resist packing as many covers as possible into the establishment.
We were directed to a comfy booth (how great are booths?) and presented with a very simple, single page menu. While we checked out the seven burgers on the list, we also purused the drinks menu, noting a craft beer section created just for Byron. The waiter advised me to try the Camden Hells lager which tasted beautiful. The wine selection was presented in quite the perfect way: four red and four white, all assigned as good, better, great and best and available in all sizes. Genius.
We (I was dining with the editor of Northern Soul) decided to order some olives as well as tortilla chips served with tomato salsa and guacamole. These were the only starters, listed as “while you wait” on the menu. Our waiter explained that Byron concentrates on the burgers rather than complicating things, another welcome change to the usual restaurant fare. The salsa was very tasty and, while not a fan of avocado or guacamole, I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. The olives were of obvious good quality but could have used a marinade – garlic and chilli maybe – but, nevertheless, they were very good.
And so onto the main event. Helen went for the cheese burger with Monterey Jack cheese whilst I mixed two burgers on the menu: the chilli burger and the Byron burger, with the Byron sauce on the side as I don’t like mayonnaise. We discovered that Byron sauce is the house burger relish with capers, gherkins, tomato and mayonnaise. Although the description was not on the menu, our waiter was able to tell us without running off to ask the kitchen.
By now it was time for another beer. I was pointed in the direction of the Byron lager brewed just for them. O.M.G., it was one of the best lagers I’ve ever tasted. I also ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon as I wanted to see how good their best red was. I wasn’t disappointed.
Our food arrived. All burgers are served medium unless you ask for a different temperature. Ours were nice and red in the centre. Burgers are Byron’s reason for being and, boy, do they do them well. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a better tasting burger: 100 per cent Scottish beef and nothing else, served with your choice of toppings and a satisfyingly squishy bun. Helen agreed that they were unbelievable.
We also ordered skin-on chips, courgette fritters and coleslaw. The chips were cooked perfectly and the courgette fritters (a traditional Italian side order, but always a little disappointing) were just right; soaked in butter milk then coated in polenta flour and deep fried. This burger joint could teach the Italians a lesson.
We were stuffed but, in true Northern Soul style, I wanted to try a dessert. We were offered a sample of each – the sample turned out to be a full portion of every sweet offering on the menu. The warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream was served with a perfect chocolate sauce while the Eton mess was simple, elegant and done just right. The caramel and honeycomb sundae was to die for and Helen loved the rocky road.
We staggered out of Byron, two very happy and very full diners. Will we go again? With burgers starting at £6.75 served right in the centre of Manchester, we’d be stupid not to.
Review by Chef Tony
Where: Deansgate, Manchester
More info: www.byronhamburgers.com