Burgers fit for hall of fame!
Rob Bleaney drops in at Grand Union in Kentish Town to check out the chain taking London by storm
53-79 Highgate Road, NW5
020 7485 1837
THERE is something about the hamburger that seems to give it an enduring appeal.
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Originally invented by the Germans of Hamburg of course, these strange minced beef patties first popped up on the other side of the Atlantic in 1895 at Louis’ Lunch sandwich shop in Connecticut.
Fast forward 20 years to World War One and the modern hamburger appeared, served up in its new guise on a bun.
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A century on and Britain is in the midst of the biggest recession since the 1980s, yet the trusty burger only seems to be thriving.
Job losses abound, house prices have plummeted and inflation is on the rise – but everywhere you look another branch of Gourmet Burger Kitchen or Byron Burger seems to be springing up.
The new kings of the London burger scene though, with their winning combination of beef patties and cocktails in stylish settings, are undoubtedly the Grand Union bars.
There are now a dozen Grand Unions across the capital – including Camden Town, Islington, and from next month, Farringdon – and it’s easy to see what the fuss is all about with a trip to the Kentish Town incarnation.
This is about as far away as you can get from the old-fashioned American diners, with their high stools, close packed tables and red and white chequered dishcloths.
The space is huge, with a combination of comfortable sofas to cuddle up on and huge wooden tables to chat away with friends.
Kitsch floral wallpaper, huge dimly lit lamps and random vintage mirrors and furniture give the venue a unique chic, while a DJ playing funky tunes creates a laid-back vibe.
It all sounds a bit too cool for school, but somehow it’s not, and maybe that’s where the burgers come in.
These things are absolute beasts, and I would defy anyone to look cool trying to get their chops around them.
The mouth-watering menu includes such unusual delights as chicken and camembert, Greek lamb and the mozzarella and pesto – and each is piled high with top quality ingredients and amazing sauces.
In typically greedy fashion I went for a Fully Loaded – a classic beef patty with mature cheddar, bacon, onion rings, and BBQ sauce – while my petite partner went for the more ladylike char-grilled aubergine and goat’s cheese burger. Incredibly, hers actually towered over mine, but I reckon mine just had the edge on flavour.
It was refreshing to see that fantastic burgers are no longer the exclusive domain of the carnivore, but every authentic meat lover knows that only in exceptional circumstances do you look past the beef.
A mention too for a wonderfully smooth berry mojito and a rip snorting Old Fashioned from the cocktail list.
A fringe theatre is also set to open downstairs in late summer to continue the groundbreaking theme.
The Hamburger hall of fame in Seymour, Wisconsin, may not have heard of Grand Union yet, but Kentish Town could be remembered as the place where the luvvies first fell head over heels for burgers.
– ROB BLEANEY
l Burgers: from �6.45
l Cocktails: �7.50
l Wines: from �13.95
l Disabled facilities: Yes
l Children welcome: Until 7.30pm