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Byron Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield enjoys the new venue but isn't swept off his feet

Written by . Published on June 13th 2013.


Byron Reviewed
 

BYRON excited a lot of people when its opening was announced.

Remember in 2013 in Britain, as with rats, you’re never further than six feet away from a burger.

People had slipped into one of the twenty-nine London venues and found them to be very fine. On the Confidential rants people gushed and swooned over the news that Byron was coming north.

I’d never sampled the joys of Byron myself, but my recent visit to the recently opened Deansgate restaurant showed that the company is onto a good thing in Manchester.

Smoking busySmoking busyI glanced up after ordering my food and at 1.15pm on a Wednesday lunchtime there was a twenty strong muncher mob busting the door down, all trying to grab an elusive table. The queue was around the corner.

The faces of the barely-coping staff were as red as the flesh in the medium rare burgers, steam was rising from the chefs in the open kitchen as they flipped burgers like robots in Westworld.

The place was being worked so hard paint had fallen from the walls and the concrete had started to crumble, exposed wires in the ceiling hinted at impending catastrophe.

It's distressed cool man

It's distressed chic

Or maybe not.

The distressed interior is all part of the design. It says, ‘Hey look at us, we’re so genuine and authentic, we’re so free of fuss and frills, we’ve not even decorated the place’.

The website stresses the straightforward too. 

Tom Byng who came up with 'the concept' writes: ‘During a four year stint in America my favourite diner was the Silver Top in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. I would end up there, late at night, frequently a little worse for wear, with two or three friends. We always ordered hamburgers. They were simple, tasty things – a bit messy, but made with good quality meat and only the classic adornments; some lettuce, tomato, red onion, and maybe a slice of cheese or bacon. The ultimate comfort food and so satisfying in their simplicity. Hamburgers the way they should be.’

This is exactly what Byron delivers. But not much more.

After some excellent and juicy olives for £2.75, I had the Byron burger at a steepish £9.25 which contained bacon, mature Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and ‘a Byron sauce’. Instead of chips I had courgette fries for £3.25.

Winning olives

Winning olives

It was all fine. Fine is the right word.

Mr Bang is byng-on in his description. There was an elegant simplicity to the food although the Byron sauce was very reticent – was it there, what is it, hello?

The meat defined the burger. This was perfectly cooked medium rare Scottish beef, friable but moist. You can order a 'skinny' with a side salad but no bun for the carb conscious consumer at £7.50. I'm not so bothered about the carbs but that's an attractive deal given the quality of the meat.

Lovely meat madam

Lovely meat madam

The courgette fries were a decent distraction from the obligatory spud fries, sweet and crunchy at the same time. As a side there’s also macaroni cheese, one of the world’s great food horrors. At £3.50 this might be your thing, but honestly I'd run a mile.

Courgettes fried yet still supple

Courgettes fried yet still supple

A chicken burger (£8.75) with chargrilled breast, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and tomato mayonnaise was unspectacular and functional. My dining companion said, “This is a healthy burger.” An oxymoron surely?

There are a range of salads. The classic cobb at £10.75 looks the part: chicken, crispy bacon, avocado, blue cheese, tomato, free range egg, iceberg and house dressing. 

A new concept, the healthy burger

A new concept, the healthy burger

The Eton Mess dessert was a bad'un.

At £4.95 it was characterless, thin in flavours. Weak. If it were in a Dickens' novel it'd be Tiny Tim. 

Eton Messy

Eton Messy

But a real bonus was the sharp little drinks menu with a sharp list of wines rising to a maximum of £22.95. Best of all on the drinks menu is the range of eleven craft ales. I had the Byron Pale Ale (£4.25), it was a hoppy treat. They also do Thornbridge Jaipur, yum.

Good beer

Good beer

I enjoyed Byron.

It didn’t thrill me but it did hold true to Tom Byng’s principles. It was ‘simple and tasty’ food.

But is that enough?

Remember in 2013 in Britain, as with rats, you’re never further than six feet away from a burger.

So while I liked Byron I prefer the dash and flair of Almost Famous, Gorilla, Solita and Common.

In our list of Best of Manchester Burgers the only way Byron might make it is because the meat filling was beautifully delivered without a hint of being scorched, shrivelled or overdone - the burger’s Achilles’ Heel.

Low key exterior

Low key exterior

It also loses out to the Northern Quarter bars in terms of atmosphere. The crowd is different, the building exterior dull. Burgers demand a certain amount of funkiness to help them go beyond burger and become that elusive thing of the ‘occasion burger’, the special bun, a Mourinho of fast dining.

That said, Byron is a chain after all. It's quickly sped beyond the London original that apparently started out with edge, wit and verve.

It's now maturing having reached a decent scale with 34 restaurants and counting. Perhaps it's time to stop playing at being indie - although they should keep the cute toy cows strutting the ventilation. Certainly the location it's chosen in Manchester, wisely in terms of turnover, no longer fits the 'cool' aspiration of those Byron distressed interiors. 

Still those burgers are definitely 'simple and tasty'. 

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

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

Byron, 115 Deansgate, City, M32NW. 0161 832 1222.

Rating: 13.8/20

Food: 6.8/10 (olives 7.5, Byron burger 7.5, chicken burger 7, courgette fries 7, Eton Mess 5)
Service: 3.5
Ambience: 3.5

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

 

Levitating mooLevitating moo

 

Levitating moo tooLevitating moo too

Sparse interiorSparse interior

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

Hero
Manc GuyJune 13th 2013.

"In our list of Best of Manchester Burgers the only way Byron might get in is..." if they dropped their prices! £9.25? £7.50? £10.75 for a chicken salad? £4.25 for a bottle of ale? HAHAHAHA...FFS!!! Eating out in Mancheser is expensive enough, without having a London 'elite' burger joint turning up.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Quentin TarrantinoJune 13th 2013.

oh god Manc Guy, you know the price of everything and the value of nothing...

Hero
Manc GuyJune 13th 2013.

HAHAHAHA...if that was true, I'd agree with you, but you're very wrong with your assumption.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Manc Guy, a burger in Solita is nearly £12 inc fries. So £9.25 + £3.25 = £12.50. They're on par really, so at least back your rant up. If you don't like the prices of places in town, don't eat in town. Easy innit?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Hero
Manc GuyJune 13th 2013.

As I said...Manchester is expensive enough, which is why I don't eat at the places most of the places reviewed on this website. With those prices and it's location, I'm surprised Byron didn't move just a bit further and make its home in Spinningfields. "Easy innit" indeed!!!

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

£13.50 for a BOTTLE of Prosecco? Or glass?

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Yawn. Another ManCon review where you say you liked the food (you mention the actual patty was perfect) yet you knock it in favour of your buddies'. No doubt I'll be slagged by Gordo right away and told to prove it - which you know we can't. So to pre-empt that and to save myself the hassle of having to reply, fuck off.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
barrel82June 13th 2013.

ouch...

GordoJune 13th 2013.

But I love you Anonymous, i love you. You keep coming back all the time to be let down. You're like those little girls who always used to pinch me and be nasty in junior school, but actually were just looking for attention. You're lovely really ;-)

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Arf, called an attention seeker by the guy who has a pop up on here advertising his Twitter feed with the words "I'll make your life worthwhile" - so, so needy. I come here for the comedy, not the content. You're hilarious.

Quentin TarrantinoJune 13th 2013.

Oooh, c'mon anon, loving it. You're lovely you are. And, you complete bloody darling, you haven't figured out Gordy is a made up cartoon character yet have you? Priceless. Come into the office and sit on the knee of Gordo :-) He will make your life worthwhile.

CharlotteJune 13th 2013.

I think if you talk to most burger-lovin' people in Manchester, you'll find that AF, Solita, Common etc are already up there in people's favorite lists. Not got anything to do with 'buddies'.

Vincent ThompsonJune 13th 2013.

ANON, I've never seen a burger joint advertised on Man Con, I think the review is pretty fair and picks up on some good points, I can see why I would prefer the independents in NQ and they're no buddies of mine! Still, that said I am looking forward to trying Byron!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Never said anything about advertising. If you've not tried it yet your point about it being a fair review is daft at best.

Poster BoyJune 13th 2013.

Mutton dressed up as lamb (sic)...

WharrierJune 13th 2013.

Anon funny just spat my tea out!

Jonathan MoranJune 13th 2013.

Byron you must do better (line Gordos pockets and take more advertising) in future....

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Sounds like the best American-style food is still the Mud Crab cafe in Didsbury. Bit of trek, but worth the effort. Even their Mac+cheese is superb.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Just don't try the "churros"

StephJune 13th 2013.

Wait until Moose Coffee opens on York Street. Ok technically they serve Canadian food but they're all the same aren't they.

David BishopJune 13th 2013.

How come some places are forced to cook their burgers well done thanks to interference from the Council where as places like this can cook medium? Seems an asymmetrical (and somewhat unfair) approach to me.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Hero
MikeJune 13th 2013.

This is a very good point. All burgers should be medium rare but the council definitely seems to allow some but not others to cook them this way. Very unfair

StephJune 13th 2013.

Read an article on this a couple of months ago. The 'restaurant' has to prove to the council that they have correct procedures in place to be able to safely serve a pink burger. If they don't, then they can't.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

I went to one of these in London... the burger wasn't that great but the Oreo Milkshake was really good compared to the watered down ones I normally get in England. The American Food trend has been really hit or miss I think. I'm American, and the prices at SoLita, Common, Gorilla, Byron, EVERY Bbq place in England are ridiculous... American Food is 'Cheap and Cheerful' so I don't get the costs... last time I checked groceries were actually cheaper here than in the USA. Pulled Pork for more than 3£ should be outlawed!

1 Response: Reply To This...
pollolocoJune 13th 2013.

I would think it's more to do with land......you have lots of it!! Cheaper rents...cheaper prices.

BurgerhunterJune 13th 2013.

There is mud crab cafe as part of Grinch in the city centre so head there! The burger at Grinch still knocks spots off most others in the city but as the venue is not new , "hip" and within the NQ, it tends to get forgotten. Went there last week and the authentic style burger was as good as I have anywhere if not better. Forgot about Grinch? Try it! Still fantastic after all the years being there!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
CharlotteJune 13th 2013.

Even better, go on a Saturday - does Jerome still sing?

TimetoshineJune 13th 2013.

You're spot on there Burgerhunter. The Grinch burger is really underrated.

BurgerhunterJune 13th 2013.

I think it's a case of it being under hyped too as you only really hear of solita and the more gimmicky burgers at almost famous.. but it is a top standard of burger and the pizza is as good as most of the pizzerias too. They use two thinner pink cooked patties and tastes amazing! Think bit cheaper than the others too

Hero
David FoxJune 13th 2013.

Just had a very nice Burger at Byron. Buzzing and busy. Do what they say on the tin very well in my humble opinion. Re above comment - I understand Environ Health work independently in terms interpreting laws/rule guidelines.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Has anyone mentioned This & That in here yet?

1 Response: Reply To This...
TimbucJune 14th 2013.

Their burgers are shit.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Ate at Byron, the burger was really good, don't see how Solita can be on the 'Best of Manchester Burgers' list and these will struggle to make it. Or maybe I was just unlucky with the two very average Heinz Ketchup smothered burgers I had at Solita. Also the basic burger is £6.75 which I would say is pretty good value for town. Agree with Burgerhunter above though, Grinch do a cracking burger!

HelenfrancescaJune 13th 2013.

Looks boring as fuck tbh. Alright it's the meat is good but so are the majority of MCR burger joints these days. I'll stick with Famous, ta.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan MoranJune 14th 2013.

#synth

JimJune 13th 2013.

It's a pleasant change to have a burger that isn't served in a brioche bun. I was impressed with Byron. A lot better burger than solita or common.

Frazer MunroJune 15th 2013.

Surprised you've only rated this a 13.8, Jonathan. Really enjoyed my burger there, for me it's all about the meat, then the bun and toppings, not the 'dash and flair' that you seem to feel makes all the NQ places better.

AnonymousJune 15th 2013.

Funny that, an Almost Famous employee putting down a competitor. Just beacause a restaurant doesn't feel the need to daub the drug-fuelled rants of a misogynistic has-been tv actor over its walls in a desperate attempt to seem cool and on-trend (which actually now makes it incredibly dated) doesn't mean it's boring.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 21st 2013.

I need a "like" button for this comment.

Axel LariatJune 20th 2013.

Another vote for the Grinch burger. As good as any I've had in Manchester.

HeisenbergJuly 21st 2013.

Byron burger is great! Price? Some facts have to be taken into account not least 'manc guys continuous bluurrr bollocks' has this guy actually been out in to Manchester City Centre in the past 10 years... Byron is a chain.. and does it well... they are not trying to be a Northern Quarter "trendy/pretentious" establishment they're just selling burgers in a very tasteful environment - picture perfect for selling burgers! (as they 'byron' already know by now - it works) I would be so bold to say it surpasses or at least is on level with the other one or two burger joints in town being Almost Famous and Mud Crab/grinch.. Solita! geez give me a break - 3 times ive tried and persevered only to be served up as a lack lustre burger overly covered in tomato ketchup - maybe the burger flavour is lost in the 'inka oven' maybe its hidden with tomato sauce - who knows... i could be overly critical here and even mention Solitas dated seats straight out of a 80's curry house but should i? (ok i already did)... One final rant/comment.. the Northern Quarter is not the "cool/underground/alternative" anymore.. its full of out of town off beats... no wonder the ones in the know are trying to establish new places away from there...

Andy KJuly 24th 2013.

looks good

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