Liam Rudden: Around the world in eight burgers
SURROUNDED by framed guitars and stage wear once donned by generations of rock gods, the challenge was to take a trip around the globe, burger by burger, courtesy of The Hard Rock Cafe's World Burger Tour (Part 1), running all this month at their George Street eatery.
The first four of the eight burgers to make up the tour (Part 2 is next month) hailed from Las Vegas, Hawaii, Cologne, and Athens.
Having received a suitably effusive welcome - Hard Rock Cafe staff are quite simply brilliant - it was time to explore the menu, expanded for May to include the new ‘legendary’ burgers.
Settling down for a tasting session, which saw all four burgers delivered at once, was daunting, not least because each came with its very own bowl of flavour-matched artisan fries and a cocktail, inspired by its origins, to quench the thirst.
Thankfully, I was not lunching alone.
First was the German Schnitzel Burger from Cologne. Served in a warm pretzel bun, the breaded pork was tender and juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. It was topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, some deliciously sharp sauerkraut, and Dijon mustard... we ignored the traditional lemon wedge.
Next, the Greek Burger came topped with tzatziki sauce, arugula (rocket, to you and me), tomato and a topping made of feta cheese with capers, black olives, peppers and onions.
It was quickly obvious this one wasn’t going to make it into our ‘burger heaven.’ The piquancy and texture of the feta mix unusual in a burger.
The Hawaiian Aloha Burger proved an instant hit, however, and boasted an unexpected surprise, a slice of Spam, an inspired addition to the guacamole, Monterey jack, rocket, garlic aioli, grilled pineapple ring, sweet soy glaze and pico de gallo (a salad made from chopped tomato, onion, coriander, serranos, salt, and key lime juice) that topped the burger.
Quirky, in a good way, the combination of flavours proved refreshing and light.
Finally, the Atomic Burger from Las Vegas had visions of Debbie Harry bouncing around my head. Fiery and spicy, it lived up to its name and came with the best fried onions ever.
Jalapeños, rocket, tomato and Pepperjack cheese all added impact to the light brioche bun, but the main kick came from the Sriracha mayo and deep-fried, beer-battered peppers. They packed some punch.
Being faced with such a mountain of food, there was no way leaving clean plates was ever an option so the various fries and the buns took the hit, though room was left to sample the cocktails.
As for the burgers, Atomic may be the best-seller but for me there was no beating the German Schnitzel Burger - suddenly I was back in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral’s twin spires. Perfection, closely followed by the Aloha Burger.
There’s another four burgers to try in June - Tandoori Chicken from Mumbai, Java Lava from Seattle, Jamaican Jerk from Montego Bay, and the Giardiniera Deli Burger from Chicago.
Think I might just have to continue my tour then...