Monday, April 5, 2010

The Gourmet Burger Company (closed)

The Gourmet Burger Company has always been on my list of priority restaurants to visit. I discovered it roughly two years ago when investigating whether or not Ireland was home to any branches of the similarly named (and easily confused) Gourmet Burger Kitchen, after having seen one or two during a trip to Manchester. Since then, said Kitchen has completed overnight invasions with over six restaurants opening throughout Dublin City! This turned my head briefly enough to try what they had on offer, but the Gourmet Burger Company was still the place I wanted to be. There were several reasons for this:

1) they’re Irish, and an individual restaurant operating on their own as opposed to one of many in a soulless franchise,

2) unlike the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, they offer a special burger ground from Kobe or ‘Wagyu’ beef (I’ll explain this shortly), which is an ingredient that only the finest Gourmet Burger restaurants deal in and something I wanted to try in burger form no matter how expensive,

3) burgers are, in a nutshell, one of my absolute favourite foods, IE no respectable burger joint should be escaping my attention.

Reason number three is by far the most important, as you can probably tell. I make no excuses, I just flat out love burgers with a passion. They’re one of the most basic and easily prepared meals, yet infinitely versatile and, when executed correctly, always satisfying. Cheese, bacon, Portobello mushrooms, chorizo, chipotle, mango chutney and apples; all of these delectable hussies have gotten into a burger’s buns (hah!) at one point or another, as have a thousand other ingredients in a million homes throughout the world. Nearly everybody has their own version and fillings of choice, so it was only a matter of time before the trend of cooking experimental burgers developed into something marketable. During the second half of the naughties, it hit Britain and Ireland thanks largely to a pair of Kiwis who simply wanted nothing more than a burger served with beetroot, pineapple and a fried egg. Thus, the Gourmet Burger Kitchen was formed. The Gourmet Burger Company filled the vaccum in Ireland until recently, and after a few botched attempts to get there, it was finally about to fill my stomach too.

Located in Ranelagh, the Gourmet Burger Company is right in the thick of what you’d probably call Dublin’s Mecca for diners. To get to it from where I was walking you’d pass by Tribeca, a Café Bar Deli, Two branches of Diep Noodles, the (sadly) old location of Mint restaurant and many, many more. The Ranelagh village market is also open at the weekends, which is an added bonus. This was, shock horror, my first exhibition into this part of the South side wilderness. With a role call like that, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be returning ASAP! Avoiding the temptation of this culinary gauntlet, I finally made it through the Gourmet Burger Company’s door.

Inside, the restaurant takes the minimal approach to decor, hitting the middle ground between an all out evening high brow venue and casual diner with brown panels, mirrors on the wall and condiments waiting at the table for you. Equally straightforward and simply presented is the one page menu, featuring salads and side orders toward the top, the meaty bits in the middle and vegetarian options at the bottom. It’s when you inspect each item that it starts to get interesting. All of the traditional burgers are touched upon with cheese, barbeque and bacon topped, but if you happen to be feeling more adventurous then you can always opt for guacamole, Toulouse sausage, Parma ham, or even an entire Caesar salad slapped on top of a patty. Fancy a bit of wild boar? The Gourmet Burger Company has you covered! And if you’re feeling thrifty, forty euro will get you the proudly advertised Kobe beef burger I mentioned a couple of paragraphs up.

For those of you who don’t yet know, Kobe beef is an extremely well marbled and pricey meat that hails from Japan. To properly prepare it, you need to massage your cow with sake and rear it on a strict diet. That’s specifically a ‘Wagyū’ cow, so don’t start rubbing old Bessie with vodka ‘cause it doesn’t work that way! The resulting meat is absolutely gorgeous, and purportedly the best quality steak in all the land. To have it minced for a burger is an added luxury.

If you intend to go after the Gourmet Burger Company’s Kobe beef burger yourself, then be sure to call them two days in advance so that it can be properly arranged. Unfortunatelyn it wasn’t available the day I visited which, to be fair, is understandable given it’s a commodity you’d expect to be mentioned in the same breath as truffles, so I opted to with something more traditional instead. Often I find that the measure of a good gourmet burger restaurant can be gained not by trying their most flamboyant recipe, but rather by seeing how they cook a simple and straightforward classic; in this case, their version of bacon and cheese. No bells, no whistles, just a simple medium cooked burger with normal toppings.

Now I will confess that in trying to find the Gourmet Burger Company, I once happened upon Jo’Burger in Rathmines. Y’know, Ranelagh and Rathmines sounding very alike, right? Right. Jo’Burger is another Irish gourmet burger eatery with a slightly more casual approach. They do interesting recipes at reasonable prices, and I’ll probably return very soon as part of a big Dublin burger-off but for the meantime, they make for a great comparison to show off the little things that the Gourmet Burger Company get so right.

For a start, burgers cooked gourmet style are large. Very large. With toppings in excess. Often you aren’t even supposed to eat them with your hands! The pictures do enough to illustrate this. In Jo’Burger, it’s literally impossible to even consider eating one normally; the experimental fillings are piled obscenely high and eating the burger can only be achieved through careful disassembly, calculus, reassembly on a fork, vectoring toward your mouth... In the Gourmet Burger Company, the burgers are indeed large, but not so large that the collective parts become a counter-productive problem. They’re easily re-adjusted, and I even managed a bite or two using my hands! At the end of the day, meals like this are, however, better suited to knives and forks. Unless of course you just plain like getting down and dirty with it. The amount of fillings used by the Company is also sensible, reasonably portioned when compared to Jo’Burger’s overkill approach. Less is indeed often more, and my bacon and cheese burger had just the correct amount of toppings and relish to remain filling, but not overly filling; flavoursome, but the taste of the meat itself was never dominated. This was a well executed burger, and cooked exactly to the juicy medium I ordered too!

A side of hand-cut fries was also fantastic, and notably finishable given that the burger left me with enough room. All too often I’ve been left unable to manage a generous helping of fries or (specifically)sweet potato chips when a burger has done all of the work for me. I was worried this might be a problem once again, but as it turned out the portions were handled excellently and it never was.

To finish I had a lemon sorbet that seemed a bit less than lemony, but at the end of the day it wasn’t the dessert I’d come for.

Great service on top of everything else made it an entirely worthwhile trip, even if it did pour down on me walking back into the city centre. My only regret is that I didn’t get to try the elusive Kobe beef burger, but there’s plenty of time and burger fanaticism left in me for that. If there’s any of the latter in you and you haven’t yet been to the Gourmet Burger Company, then I suggest you get yourself down to Ranelagh and enjoy what you’ve been missing. No buns about it, just go!

The Gourmet Burger Company
97 Ranelagh Road,
Ranelagh Village,
Dublin 6

Tph: 01-4977821


  1. I absolutely love burgers as well and with all the hype about wagyu beef, I decided to make some waygu burgers myself. I bought the wagyu ground meat from a company called Sif Foods ( I looked up the proper way to cook a wagyu burger and I have to admit, it was AMAZING!! Now all I have to do, is try my hand at the french fries!

  2. Thanks for the link Sarah, if I manage to get around customs then I'll definitely try ordering some in at some stage. All that's left is to get over the fear of spoiling such a lovely and expensive piece of meat!

  3. That photo of that giant burger is AMAZING!