I am a burger lover from way back. Not the global-fast-food-chain type of burger but full, messy fish-and-chip-shop burgers.
Long sun-kissed days on the beaches of my childhood and adolescence in Australia – Bribie Island and Caloundra just north of Brisbane; Mills, Seaford and Point Leo beaches in Victoria – were regularly rounded off with a visit to the fish and chip shop on the way home. For me, despite all of the feverish battering of frankfurters, fish fillets and potato cakes behind the counter, the hamburger always reigned supreme as the most satisfying of post-beach eating. Watching the staff flip and griddle in the searing heat before cramming that soft white bun chock full of scrumptious stuff – lettuce, cheese, tomato, fried onion, streaky bacon, a fried egg, beetroot and a beef patty – was a joy to behold.
(My mouth is watering even as I type this.)
Back then, my burger would come wrapped in a piece of something like thin baking paper and was then tucked and folded into a white paper bag. My portion of hot salty chips came separately wrapped in butcher’s paper and my fingers would have eagerly poked a chip-sized hole in the parcel before I’d even left the shop.
Then burgers got a bit specialist with the advent of the American diner craze. Johnny Rockets was big for a while when I lived in Melbourne and other like-minded establishments flourished with their flashing jukeboxes and dancing waitstaff, their shakes, sodas, baskets and bags (baskets for burgers and bags for chips). It was essentially a dine-in experience with a hands-on approach
Then burgers went gourmet. They came on plates, with knives and forks, and with buckets for the chips and special dipping sauces.
GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) is one of my favourite places to eat in the UK. The burgers are delicious: there’s a wide range to choose from and they are full of great ingredients. But I do find it impossible to pick one of their burgers up. And in the unlikely event I manage this, I can never manage to a) squash it enough to take a proper bite and b) avoid the ingredients spilling out. So a knife and fork are a necessary evil but happily, the burgers come on plates big enough for me to decimate my burger and to tip my chips out of their bucket to join the general melee.
But things go awry when burgers come on boards.
Last year my favourite local restaurant starting serving their burgers on long narrow boards with the burger on one end and a metal bucket of chips on the other. Even if I took the chip bucket off, there was not enough room to cut into my burger – definitely a knife-and-fork job – and tip a decent amount of chips onto the board. And let’s not forget the ‘thoughtful’ paper – that which lines the chip bucket (why?) and that which lies beneath the burger. After much knife-and-fork wielding, the latter is usually at best in the way, at worst in shreds.
And they are not alone…I found loads of pictures on the internet like the one below.
It’s a classic case of style completely screwing up the eating experience:
1) A board is not a nice thing to eat from – no matter what the Jamie Olivers of this world profess.
2) What’s with the ‘salad garnish’ – it’s taking up valuable room and unlike the mug (again, why?) of chips and the condiments pots, it cannot be shifted onto the table.
Interestingly, when I mentioned my frustration to the owner (whom I know well) and requested a plate, I was met with complete surprise. He told me they’d decided to change it because they thought it would look nicer for customers (and they probably thought we’d pay more as a result).
I wonder when was the last time they ate their burger and fries on a board rather than a plate. I suspect they actually haven’t because when I popped in a few months ago, I saw a roasted vegetable and goats cheese burger come out…on a board.
So much for the voice of the customer!
I’ve been tempted to persist with my protest because it does really irritate me but I decided a while ago to chalk it up to a small and insignificant battle that’s not worth getting het up about.
And I haven’t ordered a burger since.