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Almost Famous Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield adores the goo and slop of Pop Art food

Written by . Published on January 13th 2014.


Almost Famous Reviewed
 

THERE's a famous 1950s collage from Richard Hamilton, pop artist, called Just What Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing

This is it.

Just what makes today's homes so different, so appealing

Just what makes today's homes so different, so appealing

Richard Hamilton was a founder of the British pop art movement. This was inspired by, as one critic says 'everyday art from ads, commercials, the media and culture at large, particularly advertising. It followed on from the postwar boom years in the US, when everyone was buying homes, cars and what-will-they-think-of-next machines like toasters and dishwashers.'

Burger bars were part of the boom. 

In 1957, Hamilton himself wrote a definition of pop art: 'Popular (designed for a mass audience); transient (short-term solution); expendable (easily forgotten); low cost; mass produced; young (aimed at youth); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and last but not least, Big Business.'

Do I need to write any more for this review of Almost Famous?

That description nails it, surely? Done. Dusted. 

There's a child-like charm to Almost Famous

There's a child-like charm to Almost Famous

Certainly I reckon Beau Myers, the imagination behind the business, must have put Hamilton's words in a burger, eaten them and then spewed them out first with Socio Rehab and then with the phenomenon that is Almost Famous. 

The third Almost Famous opened late last year in the Great Northern off Deansgate. It is presently one of the busiest food and drink outlets in all of the United Kingdom. It's so popular it might make Scots think twice while making their minds up on independence. 

AF III

AF III

The first Almost Famous was hidden up stairs in the Northern Quarter and was the genesis of the legend. 

The mythology rose from the cunning way the Almost Famous team whipped up excitement by making people feel privileged to find the restaurant and then by giving them excellent burgers. It didn't hurt calling everything AF 'dirty' as in 'porn' either. You could spot early-adopting Famousers a mile off, they carried grins as cheesy as the chips they'd just eaten. They looked smug.

Burger me hard

Burger me hard

The second Almost Famous opened in Liverpool where people became so giddy and excited they became EXTRA SCOUSE - which was terrifying for passing tourists. Some young women with particularly bouffant hair, micro-minis and towering heels spontaneously combusted through the excitement Almost Famous generated. They had to be taken to the nearest Wetherspoons and doused in Smirnoff Ice. 

All the cunning hallmarks of the business are in place in the latest Almost Famous, clever signage, clever use of posters and a big gorilla. The mood is cheeky, rude with a saucy wink, risque in a modern burlesque way that somehow appeals to the hipsters without - and I really can't quite work this out - appalling all the feminist hipsters that also love the place. There's one cocktail called Bitch Juice. No, honest.

Cheeky

Cheeky

The burgers are as good as ever. With an Almost Famous burger you get excellent meat from Frosts, the brioche bun and, most distinctive of all, an immense amount of delightful goo and slop.

These aren't boring burgers, I found Byron burgers to be boring, I find most burgers to be boring. These aren't. 

Instead Almost Famous burgers are a right bloody mess. Shops are running low on kitchen towel supplies because Almost Famous is buying every last roll for customers to wipe their mouths, hands, elbows, knees and inner thighs clean of all the hot melted gunk flowing over the side of tables and plastic presentation baskets. 

Kitchen towel everywhere, we need more, this burger's all over my face

Kitchen towel everywhere, we need more, this burger's all over my face

I've eaten just about all the burgers on offer since Almost Famous opened in the Great Northern and wholeheartedly recommend the Awesome Frickin Chicken (£8) and the Butter, Blood & Bleu (£10).

Burgers everywhere

Burgers everywhere

My favourite is the Animal Burger - main picture at the top of the page.

The name makes me laugh for one thing. It's so accurate. The Animal Burger (£9) comes with 'triple peppered cheeseburger, fried onions in magic mustard mayo, beef monster munch, lettuce, chipotle ketchup, jalapenos onions'.

It's a beaut. I want one now. I loved the fact that in all that slop and sauce there was real beef monster munch to add a blast of absurdity and to really get you going. That additive addled extra was a pointless piece of magic that made my Animal somehow special. The bacon bacon fries with this are a winner and very filling. 

Fries - these are calorie free, honest

 

Fries - these are calorie free, honest

Knock all this back with booze, a pint of own-brew Wrecking Ball at £4 or Brooklyn £4.50, and the job's a good 'un. 

Of course given the scale of the Great Northern outpost something of the cleverly crafted intimacy of the original Almost Famous has been lost, but then maybe it's time for the business to show it's more than 'quirky', it can be 'serious' too. 

It certainly is

 

It certainly is

Not that it's likely to become too serious given the madness of Myers. 

Of course not everybody admires Almost Famous.

Some people despise it and ask: "What on earth makes Almost Famous so different, so appealing?" And then they moan on and on and on about the Northern Quarter and inevitably the word 'beard' crops up.

God, people can be tedious. You'd never want a drink with these people. They get a bee in their bonnet and can't ever let the thing free. 

What they fail to see is that Almost Famous has captured the moment, bottled up a mood. It's a Manchester triumph. "We know we're only shifting burgers," they seem to be saying, "so why not do it with a bit of flair and wit? Why not have a laugh with it and give you a good time too."

Back to Richard Hamilton's quote on pop art: 'Popular (designed for a mass audience); transient (short-term solution); expendable (easily forgotten); low cost; mass produced; young (aimed at youth); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and last but not least, Big Business.'

The city's better for Almost Famous, our piece of Pop Art doubling as a restaurant. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.

Almost Famous, Unit 2, Great Northern Warehouse, Watson Street, City centre M3 4EJ   

Rating: 16/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 8/10 (blood 8, chicken 8, animal 8.5, bacon fries 7.5)
Service: 3.5/5 
Ambience: 4.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Cheesy friesCheesy fries

I love unicorn, it gives me the hornI love unicorn, it gives me the horn

The menuThe menu

The cowThe cow

The barThe bar

The beerThe beer

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42 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

PryonicJanuary 13th 2014.

Couldn't have put it better myself Jonathan! If it's not to your taste, don't go! Personally the "attitude" grates on me a little but I find the food amazing! If the food didn't outweigh the annoyance, I just wouldn't go - I wouldn't moan about it on ManCon trying to sound all alternative and thinking everyone who does go is sheep.

Mark GarnerJanuary 13th 2014.

Beard

Nick SpraggJanuary 13th 2014.

A good honest write-up. There can't really be anyone moaning about it anymore can there when Manchester is spoilt for choice on the food front? There will probably always be a wait at busy times, so maybe go at less obvious times? Plus let's face it, the prices don't break the bank and the food is good. Regards An early Famous Adopter Smugsville Manchester

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

How long did you have to wait for a table? Or were you ushered in immediately?

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

So have you dug up your burger lust again then?

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

They're not "cheesy fries" - they're Bacon Bacon Fries! Ellie, Communicaitions social media online bod, Beautiful Drinks

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 22nd 2014.

Moron

Arlington StewardJanuary 13th 2014.

^Wool

JimJanuary 13th 2014.

I like the place a lot but I personally blame them for the fact pretty much every restaurant in Manchester has replaced the burger bun with brioche. I do like a normal sesame seed burger bun but everyone has switched to brioche. Even grill on the alley is doing it now. It's annoys me a lot.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SAZKJanuary 14th 2014.

I like the brioche buns, but I like sesame seed too. I wonder why these places that specialise in burgers dont give you a choice?? What is also annoying is if you go somewhere where they toast your bun and neglect to mention it on the menu. If a place prides itself on its burgers, why not focus on doind one thing amazingly well and give us lots of options.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2014.

Because shoving as much stuff as possible on top of the meat is the most important thing now it seems. Lest they be described as 'boring' by reviewers...

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2014.

Even monster munch, bacon frazzles etc! And that's the difference between AF and the places they have tried to imitate.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2014.

I'm with Jim. I absolutely love burgers but simply can't abide the brioche bun. Desconstructing my meal in public looks weird so I will unfortunately be a one time visitor to AF. I will have to save the burger eating to the rare occasions when that rarest of beasts is spotted, a good burger in a savoury bun. I'm hoping for a savoury burger bun revolution....

Hero
ktfairyJanuary 14th 2014.

The works Friday morning breakfast run was done in M&S the other week and my bacon roll turned up on brioche..... not good...

Gina McDadeJanuary 14th 2014.

Agree with what your saying, best of luck, although for me burgers are done to death now. Have got up say, Lust luck liquor and burn, dreadful, my husband and I got food poisoning from there, so it had put us off all the restaurants to be honest and the customer service afterwards once we reported this was very bad.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 15th 2014.

Hi Gina, Quite surprised that you have received bad customer service from us - if you could email me on ellie@beautifuldrinks.com and I can look into it, this is not the sort of outcome we strive for. Ellie, Beautiful Drinks

BeakermanJanuary 14th 2014.

It does what it does so very very well

LouJanuary 14th 2014.

I've heard the food is fantastic but i've also heard the staff are rude, condescending and self righteous. I'm not sure i'd wish to support such an establishment regardless of how good their food is.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Ian RobertsJanuary 14th 2014.

You've heard Lou. Why not try it out for yourself and see. I've never had a problem with the staff.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2014.

Lou, what you've heard is correct. I will never understand how someone working behind a bar could feel so damn superior to the customer.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2014.

I would love to go but every time I've been the door staff have said it will be a two hour wait (even in mid Jan). I loved the one in the Northern Quarter but I don't think I'll ever make it in side this one.

manlikeJanuary 14th 2014.

£4 - £4.50 a pint ! I think I`ll go to spoons n` pre-load !

MaggieJanuary 14th 2014.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

SusieJanuary 14th 2014.

Food over-rated. Expensive for what it is, don't get me wrong if the food is good ill pay top dollar. Hype over-rated. Applause to the very shrewd business man! Still mourning the loss of le Relais de Venise L'Entrecôte on kings street

GGJanuary 15th 2014.

I think Almost Famous is great. It's a burger bar and great fun as well. Nothing pretentious at all I reckon.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 22nd 2014.

It is the very epitome of pretentiousness...

Barry TravisJanuary 15th 2014.

Wow can't believe someone is mourning the loss of L'entrecote whikst bemoaning the "over hype" of Almost Famous!?!? L'entrecote was the gold standard for over hyped arrogance!! They basically were saying "Hi we're French, therefore are geniuses so ckme eat our average steak which we're branding as mind blowing". Almost Famous isn't perfect but what is? They're honest and imaginitive, and most importantly LOCAL. Why would you sing the praises of a pretentious glorified chain restaurant, when we have a fun-filled local original to be proud of?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidJanuary 15th 2014.

Almost Famous are just as much a pretentious glorified chain restaurant.Do you honestly think they would turn down the opportunity to open lots of other branches if they had the opportunity?.They are a business just the same as Starbucks and businesses are about making money. By the way are LOCAL businesses better?,do they pay their staff more?,do they take care of the environment more?.Also slagging of a French restaurant for only providing steaks is a bit pathetic when Almost Famous only really offers burgers.

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 15th 2014.

Glad to see the new year's cheered you up David

Anna GrahamJanuary 15th 2014.

The food is very reasonably priced, considering how nice and how different the burgers are! I love the Brioche buns - gives them more flavour! Can't believe people are complaining really. I think it's doing a great job and I couldn't contemplate having a bog-standard burger anywhere else now!!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 15th 2014.

The fact that a burger doesn't have all sorts of stuff chucked on top of it doesn't make it "bog standard". Sounds like you've been eating at the wrong places previously.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 15th 2014.

Anna I'm with you a burger without lots of goo is dull, might as well eat five million other types of nosh.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2014.

So why no review of DogsnDough which has been open longer than AFIII? Is it because ManCon are in the Myers rather than Morgan camp or is it because DogsnDough don't advertise with you guys?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
ShybaldbuddhistJanuary 15th 2014.

I went to DogsnDough the weekend it opened and I was disappointed with the options for vegetarians. Cheese & Tomato pizza or cheese & tomato pizza with peppers on. Not very imaginative. Much prefer the halloumi burger at Almost Famous.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 15th 2014.

Ha, nothing so sinister. Frankly I forgot to put it in the review list. We'll go.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2014.

Byron>AF

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 16th 2014.

fact.

Andrew JonesJanuary 16th 2014.

Attitude is perhaps wearing a bit thin now, but still thing it does quality burgers (amongst all the goop) that beat Byron, and at still surprisingly cheaper rates. Still like.

Janusxxx shared this on Facebook on January 18th 2014.
AnonymousJanuary 24th 2014.

I went on New Year's Eve and we were there about 10 minutes after they opened at noon. We proceeded to wait 40 minutes for our food even though we arrived while it was quiet. I also have to say the staff customer service left ALOT to be desired. The food was great but the whole thing was a bit of a let down after I'd waited so long to go. 'Tasty but arrogant' is the term I'd use to describe the feeling I got from Almost Famous. What a shame

Bob SmithApril 12th 2014.

Having eaten at AF each Saturday afternoon for the last 8 weeks in a row, I feel I can offer a slightly more balanced (not superior) view than many. Having travelled the united states extensively over the past few years, I would say that AF the closest I have ever gotten to the "real thing" in the UK, basically it is outstanding! Never once have I experienced any attitude issues with the staff who I have always found to be young, enthusiastic and friendly whether behind the bar, waiting tables or greeting you at the door. The other opinions expressed in relation to attitude seem a little overdone and suspicious to me but then again, I only have personal positive experience to compare against. I would suggest to anyone reading these comments, ignore all of us and give it a try. Food = 10, Service = 10, Comparable to USA = 10.

shiveringgoatJanuary 29th 2015.

Unhealthy, fat-laden, junk food. You're going to tell me next that a cuckoo is a better singer than a nightingale:)

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