August 6 2017
Review: Smashburger, SouthGate
“I feel as though we’re a couple of kids on a first date,” Mr Pig declared as we settled into a booth inside the latest arrival on the Bath burger block. And I got his point, for Smashburger does indeed offer a youthful, first date environment reminiscent of date scenes in the best of the 1980s-era American films, complete with a soundtrack – on the evening we visited, at least – supporting such a vibe. So we rolled back the years and made ourselves comfortable in our cosy booth (red leather banquettes; chrome fixtures and fittings), and prepared for a flirtatious trip back to the future courtesy of the new version of an age-old genre.
While Smashburger may indeed have considered classic American diner characteristics for design inspiration, it’s bang-on-trend in terms of the contemporary casual dining experience in the UK, easily fitting in (and complementing) the latest batch of chains and franchises that have recently opened in Bath’s glossiest Shrine to Mammon. We could have sat at high stools at bars at the centre of the action, or against the window facing the main drag thoroughfare (and, rather ironically, A N Other burger outlet across the way). There’s a huge drinks machine in the corner (the Unlimited Coca-Cola® Freestyle, no less: a self-service, touch-screen fountain offering 100s of soft drink options), posters and smart graffiti against bare brick walls promoting the Smashburger USP (‘smashed, seared, seasoned’; ‘100% fresh British Beef’; etc) and doubling-up as artwork, and a gleaming open kitchen towards the rear. Within that kitchen, this ever-expanding chain that originated in the USA a decade ago claims to have transformed the erstwhile humble burger concept into an explosive taste experience by ‘smashing’ it: fresh beef is hand-formed into a meatball before being smashed onto a hot buttered grill, the theory being that this is the ultimate method of creating the juiciest burger you’ve ever encountered.
And the process seems to work very well – our burgers (we mix’n’matched a Truffle Mushroom Swiss and a Bacon Cheeseburger, chosen from a long, enticing list that includes chicken, massive salads, decent veggie and bespoke, create-your-own options too) oozed intrinsic beefy juiciness in a way that burgers ordered in pubs or restaurants who don’t specialise in burgers but include them on their menu just never can seem to do – impressive. Impressive too was the generous infusion of truffle in the mayonnaise on the Mushroom Swiss, and the perfectly sweet/smoky balance that Applewood smoked bacon and American cheese bought to the Bacon Cheeseburger party – it’s clear that somebody, somewhere, has considered both the Smashburger options and the quality all of the ingredients highlighted within those options very, very carefully indeed.
We shared sides of Haystack Onions (light and delicate, far removed from those big clumsy onion ring ‘tyres’ we’ve become so used to), and Smashfries – which come seasoned with rosemary and garlic – too. Meanwhile, there’s local craft beer, Goose Island IPA, throughly decent Sauvignon/Pinot Grigio and even Prosecco on the drinks list (although I have it on good authority that a Hand-Spun Shake is the only way to go for the full Smashburger experience), and doughnuts and churros alongside Häagen-Dazs on the dessert list for those of us who can handle such an indulgence after a burger blowout (unusually for The Pig Guide, we couldn’t manage to even peruse the options).
So is Smashburger smashing? Yes, I believe so. It may be pricier than it’s genre stablemates (expect to pay around £35 for a similar feast to ours, which included large burgers rather than regular, sides, a glass of wine and a couple of beers), but it offers a substantially higher-quality fast food/casual dining experience than the (dare I say it?) increasingly dated, familiar high street burger chains.
That first date feeling, meanwhile, comes as standard.Categorised in: News