I’ve ‘burgered’ at HANBAO. 3 times previously since it first opened in October 2016, but hadn’t been for a while as I found a couple of things off putting from previous visits. As I mentioned in my write up about HANBAO. a year a go, the restaurant was very cold (possibly because we were sat in the hallway). I wasn’t sure how family friendly it was because of the trendy / hipster vibe of the place and would be reluctant to recommend it to friends with kids. That aside, I felt the urge to go back when images of burgers from the new menu flashed up all over social media, when it launched in March.
We walked into the dark bar area of HANBAO. on Saturday afternoon, which also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, and hadn’t considered how busy they would be. We were told that the waiting time was around 30-40 minutes for a table, but we figured that we could relax in the bar and have a drink so it was no big deal. We could see from where we were sitting that the restaurant and overflow hallway seating area was completely full, and people were drinking at and around the bar waiting for tables to become available.
The cocktail menu on the wall opposite the bar lists 13 different cocktails, all made up with some very curious mixes. I chose the gin soda (£8) – The Botanist Gin, Elderflower, Apple Juice, Lime Juice, Grape Soda, Curacao Bleu. If you happen to be there between 5-7pm or 10pm-12am on Friday / Saturday, then you can choose from 5 cocktails for £5 each on the ‘I got 5 on it’ menu. Against my better judgement of eating or drinking anything blue (with the exception of blueberries), I sat happily sipping may way through the tasty concoction, as I reminisced about drinking grape juice as a child and of clubbing days waving glow sticks back in my early 20s.
Our table was ready in about 30 minutes which felt like no time at all, and we were whisked to our table by the front of house host. Whilst walking through to the main restaurant we were asked if we’d been before and if we were aware that HANBAO. had plans to be extended in the near future. We’d read the news in the local press, but allowed our host to explain that Seb and Alex Lam, brothers and owners will soon be introducing Worcester’s first rooftop bar, when they transform the old Toby’s Tavern pub, which backs onto HANBAO.
I’d narrowed my burger choices down to 4 when previously going through HANBAO’s Instagram posts of the new menu, but now I was here I didn’t have a clue what to go for. It occurred to me that if we had been given menus whilst waiting for our table, it may have helped speed things up a little as we’d have had plenty of time to read through and make up our minds. An oversight by the staff purely due to how busy they were I’m sure. We thought an easier starting point would be to decide on the fries and sides first and go back to the burgers.
The Mac Balls (£4.50) have been a favourite on every visit so these were happening, although unfortunately they had been a little over cooked this time, so weren’t quite as good as we’d remembered them. The insides were still soft and cheesy and they were delicious dipped in the Marinara sauce, albeit a little dry and a bit tough on the outside. Shaolin fries are a new addition to the menu (£6) and quite frankly they’re amazing! Seasoned mixed fries are topped with fresh slices of red chilli, diced roasted Char Siu pork belly, a Char Siu glaze, toasted sesame mayo and spring onion. These were outstanding and without a doubt are some of the best dirty fries we’ve had in Worcester.
Often making the mistake of ordering the biggest burger on the menu, I decided to keep it simple today after much debating with myself over the new choices. Mr R had said he fancied Swizz Beefs (£15), and it also happened to be the one I really had my eye on. Cheezy Duz It (£9.50) also features as one of the new menu options and is made up of 2 double aged patties, double cheese, pancetta bacon, gherkin, onion, ketchup and burger sauce. My favourite HANBAO. burger has always been Philly Cheese, which I was pleased to see had kept its place on the menu, but I was keen to see how its new cheesy rival would compare.
Cheezy Duz It looked like a great burger at first glance and was much larger than I’d expected it to be considering it was a whopping £5.50 cheaper than Swizz Beefs. Everything was great about this burger expect for the beef patties as sadly they were very over cooked. I’d remembered them being much jucier when we’d been before, but maybe this was simply because it was such a busy service. We overheard other customers saying that they had come to try out the new menu, and although HANBAO. were doing an amazing job to accommodate everyone, it must have been challenging for the kitchen. Based on this experience the Philly Cheese is still my number 1.
Swizz Beefs (£15) is Worcester’s most expensive burger, presumably because of the salt beef brisket which is made in house. The burger is also made up of double aged patty, Swiss cheese, Dijon mayo, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, frickles, inside a pretzel bun. This sounded very similar to ‘The Rebuen’, a special I’d ordered at Burger Theory in Bristol which had left me disappointed and I hoped HANBAO’s version would be much better. This was a messier version which Mr R tackled with the gloves provided, he offered me a bite and I went in gloveless. The beef brisket was really tasty, I loved all of the other components, and am a huge fan of the Ma Baker’s buns. Sadly though it was let down by the over-cooked patties, which left us feeling that Swizz Beefs wasn’t worth the extra money. There are some really creative burgers, and when the new menu hype has a chance to quieten down I’m sure will all definitely be worth going back to try – Lowrider is next on the list for me.
After going back for a 4th time I’d now absolutely recommend to friends and readers to take their children to HANBAO. They have a ‘Hanbaby’ kids meal menu at £5.50 and the ’70s funk day time music has a much more family friendly vibe than it seemed to 12 months ago. The staff were super friendly, attentive and helpful, despite being possibly one of their busiest days after the menu launch, and they really did their best to accommodate everyone.
So, is it really all beef and no drama? HANBAO. in the past 12 months have really come a long way and have listened to customers to make the restaurant more appealing and welcoming to all. The burger and fries toppings are unique, fun and of course very Insta worthy. The new menu is superb and the cocktails are crazy. I for one am very excited that HANBAO.’s success is enabling them to expand, and it’s great to see one of Worcester’s independent foodies getting so much local support and creating jobs. Keep an eye out on their careers page of the website for new opportunities with the expansion.
Cost: £35 (food only)
2 sides, 2 burgers
Worcester, United Kingdom – last visited in March 2018
Food hygiene rating – good 4/5 – date of last inspection 10th March 2017