Burgering Around: The Smokehouse Burger Co. on the Isle of Wight
A few weeks back I was on the Isle of Wight. It’s been a while since I’ve been back, but for those that don’t know already, I spent most of my childhood there. And it’s a lovely place. A lot of my family is still there, and a few of my close friends have moved back, so it’s always nice to take a trip (as expensive as it is) across the Solent.
I’ve said for a while, one of the things the IOW is missing is a good burger place. For what it’s worth, I think the geographic separation from mainland England means a lot of Island places rest on their laurels when it comes to food – serve something that’s just ‘good enough’. I know I’m absolutely spoiled in London, and I know you need to work out what’s efficient from a cost/profit point of view, but I never get why people don’t aim to be the best. If Gordon Ramsay has taught us anything, it’s simplify the fucking menu and cook it fucking fresh…
Around Christmas I went to Joe’s in Ryde – a pub I’ve always enjoyed, and had the worst burger I’ve had in, probably, actually, I don’t know. An age. They’d rebranded as ‘Burger Connoisseurs’ so I went in hope. I ate, I think, around 60 burgers last year. The burger here was the only one I left – I mean it was truly terrible. Fair play on the service, and they were happy to refund us after a pretty gross ‘hair in salad’ incident, but the burger alone – awful.
Anyway Tipps, my awesome little brother, had alerted me to a new place and said “let’s go when you come down…” Never one to turn down a burger, and with my IOW standards set pretty low, we stuck it in the calendar. We rolled up to ‘The Smokehouse Burger Co.‘ in Newport on a Saturday lunchtime. The place is sweet. Tables made from wooden palettes and simple decor. I get the feeling it’s a ‘let’s get this open, serve some burgers and go from there’. Good attitude.
The menu is simple. There’s 4 burgers (including the veggie offering), some pulled pork and some sides. Prices are reasonable – you can get your burger and fries for less than a tenner. I went with my favourite/regular bacon and cheese burger (the namesake ‘Smokehouse’ burger) and some ‘Dirty Fries’. We also got some regular fries.
The fries were light, crispy and seasoned. Really rather nice. The Dirty Fries were topped with lettuce, mayo, BBQ sauce, mustard and bacon. To be honest, as nice as they were, the seasoned fries were better. Keep it simple. Too much sauce = too rich.
But importantly, the burger. Let’s start with the positives. The brioche was excellent. I think serving a brioche is ‘cool’ at the minute, but in most places it’s like eating a cake. Keep it airy people. They’d crisped up the base, which was really rather nice, and I’m pretty sure they’d cloched the top, so it was lovely and soft and moist. At the bottom of the bun was BBQ sauce and a lettuce and mayo mix (with some mustard?). On top of the patty was bacon (good, nice and crispy), cheese (I think melted, grated cheddar) and fried onions – which tasted a little onion marmelade-y. All in all, a good combo. And well put together.
So negatives. And the observant amongst you will note I missed the patty out from my positives list. Firstly, the patty isn’t terrible. But it was far too ‘packed’. I have a strong suspicion it was bought from the butchers. Which is a shame, because it put a downer on an otherwise excellent burger. Seriously Smokehouse, if you’re making your own patties, get decent meat and take it easy – just stick a lump of mince on the grill and squash it. If you’re not making them, please start!
It was also possible a little rare for ‘medium rare’ – but then none of our burgers were quite as requested. I’m assuming this is just teething problems and isn’t a massive deal. I’d also *love* (to at least have the option of) American cheese – I just don’t get cheddar in a burger. Especially one so dirty and ‘American’. They also missed our requested pickles(!), but we didn’t say anything, because, frankly, that aside, the service was great.
The Smokehouse is an *excellent* addition to the Island. I’d happily recommend it to a friend and it’s lovely to know you can actually get a decent burger on the IOW now. Sort out the few minor issues (and work on the patty!) and I think they’d have something very special on their hands. Good work guys. I know Tipps and I will be back.