When something is used over and over and over again, it gets worn out. It gets diluted and it doesn’t mean what it once meant. The term ‘gourmet’ gets thrown about all over menus these days in reference to burgers, so much so that the essence of what exactly a ‘gourmet burger’ gets lost. Is a burger ‘gourmet’ because it is encased within a freshly baked brioche? Is it ‘gourmet’ because the patty is hand formed using meat from a butcher? Or is it gourmet simply because it’s served on a chopping board or slate with perhaps a knife stuck through it? Burger joints, pubs and restaurants alike increasingly use the term but do they do so because their burgers are truly gourmet or because the buzzword turns diners on? It arousers their taste buds and get’s them salivating but just because it’s sold as gourmet doesn’t mean it is gourmet. One burger joint however, who will be swinging open their doors in Cardiff in the coming months, is going that extra mile to ensure that their meat and buns live up to the label and aren’t just gourmet by name, they are gourmet by nature.
Pretentious Burger Kitchen, who are eying a permanent move into Cardiff’s burger boom very soon, don’t just buy in their meat, they know exactly which cow it comes from. They don’t order in ready-made patties from their butcher, they make them themselves. They don’t just buy in mince, they grind it themselves and they don’t just buy in their brioche, they bake it themselves in-house.
This is gourmet burger grilling done right and this is meat and buns like you’ve never seen it before.
“Can we buy it all in?” chef Andrew Bond rhetorically asks as my jaw locks around a mouthful of beef. “Yes. Do we want to? No. Why? Because we love food,” and it’s this respect for the humble burger that is helping them to craft one of the best burgers that you’ll ever eat.
Pretentious, the brainchild of Jem French, Daniel Whittaker and Andrew Bond, have just closed its doors on their first foray into the pop-up world with a successful two week long residency in Bristol, ahead of making their move to Cardiff, and despite the name, the three lads are amongst the most genuine you’ll ever meet.
Cutting their teeth and working in a variety of positions in a variety of venues including The Celtic Manor, The Crown in White Brook and a boutique hotel in Sark, Jem, Daniel and Andrew are no strangers to hospitality and not only do they know how to make a mean burger, they know how to look after their guests.
“The name Pretentious Burger Kitchen came around whilst speaking to a man who designed our logo,” Jem explained. “I joked that it would be funny to open a fine dining restaurant one day and call it ‘Pretentious’ where the food would be fine dining but the service would be more relaxed and laid back,” and the name stuck.
After a year researching and perfecting their recipes, and after cooking over 200 burgers and buns, they arrived at the perfect combination of a semi brioche bun and a simple, yet highly complicated patty.
First they get in the meat, sourced from Ruby & White’s Butchers who source their Ruby Red Devon Beef from a farm near Crediton. Then they shove it in the mincer and whack it back in the fridge to cool before rolling the minced meat in film and cutting two-inch thick burgers (hence the ‘two inch deep’ slogan). Sounds simple? Well it’s not.
“When receiving the beef from the butchers, we receive in it its raw lump of meat form,” Jem explained. “This is for two reasons; the first being that we have a very precise way of making our burgers, which no butcher would have been willing to reproduce. The second is that we are able to inspect the meat and confirm it’s exactly what we have paid for,” he continued.
“If we were to receive a box of minced beef, we have to put all of our faith into the butcher. We haven’t had a bad experience with butchers before but we feel that in the wake of ‘Horse Gate,’ this is the best approach to ensure the absolute quality of the product.”
On arrival, the three cuts of meat (brisket, short rib and chuck), that are hung for a minimum of 21 days, are minced three times and are kept for a maximum of 24 hours to ensure this quality.
“It’s very labour intensive,” Andrew said, “but it’s worth it. It’s nearly killed us, but it’s worth it,” and as your teeth literally sink into the tartare-esque patty, you can’t help but agree.
“We believe our burgers are of the highest quality and flavour,” added Jem. “Our preparation methods are far beyond what most restaurants would even dream of doing.”
“Burgers are renowned in the industry to be a high gross profit product, which in turn lowers the quality,” he added. “It’s my belief that if a restaurant only focuses on revenue, it will make no money. We focused on the product first,” Jem continued, and it was this approach that first led them to ask the question of how to make the best burger possible before they even thought about the question of selling it at a reasonable price.
“Without trying to sound arrogant, I think burger places have become lazy, Jem, who, after working in catering since he was 17, also owns a database consultancy business with his old man, said. “Is it hard to make your own bread? Yes, it’s very hard. Is it hard to mince your own meat? Yes, it’s a nightmare, but definitely 1000% worth it,” he stated.
And soon, these burgers will be on a plate in front of you as the trio are returning to home soil in an attempt to fill a gap in the Cardiff burger boom as they feel that the current offerings just aren’t hitting the sweet spot when it comes to quality and value.
Eyeing premises in and around the centre of the city, Pretentious are striving, and succeeding, in finding that sweet spot and hitting it right out of the park with their burgers that’ll only set you back a tenner for a 12 oz burger that needs.
“We are hoping that we can redefine what people know as quality and value when it comes to burgers,” Jem said. “We may not be the cheapest in Cardiff but we hope to be the highest quality.”
When they find the perfect location, Pretentious, who will be operating on a cooperative basis whereby their employees will own a stake in the restaurant, will raise the bar of gourmet burgers.
Are they pretentious? Most definitely not. Are they gourmet? Certainly and they will be a fine addition to Cardiff’s burger scene.
Liked the look of those burger? Read more at The Plate Licked Clean!