There’s a new trend sweeping the UK: Burger restaurants. Ok, it’s not really that new, we’ve long been influenced by America and burgers have been popular for many years, but there seems to be a modern revival of this classic, with a series of American diner/burger bar hybrids popping up in every town and city in their multiples.
And some of them are quite literally ‘popping-up’: Hub Box has tiny premises in Exeter and Truro, the latter being an old metal container, the likes of which you would usually see on the back of a cargo ship crossing the ocean. Hub Box counteract their lack of space by offering burger takeaways and ensuring there is a quick turn around of tables. It certainly doesn’t seem to put people off.
I do like a good burger, although it’s not something I would usually choose off a menu when eating out. But when done right, there is nothing like the taste of a good quality, juicy cheeseburger with all the trimmings. So on a recent catch up with friends, that’s just what I went for.
Our chosen venue was Ruby Burger, which is an interesting mix of the traditional American diner using quality local Devon produce, including Ruby Red Devon beef, hence the name. The restaurant has a very ‘cool’ vibe, a bit like a modern day Happy Days set, with a mix of worn wooden tables and chairs and red leather booths tucked away at the back and on a mezzanine level looking down over the main room.
It was early evening on a week day when we arrived and not very busy, but we still had to wait at a wooden table whilst nattering before we could pounce on a booth when it became available. There was just one girl serving to begin with but she managed very well and was friendly without being nauseating, no sign of the bilious-enducing American ‘Have a nice day!’ here!
Whilst dribbling over the menu a debate began amongst me and my two companions about the ingredients that make up that American condiment, Burger sauce. There were suggestions of mayonnaise crossed with tomato sauce, which then descended into side-tracked conversations about thousand island dressing, prawn marie rose sauce, the list goes on.
All the speculating made us thirsty and we ordered quite a random mix of drinks: a vanilla milkshake for one friend, looking very delicious and more like a knickerbocker glory than a milkshake, and a Devon Mist cider from Sandford Orchards, dry and refreshing, for my other friend.
Both excellent choices, but for me, it was an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. A fizzy and almost liquorice-tasting Dandelion and Burdock. It reminded me of when the ‘pop man’ used to come round to our house once a week when I was a child with the glass litre bottles of every drink we could have desired: Cola, lemonade, sarsaparilla and of course, my drink of choice this evening. We got 10p off each replacement for returning the empties. Now there’s something you no longer see, we have to pay for groceries to be delivered to our door now.
So by this time we’d caught up on all our recent news, had a debate about some form of food which is an obvious essential, and quenched our thirst. It was now time for the main act: The food. As I alluded to earlier, my burger choice was going to be a classic to get the most from this modern diner, and I opted for a Ruby Cheeseburger. My friends didn’t stray too far from the traditional either, both opting for a Ruby burger. We waited in anticipation for our juicy, American-Devon cross breed burgers.
Before too long our little – or not so little – gems were presented to us. I love Ruby Burger’s use of the old fashioned blue and white cookware, it just adds to the appeal of the classic dish when it’s placed before you. Being a northerner I couldn’t resist ordering a bowl of ‘proper chips’ to come with my burger, apparently fried in beef dripping – if that’s not got a taste of Lancashire about it I don’t know what has!
The Cheddar cheese had just nicely melted on the hot beefburger, which was sandwiched with juicy green lettuce and a fat slice of red tomato. I wanted a big mouth watering bite but the height of the burger meant it was a choice of either dislocating my jaw or unashamedly squashing the bap down with my palm. Not possessing the skill of a snake I opted for the latter then sunk my teeth in. It was a succulent, well seasoned, tasty mouthful that did not disappoint. All of the beef at Ruby Burger is cooked to medium unless otherwise requested and it was just right. Accompanied by those northern-style chips, it was the perfect burger.
So there might be more burger restaurants than hot dinners to choose from at the moment, but Ruby Burger definitely provides stiff competition. A good choice of burgers and variations on the reasonably priced menu, prepared, cooked and presented well in relaxed and interesting surroundings. But with Byron Hamburgers set to open in Exeter’s Princesshay this summer, the competition is about to get tougher.