Originally written by me and published on It’s On Cardiff.
Few things have truly taken over the world. The Romans gave it a good old punt, as did the English. Pinky and the Brain’s attempts at world domination didn’t even come close. Steve Jobs was arguably successful, but one thing that has most certainly done so is the burger.
Ever since someone decided to stick a patty between a sliced bun, nowhere has been safe from its grasps and from Ronald McDonald’s classic Big Mac to the his Maharaja Mac, no culture, country or city is safe. Cardiff is no different, but of late, the capital has undergone a burger boom that has seen the offerings expand beyond the Golden Arches.
Whether it’s from a burger joint, a street food truck, a pop-up or a pub, Cardiff has fallen head over heels for the allures of the burger like J. Wellington Wimpy (you know, the chubby bloke off Popeye that’s always got his gob around a burger) and our burger scene is well and truly booming.
“The burger scene in Cardiff at present is awesome,” stated Mark Power, owner of The Smoke Haus, home of The Hog Father. “It is really blazing a trail for cities up and down the land,” he continued and he’s not the only one that thinks that.
“With quality such as The Grazing Shed, Got Beef and the newer places that are opening, it’s got to be one of the best places to get a burger in Wales, if not Britian!” proclaimed Paul Turley, Head Chef at Urban Tap House, and mastermind behind such inventions as The Pizza Burger and The Nacho Burger.
But what is it about the humble hamburger that has captured the capital?
“Burgers are so popular as they are the epitome of comfort food,” Mark continued. “That first bite into a big fat meaty burger is nothing short of heavenly and I believe that peoples’ demands with regards to burgers are changing rapidly,” he added.
“People are now realising that there are better burgers out there,” echoed Cai Pritchard, Co-Owner of Got Beef that have led the charge and have made their way from festival burger van, to pop-up, to fully-fledged restaurant in just two years.
“I think Cardiff has gone nuts for burgers simply because everyone likes a good burger,” he stated. “It’s something quick, convenient and always sorts out a hangover,” he continued.
Paul on the other hand looks across the Atlantic when it comes to why we love our burgers so much. “I think it could be part of a more Americanised culture in recent times,” he said, “but also because the idea is so versatile and lends itself to so many options,” and with his New Burger Thursday initiative that introduces a new innovative burger to the menu for one day a week, the chef is most certainly proving just how versatile they are.
You can have your burger between a brioche bun or enjoy it naked on a bed of lettuce; you can top it with cheese, streaky smoked bacon, a whole heap of different sauces and salsa or you can even top it with an extra patty; you can skewer it with a pickle or you can wolf it down alongside onion rings, fries or coleslaw; you can have a chicken burger, a fish burger, a lamb burger or a pork burger; you can have it halal, courtesy of The BB Kitchen , or you can even have it meat free.
“When it comes to burgers, there is a lot of variety in Cardiff right now,” said Jane Cook, who writes the award-winning food blog Hungry City Hippy. “As someone who is big on veggie food, I think it’s great,” and with The Grazing Shed’s Hell Fire Hippy, Urban Tap House’s veggie burger of the day plus Got Beef’s Lucky Cow, she’s not wrong.
But however you have it, and no matter how ‘American’ it may be, the joints of Cardiff are creating burgers that are just as Welsh as a red dragon downing a pint of SA Gold at the rugby.
From The Welsh Black at Got Beef featuring award winning Welsh Black Beef to The Big Welsh at Tap House using a Celtic Pride patty, Welsh cheddar, bacon and pan fried leeks, and from The Grazing Shed’s fluffy Penarth baked buns and Carmarthen burgers to Slow Pig that visits the city once in a while serving their own Saddlebacks and Mangalitzas in their Pork and Chorizo burger beneath Perl Wen cheese from their travelling Citroen van, the city has truly adopted the burger and completely made it its own.
“The furtive lurking around Burger King and the Golden Arches is now a proud trip to the new breed,” said Jonathan Swain who runs popular local food blog The Plate Licked Clean. “You are now eating something demonstrably ‘local’ rather than the latest hot droppings from a Transatlantic HQ,” he added.
With local indies leading the way in a Cymru revolution however, the big boys of the burger world are starting to take notice and as well as BrewDog setting up shop with their eclectic array of burgers and beers, we now have both Five Guys and Burger and Lobster knocking at our door.
Such a charge down the M4 and across The Severn Bridge may have come as a surprise to some but with the local joints setting the trend and creating a market for a more gourmet burger offering, the London and American chains were always going to take notice and pack up their patties to head west.
“The new influx of establishments was always expected,” said Cai and although the announcements of the newcomers have only broken in the last month, Cardiff has been between their cross hairs for a while.
“We’ve been focusing on the trend setting markets as a priority,” stated John Eckbert, the UK Chairman of US giant, Five Guys. “Cardiff is an important city in the UK, especially for us, and has been on our radar for some time,” he continued and so although the burger has already conquered our menus and our hearts, the smaller eateries now face a full-scale invasion.
Whilst many sit eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new chains, lobster bibs on and elasticated trousers at the ready, only time will tell however, whether or not the Cardiff burger restaurants will be able to hold their own against their adversaries.
They do however remain positive and even a little hungry both for the chance to prove themselves, as well as for the new burgers coming to town.
“As a customer I can’t wait to try some of the new places that have popped up,” said Cai. “Competition is healthy and keeps us top of our game. Cardiff, unlike London, is a small city and there isn’t as much room for the big guns to muscle their way in.
“I think in the end, the support for Welsh independent businesses is strong and we thank our loyal customers for that,” he added, and the man behind the Heisenburger aint alone.
“The ‘bigger chains’ won’t be ‘bigger’ here,” stated Jonathan, “they are only one outpost of a network and will have to prove themselves just like everyone else does. Once the initial flurry of interest dies away, the best will survive and the rest will not. Those are the grim realities of the glorious free market, but our local examples can hold their own,” he continued. “I don’t think they have much to fear.”
So while it is unsure how the indies will be effected in the surge of burger bars, one thing is certain; Cardiff loves a burger just as much as it loves a late night waltz down Chip Alley and that isn’t going to subside anytime soon so viva la burger, you came, you saw, you conquered.