Guys, you can come out now. The frenzy's over, the dust has settled, and people have stopped wrapping brioche buns around everything they find in their local Makro wholesalers. That escalated quickly - I mean, that really got out of hand fast. In 2013 we would've had the choice between 3 McDonalds branches and a Wetherspoons lunch deal for a burger fix, but by the start of this year we'd seen everything from local start-ups to international chains via spin-offs, pop-ups and kitchen takeovers set up shop and fight for their share of the minced-beef bap market.
Byron started in London back in 2007, in the years that followed they saw a growth across the capital so rapid it would've made The Great Fire of London jealous, and eventually went National. Their first Yorkshire restaurant opened in the Summer of 2014 in the Lands Lane venue that previously housed women's underwear shop La Senza - (if you've come here looking for puns about "buns" or "baps" then sorry to disappoint, but they're staying firmly in my mind - which, as usual, is in the gutter).
And a lovely venue it is too - the listed building transformed into an open-plan loft full of leather banquettes, wood floors, butchers tiles and bare brick. We've seen it all before of course, but there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's executed well.
It's clearly the same attitude that they've taken with their menu - 4 of the 7 main options are various combinations of a burger with/without cheese and bacon and an extra patty. There's also a special, and 3 options which started life as specials, but made it onto the permanent menu. In a world where Dude Food restaurants appear to be trying to see who can get customers to pay for the most-revolting burger fillings, it's kind of comforting when the most outlandish topping is something called Freddar. There's no explanation on the menu, but a quick delve into Google tells me it's their chef Fred's version of American cheese "done right" - spot the recurring theme!
That Freddar pops up on the Father Cheesemas special, along with crispy bacon, pickles, chipotle ketchup and honey-mustard sauce. That may sound about as Christmassy as a weekend at Glastonbury Festival, but good on them for sticking to a formula that's proven to work - rather than sacrificing restraint for the sake of theme and sticking a Christmas Cracker in there.
The star of the show - the patties - are another thing done well, though thankfully not well-done. Cooked Medium as standard, their portly stature means that the get a decent, sticky char on the outside while staying pink and juicy in the middle. The bun deserves credit for holding everything together spectacularly as well (the special comes with two patties, which did seem a little much despite the bun coping well. It can be served as a single by request).
Elsewhere on the menu things get a little inconsistent; Courgette Fries are a missed opportunity, cut too thick and fried too slowly resulting in mushy wedges as opposed to the best kind of crispy ribbons; Macaroni Cheese is decent, the Christmas version of it (again, with the decidedly secular addition of green peppers, chilli & jalapeño) especially so; Caramel & Salted Pretzel Milkshake, thick as cement and served by the pint, was as convincing an argument for over-consumption as I've ever heard. The drinks list reads well - Beavertown, Thornbridge and Founders augment the usual Brooklyn & Brewdog options, and wine is listed unambiguously as Good, Better, Great & Best, with a £10 jump from a bottle of Good to Best.
So now the boom has reached its peak comparisons are bound to be drawn between all of burger restaurants. When the standard offering is so universally adored and open to interpretation though, there's enough room for all of the different types to coexist without too many toes being trodden on.
Byron, while its expansion might have coincided with the rise of Dirty Food, isn't anything of the sort. As promised, these are "Proper" Hamburgers, and some of the best of its kind - Quality, considered ingredients cooked properly and served in pleasant surroundings. You can even use a knife and fork if you like.
Byron, 9a Lands Lane, LS1 6AW