Can ever a foodstuff so ostensibly humble have been so venerated, so lusted after, so - hyperbole klaxon! - fetishised as the burger? Having had to put up with some bloody awful specimens over the years, these sceptered isles have in recent times seen a wholesale improvement in standards, thanks in no small part to a certain London-based chain of grease-houses and all who followed in their slippery wake. Whole websites are now devoted to the things. My own personal epiphany came over a Dead Hippy a couple of years back. Holy effing shit! I remember thinking, as the perfectly calibrated mix of sweet, salt, meat, cheese and tang zeroed in on the cerebral cortex. Pretty much everything else has since then seemed sepia-tinged and tired by comparison, and so I'd basically given up on burgers, deciding that there's a glass ceiling on how good they can be in anything other than the most expert of hands.
Until now that is. The Fat Hippo has been doing its burger-flipping thing to general acclaim in Jesmond for a long old stint. I had my fill of Jesmond during the uni years and rarely venture that way, so I've never tried it. When word hit twitter that they were taking over the site of the defunct Pole-hole "Krakow", I raised an intrigued eyebrow and, like Rocky or Rambo or some other Stallone character in a shit se-se-sequel, decided to come out of retirement for one last, final, burgery mission.
|Down the stairs...|
I hope it's not an omen for them, but this site does seem to come with a free portion of doom. Starters and Puds used to be here. We had a laughably rubbish meal there once, shortly after which it closed. Then came the aforementioned Krakow, serving up hearty Polish fare before losing its way in a blizzard of Groupon vouchers. I think this time the place may have found a more successful occupant. Personally I like downstairs spaces, and they've done it out nicely. Our old friends exposed brick, chemistry-lab stools and filament light bulbs are present and correct along with some splashes of neon and the odd picture such as this burger-faced version of a Magritte. I do like a bit of Magritte.
"Yes, yes, but what about the actual food and drink?" Well. The booze selection is very decent, if not cheap. I had a pint of Camden IPA which is good stuff, if a spot flat-tasting. The menu is laden with intrigue. Cronuts? Peanut-butter burgers?! Fancy!
We kicked off proceedings with some Jalapeno Poppers and Deep Fried Gherkins
The former were smuttily gratifying deep-fried cheesy football type affairs. The spicing was just right, although I question the sense in providing sour cream for dipping. That's double dairy in anyone's book.
|Deep Fried Gherkins|
Proper credit is due for some really very good fried pickles. I've tried to make these and they're a bugger, the moisture in the pickle making it a right pain in the arse to get the batter to a) stick and b) crisp up. The Fat Hippo have by and large squared this circle. The pickles themselves were good quality, although cut a little too thick if you're asking me, which considering you're reading this, I'm assuming you are. Made on site? I'd be interested to know. Again, not the most adventurous of dips. At meatliquor they come with a blue cheese dip, which is perfect, if not better. Garlic mayo is fine, but only that and no more.
|Slightly blurry action shot|
Chips were not really chips, but more like massive wodges of spud, fried successive times until partly crisp. If you've ever had the "chips" in The Forth or The Cluny you'll know what I mean.
|A cheeseless Candy Man|
A gratingly bum note was sounded on the production of Kasia's burger. "Isn't there meant to be cheese on this?" came the call a few rather arrid bites into the thing and indeed there was. A waitress checked the menu then apologised, saying that there were two new chefs on and did we want her to tell one of them? After some humming and ha-ing a replacement was requested (a first for this blog, how exciting!), but the offending cheeseless article was left on the table, a flaccidly totemic reminder that all was not as it should have been. After about 10 minutes a replacement was produced, although much hunger had waned in the interval.
Being as objective as my full gut could at this point allow, this thing is just too damn sweet. The Cronut sounds good in theory but the bottom gets soggy. Some sort of sour relish is needed on this number, but then what was to be expected from a burger with such a name.
These burgers are big, rich and juicy gits. If you can can put away starters, burgers and still have room for dessert then I salute you. We didn't even look at the pud list, assuming that there is one.
Thoughts: They're getting a lot of things right here. It's well done out. The starters were good and could be excellent with a tweak here and there. My burger was a winner, no doubt about it. Heed my advice and avoid anything in a Cronut, it's a needless distraction. The service seemed a bit panicky and stressed-out, but friendly for all that. They've only been open a few days I think, so this can be almost completely forgiven as I'm sure new staff will get into the swing of things in due course. Saying that, it does seem obvious that if someone asks for something to be replaced it's a pretty good idea to take that thing off the table. The bill came to about £26 quid which seemed about right.
I'm sure the Fat Hippo will be a big success. On the Thursday night of our visit every table seemed to be taken, and people seemed chuffed with what they were getting. They're open late, til midnight on a Friday and Saturday which opens up a very worthy mid-booze session food option. I'd go back for sure. This doesn't, on evidence of our visit, quite measure up to the stratospheric heights that the perfect burger delivers, but so few places do. It's thumbs up for a very solid effort and the best at this sort of thing that I've had the pleasure of in Newcastle.
The Fat Hippo Underground, 2-6 Shakespeare Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6AQ
0191 447 1161