*WARNING – READING THIS WILL MAKE YOU HUNGRY
Mr R and I had an amazing few days dining at some of the best pubs and restaurants in The Cotswolds, bringing the trip to an end with dinner on the last night of our autumn food tour at Michelin starred Inn, The Walnut Tree. There was just one more stop to make on the way back home from Abergavenny, where else but The Beefy Boys in Hereford?
There’s a great interview by Adam Knight for Herefordshire Live: An Oral History of The Beefy Boys, which goes into detail about the 4 friends from Hereford whose idea began after smoking American BBQ style patties at a girlfriend’s (now wife) birthday party in 2010. The foursome since went on to win ‘Best Burger’ at the UK’s biggest BBQ competition Grillstock 2014, and then won Best burger (joint highest ever score recorded) at the world food championships with their ‘Butty Back’ burger in Las Vegas 2015 before opening their first restaurant in Hereford. As I’m writing this the ‘boys’ have just checked into New Orleans as they’re entered the championships again in 2017 which take place on 8-12th November at Orange Beach, Alabama.
Even though I’d never been before, in my heart I knew this would be the best burger I was going to have eaten in the UK. I’ve spent a lot of time in America and even lived there as a child, so it was going to have to be something really special for me to consider it as the best burger I’ve ever had! Our table was booked way in advance as we had a meeting arranged with The Beefy Boys to discuss something very exciting (well, for us anyway). When we arrived people were already queuing at the door outside, some with bookings, some without. If you live in Hereford then it might be worth the risk of dropping in, but I would highly recommend pre-booking through their simple OpenTable booking system to avoid any disappointment.
Our table was upstairs next to the window where we could see the entire restaurant and kitchen. Sauces, menus and kitchen roll (this could get messy) were already on the table and we were also given an ‘on till they’re gone’ menu with today’s specials including burgers, milkshakes, sides and drinks. Mr R ordered a non alcoholic sweet slumber shake (£4 without alcohol); tarte citron Monin, milk, Kelsmor Dairy ice cream and topped with cream. The alcoholic version is livened up with a splash of sleeping lemons German goose (£7.50 with alcohol). A very simple recipe which didn’t go over board with ingredients and it tasted just like lemon pie. The milkshake was sharp, sweet, refreshing and entirely indulgent – who cares, we were still on holiday!
Front of house and events manager Kate was on hand to take our food order and we pre-warned her that we might go a little crazy. We got some mac & cheese balls on the go (£4), along with the chilli cheese fries from the main menu (£6) and the steak fries (£9) from the specials. Mr R and I love our classic burgers without too many twists or extras, so we both went with the original ‘The Beefy Boy’ (£8). A colossal amount of food even for us, but we weren’t afraid to give it a go.
Possibly one of our favourite side orders, which rarely lives up to our hopes ,is mac n cheese balls. This time was an exception and it was love at first bite. On the outside the breaded balls were golden and crispy (but not oily), and were dusted with parmesan, chives and bacon. The recipe and cooking technique had clearly been perfected in order to achieve a lovely, velvety macaroni cheese which remained securely inside. The spicy chipotle ketchup that came for dipping the balls adding a bit of spice and smokiness was a simple yet genius accompaniment
The chilli cheese fries described on the menu as ‘a big messy plate of house fries’ were actually a thing of beauty and art. That’s the thing about art, each to their own and all of that 🙂 A mountain of perfectly thinly cut (thank goodness as Mr R would have got his measuring tape out if they weren’t the skinny kind) and well-seasoned fries covered the plate and were topped with a finely ground beef chilli. Nacho cheese sauce had then been smothered over the mince and then finished with a blanket of sour cream and sprinkling of fresh chives and sliced jalepenos. We’ve had similar variations of these ‘dirty’ or ‘filthy’ fries elsewhere, but the high quality and finely minced texture of the chilli made these stand out above all of the rest for us. Our other plate of fries was topped with chargrilled flat iron steak slices, crispy shallots and a very peppery peppercorn sauce. It was basically a whole steak & chips dinner in itself. I would totally recommend this if it’s on the specials board when you visit, although be warned as you may not be able to eat much else as although delicious, they are also incredibly filling.
‘The Beefy Boy’ is a tower of ingredients comprising of lettuce, red onion, gherkin, crispy bacon, Swiss cheese, American cheese and The Beefy Boys super secret special sauce. On appearance this is an uncomplicated looking burger, but each component has been carefully sourced and the cooking methods perfected. The bun looked like it had been glazed, almost like a donut. This fascinated me and I wondered how they achieve the glossy finish. I think after a little investigative research that it has something to do with steaming the bun at the end, which I had a go at myself in a recent attempt to recreate our Beefy Boys burger. We were so happy to have been asked how we would like our patty cooked and that we were able to have it slightly pink, allowing us to really appreciate the flavour and texture of the meat – don’t worry all juices were running clear.
I’ll get straight to the point – this was the best burger that I recall having ever eaten. So what makes a good burger and why do I claim this to be the best I’ve had? There’s a big difference between eating a restaurant burger and eating a fast food style burger, and there are great things about both. I want quality, locally sourced meat on my burger and a freshly baked bun which you are more likely to come by in a restaurant or gourmet burger bar. I also want the American style cheese and feeling of being a bit naughty you get when indulging in a fast food burger. The Beefy Boys in my opinion have perfected both. They use 21-day aged Herefordshire Beef sourced from local butcher Neil Powell, and freshly baked semi-brioche buns – a recipe made exclusively for The Beefy Boys by Peter Cooks Bread. The bacon is slow cooked to achieve the crispiest bacon imaginable without tasting burnt, and the combination of American and Swiss cheese melting over the patty is heavenly. As I mentioned a little earlier, I had a little go myself at recreating the best burger I’ve ever had so why not check out the ‘boys’ Top 5 Burger Tips if you fancy trying to recreate one of The Beefy Boys famous burgers at home.
Cost: £35 (food only)
3 sides, 2 burgers
Hereford, Herefordshire, United Kingdom – last visited in October 2017
Food Hygiene rating – 5/5 very good – last inspected 5th November 2017
* 50% of the total of our bill was unexpectedly discounted, and relates to the meeting we had to discuss hiring The Beefy Boys for an event. Although I have written about the experience above, we had not been invited by The Beefy Boys to review the food for my blog.