Saturday, 10 July 2010

Byron Burger Islington review - a stripped down facade with full service

Address: 341 Upper Street,
London WC1X 8PN
Tel: 0207 704 7260
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £10 pp
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: **
Unsurprisingly, housing rental prices in Islington hardly dented at the height of credit crunch and for good reason too. Even after Borders has went bottom up, the area between Angel Tube station and Waterstone is still alive and kicking. With the numerous restaurants in the vicinity, you would be spoilt for choices. Guess what? There’s even this renewal of restaurants in the area as a result of Darwinian’s survival of the fittest.

The latest casualty in the area is Hamburger Union. It seems that the entire chain has joined ranks of Borders (UK) – the branch at Leicester Square has been rebranded as an uninspiring “Hamburger +”. There were barely a handful of souls in there the last time I walked past it during dinner time. Everything in the restaurant looks exactly the same as before so I don’t expect much to come out of it.


The one in Angel is a totally different story. “Byron” reads the paint stripped façade. I was like ‘what the…’ when I first saw it. The entire place looks as if the renovation contractor decided to go on strike with the job half done. There’s this Wild West feel to it and I could almost imagine a chap in a chequered shirt and a cowboy hat walking out of the restaurant.

What greeted us when I stepped in surprised us immensely. “Welcome!” a staff greeted us enthusiastically. There were a couple of baby strollers parked beside the door; it sure didn’t look like a family restaurant from the outside. “Table for two?” an affable guy showed us to our seat by the side door, which was incidentally where we used to seat at the old Hamburger Union.

The fast food styled Hamburger Union didn’t work too well apparently and Byron went for a full service burger restaurant, without the tablecloths that is. The side walls in the interior has been stripped down. Nothing wrong with that really. In fact, there’s this gritty feel to the whole atmosphere. In a bid to brighten up the ground floor sitting area, Byron further stripped away a sizable portion of the first floor thereby exposing the wire mesh on the ceiling of the ground floor. Nice.

Apparently, burgers will be grilled to medium by default. After an unpleasant incident earlier, I opted for my classic burger well done and immediately regretted thereafter. Well done patties are usually tougher, aren’t they? I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out much better than I expected. Much of the juice was retained as my knife cut cleanly through it and the soft bread. They didn’t go overboard with the salad dressing in the burger too.

Other than ‘fries’, Byron served skin on hand cut chips at £3 per portion as well. We doused that in tobaccos sauce. Not the way that it should be done but for some strange reason, the chilli hot sauce seems to go well with the roasted potato skin. I am almost salivating at the thought of that as I type this.

Byron is fast becoming a place to hang out in Angel for me, other than Tenshi of course. The last time I was at Byron , there was a short queue building up. Who knows? Perhaps they would have to start taking reservation in the near future.

Byron Islington on Urbanspoon

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