I wanted to try this new Reading Burger made with local ingredients at the smart looking Honest Burgers on the corner of the Butter Market and to check that it’s worthy of the name. After an edgy game of dominos in the Monks, me and four workmates on a payday binge thought we would indulge.
The conversion of this drab corner building has been really welcome. The lovely low lighting and the sort of formal, clean but rustic look gives the place a honey glow. You don’t need to book and the service was very attentive and prompt although some of the staff in civilian dress can be a little confusing. There is a casual diner top-deck and galley-like large lower area with booths and longer tables in the middle.
The menu is unfussy and minimal. Although it wouldn’t take you many visits to go through the card, they do have a frequent new burger to try. Most burgers are around the £10 mark. The range of drinks is refreshingly local and interesting with all the new craft stuff. We had a Siren Craft, Wild Weather, some Fullers lager and an IPA and you can get a decent half for £3 and a pint for under a fiver, if you don’t want to splash out on drinks.
The Reading burger (£12.95) was divine, with contents of Barkham Blue cheese, red pepper chutney, tomato, red onion, lettuce and pickles (all ingredients of local provenance). The reason that the Grumpy Goat sell a shedload of Barkham Blue every year is that it’s absolutely delicious. It has a stiltony but creamy mixture that goes so well with this meaty treat. It’s like the Lennon/McCartney of burger combinations or, for older Reading folk, the Friday/Murray, as it pulls you into two distinct striking flavour zones without one overcoming the other. I asked for a medium well done burger and that’s what I got. Every burger comes with signature rosemary chips and I must say I’m not so keen on a whole bowl full of these, but the other four in the party loved them, so I am against the tide on that issue. My Turkish friend Erdem announced “I am Mediterranean, I am used to this sort of thing”, so he must be right.
The intense feelings one gets when biting into a meaty, tasty, juicy burger like this does at least bring on a glimpse of an unseen God. Or perhaps we trigger some genetically firing neurons and we can see our primeval selves shorn of all pretension and sophistication, furiously tearing into and gobbling down greasy bloody flesh with unbridled gusto, around an intense fire with shadows playing on the cave paintings of woolly mammoths, sabre toothed tigers or just frescoed Neanderthal hands – I know I do.
My good companions all tried different burgers and had this to say;
David: “the Chicken Burger was tender and moist – I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Edward: “the Disco Burger with pineapple was a real treat – the flavours worked well.”
Erdem: “the Honest Burger was honestly scrumptious.”
Matt: “the Tribute Burger was juicy, meaty and well packed.”
The burgers are all served on enamel tin plates, which seems apt for some reason, but does provoke memories of army dads and their shaving kit. The side dishes looked very decent portions with the huge onion rings being reminiscent of the Wembley arch. We weren’t absolutely stuffed but just fairly full up.
We were surprised to find out there were no desserts apart from milkshakes. As good a focus as this puts on the savoury stuff, and I’m sure the milkshakes are lovely, we all thought some special ice cream would have ended the meal well. Maybe a lardy cake ice cream would make an incredible local signature dish (if it’s even possible). The bill mordantly presented in an enamel tin cup was for a reasonable £81 and all five of us had proper drinks.
The funky music was totally in keeping with the vibrancy of the place, although I’m never quite sure why these places play music so loudly in the toilets as it’s very hard to keep in time or dance while using them. Local doesn’t always mean good, but the idea of a Reading burger using fairly local ingredients as an attempt to give the place a strong identity and connection to our town is, I think, entirely worthy and honest in intent and delivery. I hope this burger is on the menu for many years to come.
We parted with a warm glowing feeling which is exactly what you should feel after a night of fine food, drinks and good company. As I walked away I couldn’t help but think of Julian of Norwich when she intoned “all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Thanks to David, Edward, Erdem and Matt.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.