I’ve just stuffed three fingers into my mouth for the Heston Blumenthal burger test. According to the great chef, that is the optimum width to scoff one. Gosh it’s a tight fit.
“The bun needs to give way so you can get all the layers in your mouth,” he explains.
According to the inventor of snail porridge you should taste bun, burger, salad and relish all in one bite.
My hamburger with pulled pork topping at the new Burgers Inc on Ecclesall Road is a good four fingers high but I can give it a good go if I avoid the top of the bun.
There’s no elegant way to eat if you’ve got your jaw open as wide as a boa constrictor and bits spill everywhere. Thanks, Heston, but I’ll go back to nibbling.
I was going to ask Burger Inc’s executive chef Richard Bucklow why after working in Michelin restaurants in London (Tom Aikens, Mark Hix) he’s flipping burgers in Sheffield then I read that Blumenthal is going into burgers at Heathrow’s Terminal 2.
Well perhaps Richard’s ahead of the curve but the truth is he was left marooned when his previous restaurant Back of House, in the same premises, folded.
“I was unemployed and needed somewhere to work. You have got to cook what people want,” he said philosophically. These days the burger is ubiquitous. Young Charlie Nagreen gave us something to chew on when he flattened meatballs at a Wisconsin county fair in 1885 to make them easier for customers to eat.
There are at least six other claimants to the US Hamburger Hall of Fame and most nations have their own version of a burger. If you dig deep into the world’s larder you can go all the way back to 1238 when Kublai Khan’s army stuffed minced lamb under their saddles for their march on Moscow.
There is no shortage of burger joints on Ecclesall Road – Yankees, Uncle Sam’s, Relish, Champs, Mud Crab and Graze Inn and we could keep going – but Burgers Inc boss Adrian Walsh, who runs the upmarket Food and Fine Wine next door, obviously thinks there is scope for more.
Welcome to the gourmet burger.
It’s upmarket, a place for grown-ups. There’s not a single picture of a Fifties movie star, New York skyscraper or anything American on the walls. Instead there are prints of apprehensive-looking cows and a single pig.
There’s an amusingly written menu – “please allow 15 minutes for food to arrive before panicking” – featuring the basic burger (”for purists”) at £6.95 and combinations thereof, veggie and chicken versions, and various hot dogs. So you can take your choice from the Hot Mama, Easy Rider and Porky’s Revenge burgers as well as the Hot Dog, Atomic Dog and Gringo Dog. Something of a purist, I opted for the basic burger with the addition of pulled pork (£1.75).
It comes well presented on a hot slate with French fries in a bucket and tubs of homemade mayonnaise and coleslaw.
It was a good tasty bite, a decent sized pattie made up of medium-ground beef, 70pc rib-eye and 30pc rump, to provide a fair balance of flavour and that all-important factor, mouthfeel.
You want some fat to get the juiciness but not so much that it dribbles down your chin.
There is no other flavouring other than salt, pepper and egg to bind.
The pulled pork was glorious, soft with a sweet edge, with lettuce, tomato and half a gigantic gherkin as garnish.
The fries were out of a bag but if you like chips with your burger then these come homemade.
It comes in an unseeded, gratifyingly chewy, lightly toasted bun from the local Seven Hills bakery in Sharrowvale Road.
I reckon the offer could extend to homemade relishes such as sweetcorn to establish the kitchen’s credentials: instead there’s a collection of commercial sauces.
We ordered a side dish of onion rings (£2) but felt the onion was a little too raw inside.
Meanwhile my wife was tackling the Feeling Clucky (£9), a breadcrumbed breast of Southern Fried Chicken with cheese.
“Crisp on the outside, juicy within,” she reported.
There is a selection of bought-in hot dogs.
Definitely homemade was the Chocolate Brownie (£4) which sounds humdrum but was actually a little cracker. It was rich, squidgy and gooey all in one melt-in-your mouthful. “Quite the best I’ve had,” said my wife.
My New York cheesecake (£4) was made the proper way, baked to a dense, creamy consistency.
We don’t always want to eat posh when we go out and in Sheffield even the more upmarket restaurants find that old favourites such as fish and chips and burgers still sell the best.
With smart service and grown-up music Burgers Inc should find its own niche.
We paid £28.95 for food (we’d had odd-tasting olives and nachos to stop us panicking) and £7 for drinks.
762 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield S11 8TB. Tel: 0114 327 0200. Open Tues-Sat 12-10pm, Sun 12-8pm. Credit cards. Licensed. Music. Children’s menu. Street parking. Web: www.burgers-inc.co.uk