Burger restaurants in Bristol are like rats in London; you’re never more than 20 feet away from one. Talk of rats probably isn’t the best way to begin a restaurant review but the fact remains that burgers are very much a ‘thing’ in this city. In my past life as a meat-eater I loved burgers. News of a new burger restaurant would have me salivating and banging down the door like a flesh-hungry zombie. Nowadays, I can’t get excited about the thought of a cow being killed for my pleasure. But my love of something in a bun has lingered. So when I heard that The Burger Joint had updated their menu, adding a few more veggie and even vegan options, my heart was filled with joy.
I’ve long since had a soft spot for The Burger Joint. When they first opened in 2009, my two BFF’s (Jo and Victoria, who I must thank for these photos) and I enjoyed a free lunch there in exchange for pictures of us stuffing our faces being used on their website. Jo loved it so much she asked them to cater her wedding, which they did! I’ve visited numerous times, but not I must say since becoming vegetarian. Generally, I find veggie burgers really disappointing. They can be very dry and tasteless and I often feel like they’re just an after thought in the kitchen, bunged together using whatever is lying around. So I was interested to see what The Burger Joint could offer me.
We made our reservation for lunchtime on a Thursday. I asked for a little extra room to accommodate the two buggies my friends were bringing (a lot has changed since our first visit!) and they kindly obliged, despite being fairly limited for space at the Whiteladies Road location. The restaurant itself is quite compact and is constructed mainly from nooks and alcoves. This has its benefits – you feel like you can have a proper intimate chat with friends. However it does limit what can be done with the space in the way of décor. Personally I like the simple, no nonsense look and the vibe is very relaxed.
Although the atmosphere is laid back, the staff are professional, attentive and really looked after us. We had questions about the menu, which they happily answered and gave us plenty of time to decide what we wanted – which we needed! One of the joys of The Burger Joint is that it allows so much flexibility. You can mix and match buns, burgers, toppings, sauces and sides. This flexibility is brilliant but also makes it really hard to choose, as everything looks great! When you’ve eventually made your mind up, you tick off what you want on a little order slip (perfect for introverts – no human contact necessary if you so desire!). I decided to go for the vegan burger with vegan cheese, guacamole and sundried tomatoes. I chose the brioche bun (which isn’t vegan) and grilled vegetables as my side.
I’m delighted to say that the burger was delicious. Like I said before, my veggie burger expectations are usually pretty low but this really surprised me. Firstly, it wasn’t at all dry. In fact it was moist to the point of falling apart – which was no bad thing! Secondly, it actually tasted of something. Something lovely. The vegan cheese was decent too (I’m yet to be convinced by vegan cheese on its own but find it ok when cooked with other things) and the guac was top quality. The sundried tomatoes added a nice bitter edge. All in all I was impressed with my burger building skills and would recommend this combo. The grilled veg was colourful and flavoursome and made me feel like I wasn’t being the most unhealthy person ever. Although I did pinch a good few sweet potato chips from Victoria and some Parmesan and truffle fries from Jo. Obviously I couldn’t resist those! We did our absolute best but sadly couldn’t finish it all. The serving sizes are huge so if you’re going, be sure to take a big appetite.
We chatted to Dan (the owner) before we left and it was interesting to hear how things have changed since they first opened. They’ve enjoyed great success, opening two more Burger Joints in Bristol (North Street and Filton). We asked how they’d been affected by the surge in burger restaurants across the city and he said he’s found that customers have been really loyal to them, favouring them over London chains who have set up shop near by. He also told us about how much time he’d spent perfecting the new veggie and vegan burgers, trialling different combinations of vegetables and binding them together in different ways. They’re far more labour intensive than beef because of the all of the chopping involved. He admitted that the end result is quite ‘wet’ but delicious none the less. I couldn’t agree more. And definitely worth all the extra work.
I was really happy to find that there is still a place for burgers in my life. According to Dan, there’s been a significant increase in the number of veggie burgers they are selling in recent months. I wonder if this is due to the fact that information about the environmental impact of animal agriculture is being shared more widely. Or maybe there is a slow shift away from seeing animals as consumer products. Or perhaps it means nothing at all. Either way, I hope that it continues. And that Dan can find a really speedy way of chopping all those vegetables!