By Christian Rose-Day.
We Brits are a simply lot, it seems. Traditional, reserved, and uncomplicated; aside from that there cricket. We know what we like, and we know what we don’t like. Any deviation from the norm only strengthens our habit-forming resolve.
This is why 100% West Country English beef combined with salad, mayo and relish is our most popular type of burger. Tamely, and rather aptly, named The Classic, this burger is the biggest seller at 54-strong burger joint, GBK, or the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, to give it its full regal title.Try as they might to persuade us to veer from the conventional, the three New Zealander owners of GBK have not managed to ply us with as many Habanero or Avocado Bacon burgers as they have The Classic.“People will get a Classic, a Classic, a Classic,” says Kiwi Peter Gordon (pictured above), GBK’s (celebrity) Chef in Chief, and owner of The Providores in Marylebone and Kopapa restaurant in Covent Garden. “Then one week they decide they want something different and order the Chorizo burger, but then the next time will come back to the Classic again. It’s like the brunch we do at Providores for people who’ve been coming twenty Saturdays every year for 10 years: they always always always order exactly the same thing. They come in and think ‘I’m going to order something different’ and then just cant because what they get is what they really love.”
I spoke with Peter at the 10th Anniversary of GBK (coincidentally the same week in which the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup) at the Northcote Road restaurant, the very first in the chain.
“I’d like to think it’s the Kiwi burger [that is most popular] with the pineapple, beetroot and a fried egg but our Blue Cheese comes a close second. And now, Tim, who is the Head of Food for GBK, has introduced a non-mayonnaise blue cheese so it’s just a slab of gorgonzola instead of cheese mixed with mayonnaise.”
“So is there a difference between the UK and NZ burger joints?” I asked.
“In New Zealand they can be a little bit more adventurous because it’s a smaller market. They can make changes quite quickly. But burger tastes are quite similar. People want a slightly smokey, BBQ, slightly charcoal slab of meat, and they want it to be nice and moist. I don’t think there’s too much difference but in NZ you could put on something like a Tandoori burger whereas here it might look a bit naff. But then the whole Indian food culture isn’t so prevalent there.”
So maybe it’s because there’s just so many more of us in the UK that we always turn to the simply option. Or maybe it’s because us Brits are already diverse in ourselves, living a multi-cultural existence outside of our burger homes. Or maybe it’s simply because The Classic is the cheapest option on the menu and we’re just a nation of frugal diners.
Incidentally, the Northcote Road restaurant has just been given a new facelift, and now looks more like a cross between a rustic New Zealand holiday ‘batch’ and an American diner. Hopefully the same treatment will be dished out to all the other GBK venues shortly.Peter had the Wild Boar burger, which he hadn’t tried for some time, and which looked like it might have made poor Peter shed a tear or two. Perhaps it was hotter than he remembered.
I had the Minted Lamb burger, which was much more delicate compared to some of the behemoth creations coming out of the GBK kitchen. I also had the Oreo Milkshake for afters which is delicious but only recommended if you order a small burger as your main. Trust me!