When Tom and Phil set out to start a business, little did they know that it would grow to the size that it is today.
The pair first met when working in a Brighton fish restaurant and they soon found that they shared a passion for good food done well. Inspired by the awful type of offerings such as burgers being served up at festivals, they decided to try and offer a more honest version themselves.
Their ambition was thwarted by lack of funds and they soon realised that a camping grill and tent alone was not going to get them the festival burger set up that they had once envisaged. They also add, that in hindsight, why would anyone produce a great quality burger to sell at a festival, with the trading costs being extortionate it’s just not a viable option.
The core values that Tom and Phil shared led to the naming of their now well known burger outlets, simple Honesty! It was and still is all about being able to offer up food that is of great quality that people can enjoy, they didn’t even set out to only do burgers either, this came about by research and seeing what the public enjoyed and what they queued for.
Following a series of outdoor catering events, some of which they describe as complete catastrophes, they finally set up a permanent outlet in Brixton in 2011. Bagging a small unit at Brixton Market was the turning point for them, the area was becoming hip and trendy as were burgers. People would be queuing up for hours to have their simple offering of Burgers served with Rosemary Fries. While they happily thank their luck of being in the right place and the right time, I believe its the product that has led to their growth and success.
Since growing to the now 35 outlets (36th due to be opening in Liverpool later this year), the pair have worked relentlessly in ensuing that the same quality continues in each and every branch, consistently visiting and tasting for themselves, each of their specials (One for each branch plus the monthly company wide burger) are personally signed off by them before being launched.
Following FSA increased guidelines on being able to serve a burger anything but well done, they also set about launching their very own butchers and this is from where their burgers are now produced to the highest standards available.
Using a 80/20 split of Chuck and Rib-cap sourced from Grass Fed cows from the Scottish highlands, they use a bowl cutter to finely chop up their meat within a temperature controlled environment. This method is more time consuming than simply mincing the meat, the result is a well textured patty that contains the right amount of fat to produce a succulent and tasty burger of the quality they demand.
No seasoning is added to the patties at this stage, instead this is carried out by seasoning on each side at time of cooking, ensuring that no moisture is being absorbed from the burger itself from the salt.
Their obsession doesn’t end with the burgers however, with one of their most difficult items to remain consistent being the fries.
Going through the seasons, they soon found that the chips would vary, so important was the perfect chip that they actually employed a potato expert and worked relentlessly to produce a chip that would always be at its best, even to the point of having temperature controlled storage, ensuring the poor potatoes didn’t get too cold in winter (Important I found out, as this increases the starch content).
Once their chips are fried to their required crunch, they are sprinkled with what Phil described as ‘Fairy Dust’, although a disapproving look signalled that Tom didn’t quite agree with this description.
Its worth noting that well known food critic Jay Rayner once described the sprinkling of rosemary, lemon rind and salt that coat their chips as ‘edible crystal meth’.
Manchester very own Honest Burgers has already been widely welcomed, situated in a fantastic spot on Bridge Street and right next to another welcomed newcomer Dishoom, the venue consists of a lower ground restaurant with additional seating on the 1st floor, followed by a tap room and outdoor sun terrace on the 2nd floor.
Their House Burger is the Manchester complete with Potatoes, Gravy and of course Bury Black Pudding.
Their monthly special throughout June has been the Bravas, in collaboration with Brindisa, so this was the one I had to try.
Their signature patty is topped with Chorizo, Manchego, Patatas Brava, Confit Garlic Mayo, Rocket and Pickles. Just like other Honest Burgers I have tried, this could not be faulted.
Their BBQ chicken wings are also a little piece of heaven, if not a little messy. Chicken wings are cooked and coated in a Chipotle Sauce and Spring Onions.
Onion rings are well cooked with a slightly sweet and spicy batter, made even better dipped into their gorgeous beef and bacon gravy.
Phil tells me that in their other venues, they gravy is kept in a small container, however in Manchester, due to the overwhelming demand for it, it is in a huge vat – Northerners do love their gravy that’s for sure.
If you’ve not yet visited Honest Burgers then you really should, I firmly believe that they have redefined what a great burger is, forget anywhere that you’ve tried before. Once you do, there will be no turning back.
Honest burgers are located on 36 Bridge Street Manchester
I was invited down to take part in a Meat and Potato Masterclass by Honest Burgers, they food and drink consumed was complimentary. All thoughts and opinions however as always are completely honest and impartial