“Do we really need another BBQ/burger/pizza joint (delete as appropriate) in the city centre?”
When we heard about Burger opening in The Gate, a reasonably new player in the already saturated burger market, we groaned. The above question is asked when any chain appears in the city centre. But, in the interests of documenting the options available in this fair city, we popped along not long after its opening to give it a go. Burger is not another Five Guys or Smashburger with locations all over the country, it has to be said. Newcastle happens to be their third restaurant, and their first south of Hadrian’s Wall.
Based on my dietary requirements I was only going to be trying out the vegan options on the menu, which included Sweet Potato Falafel, served without the billed mayo, and a tempeh burger.
My friend was disappointed to see the usual issue with drinks labelling and when asked, the waitress said no beers were suitable for vegans. A quick check on Barnivore and he ordered the Innis & Gunn, a delightfully light lager beer that wasn’t as gassy as many I’ve supped on recently.
Ordering food was less complicated because the two suitable dishes featured the (Ve) and (Va) symbols. I opted for the falafel which allowed the person with the larger appetite to try out the burger. I’m nice like that!
The falafels weren’t really what I was expecting and reminded me of IKEA’s Veggie Balls more than the ground chickpea balls my local Kurdish bakery serves up. Because of their chunky texture they fell to bits while I was eating them, meaning rather than being bite-size finger food I had to use a knife and fork. There wasn’t a lot of taste to them, so the Smoked Chilli Ketchup I subbed the mayo for was needed. A minor quibble was being charged for the substitution. It was only 95p but the menu didn’t state the vegan alternative would cost more either.
The burger was £6.95 without fries. So far, so standard. Once it arrived, however, I was surprised by how dinky it was. The option was given to double up the patty which wasn’t taken. Usually veggie burgers are quite filling because of their veggie content anyway.
Burger’s is made using an unusual mix of tempeh, brown rice, sweet potato, beetroot, and chickpeas. It was a nice combination and worked well with the tomato relish which topped it. I just don’t think either of us could get over how small it was!
As an establishment that’s just opened there’s a possibility there’ll be some teething problems while they find their feet with service. The restaurant was quiet when we dined here and there appeared to be skeleton staff. One server was stood at the the door to welcome guests and take orders, while someone behind the bar was chatting on the phone. Our food was cooked speedily by the kitchen and was out on the pass for a while before either realised.
Discussing our experience afterwards we both said we’d not be rushing back. Burger may, in fact, offer the most amazing meat options in Newcastle – I obviously can’t tell based on my choices but suspect Fat Hippo or The Grind are vying for that crown unchallenged – but the veggie options aren’t tempting enough to encourage me to return. While it isn’t often I’d bemoan the loss of a chain over an independent, although any business closing unfortunately negatively impacts on the staff that lose their jobs, the closing of Handmade Burger in Newcastle has left a bit of a conundrum for veggies in terms of where to get a decent selection of options. Most joints will offer one alternative on the menu, whereas HBC had three or four. They also offered dairy free milkshakes. Burger is not stepping into the ‘void’ left in The Gate, that’s for sure.
It’s obviously great to see a vegan option well labelled and always available without special request on the menu, it’s just a shame the experience itself wasn’t more than average for us. In such a competitive market Burger really need to up the ante to compete with local independents like Fat Hippo if they’re to survive.
Thanks for reading,
Check out top burger recommendations in the Toon here.