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Handmade Burger Co Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield finds Giles Coren makes him needlessly explain his religious background

Published on July 8th 2014.

Handmade Burger Co Reviewed

GILES COREN in The Times this Saturday had a good opening line about somewhere called Ballaro in somewhere called London.

It went: ‘Ballaro is a typical Italian restaurant: bloody awful.'

It's as though the company suspects you might do a runner especially if you're in those corner seats by the door. This may be a wise move as the burgers are so unremarkable a runner would be something to talk about after a visit.

But almost funnier - in a clench my fists into balls of fury and howl with hysterical laughter way - was the sentence following all his piled high 1,400 words. In bold it read: ‘At the time of going to press we are hearing unconfirmed reports that Ballaro may have closed.’ 

Thanks for that. 

You could see the problem The Times had. 

Giles Coren is a food writer who probably gets as much Times' fee as all the staff in a busy city centre restaurant earn in two years. In an age of flat-lining or declining newspaper sales the dosh couldn’t be wasted. 

So they wasted the readers’ time and put the disclaimer at the end rather than the beginning of the article.

This ruse revealed the limitations of reviews. They’re only any good if they’re about things you can still visit, view, eat, drink or even get a job in. 

Not that I generally read Coren for his thoughts on the focaccia or the fillet steaks or his closing judgement on yet another run-of-the-mill capital city let-down.  

Giles, How's The Family Getting On


"Is it still open Giles?"

I read him because he keeps me entertained with his wild analogies and mad metaphors and his ridiculous self-absorption. Although I won't be upset if he refrains in future from telling me about how he’s getting on with his wife or how his parenting is going. 

Nor do I need to keep being reminded he’s Jewish (he’s up there with Mancunian novelist Howard Jacobson in this regard). I don’t think I’ve ever revealed that my family’s religious background is part God-fearing Methodist and part God-ignoring Anglican, nor that I don't believe in any Supreme Being myself. Is that interesting? Only for me.  

Mind you this helps Coren pad out his 1,400 words by moving away from the actual review - which is working well for me here.  

A church close to the writer's birthplace in Whitworth which he never attended and isn't very interesting in a food review. Pretty though.


A church in Whitworth close to the writer's birthplace which he never attended and is mostly irrelevant in a food review. Pretty though.

So while most other food reviewers bore me to tears, merge into one saccharine Eton Mess of cringing cliché, Coren keeps me reading.

But that doesn’t save him when you find out the place he’s barbing on about is probably closed. It makes the exercise as hollow as a Ginsters Cornish Pasty, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth like...well...a Ginsters Cornish Pasty. 

This what the Ballaro review felt like. Empty at its core. Pointless

Which brings me, at last, to the Handmade Burger Company. 

Like Coren's review it delivers an experience that is ultimately pointless, only livened up by the weird thing they do about ordering the food. 

This weird thing is annoying.

You sit down and waiting staff hand you menus and then you have to stand up and order the food at the tills like you're in a chippy. You have to pay for it up front as well. It's as though the company suspects you might do a runner especially if you're in those corner seats by the door. 

This may be a wise move as the burgers are so unremarkable a runner would be something to talk about after a visit. 

Pay now - right now


Pay now - right now

There's another weird thing as well.

A classic in take-away foilA classic in take-away foilThe place trumpets endlessly about its rare breed beef and then it goes and minces it up which means it might as well be old Daisy slaughtered the night before by a dodgy hill-farmer. 

Apparently the meat is completely traceable back to the Scottish moo-moo who provided it. But if you mince prime beef, then cook it hard so it becomes bitty like a burnt and bundled together mass of hard raisins I really don't see the point.

This is probably all about some health and safety malarky -  click here - but it makes the burgers poor.

Mince madness

Mince madness

We three - two teenagers and an adult - had the classic (£6.25), the New York Deli (£8.25) and the chicken, cheese and bacon (£8.35). We didn't finish them because we didn't like the flavour combinations and because they fell apart quicker than New Year's Resolutions.

The problem was the bun base which was murdered in seconds by a violent layer of mayonnaise. Yuck. The best burger was the New York Deli with that entertaining kick of Yankee mustard. The classic was the worst because it was a mess. This makes Byron Burger's tedious version of the same - just up the road - seem light and clever. The onion rings were sinister.

A plate of sliders on another occasion, three mini-burgers for £9.95, looked cute but suffered the same bun and meat problems.  

Sliders on patrol

Sliders on patrol

Back to religion. Burgers are being worshipped by food entrepreneurs at present like a new Godhead when, in fact, they are false idols. Good operators such as Almost Famous get away with it - just - but I don't see what Handmade brings to the party.

This is the twentieth Handmade Burger Co by the way, but the eleventy-thousandeth Handmade Gourmet Five Byron Burger Kitchen Guys to open in the last month.

Burger Attack

Burger Attack - or maybe they're flying away, retreating

In the 'Our Story' section of the Handmade Burger Co website it says: 'One day, whilst sitting in his kitchen where he has most of his best ideas, our owner Chris decided that he would like to open a burger restaurant with a difference.'

I wish he had. 

(Unlike the Giles Coren review, at the time of going to press we are completely convinced Handmade Burger Co hasn't closed.)

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


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

Handmade Burger Co, Deansgate, City centre. 0161 832 0708

Rating: 11/20
Food: 5/10 (Classic 5, New York Relish 5.5, Cheese, chicken, bacon 5, onion rings 4)
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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

Pleasantly folded burger for take-out with gherkin atopPleasantly folded burger for take-out with gherkin atop

Handmade Burger Co, the wheelbarrow means something but we know not whatHandmade Burger Co, the wheelbarrow means something but we know not what

Sinister onion ringsSinister onion rings

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

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

Yet another insipid chain.

craigJuly 8th 2014.

looks like one to avoid!

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

What makes an onion ring sinister?

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

All this talk of burgers on Mancon lately. It's as though it's an attempt to marginalise other eateries in the city. Which is why I'm surprised nobody's mentioned This & That restaurant.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoJuly 8th 2014.


RMCJuly 8th 2014.

I would be ashamed of asking someone to pay for those burgers!

AvoJuly 8th 2014.

Those buns look like the cheap, dry, crumbly offerings you buy from Asda in a pack of 24 when you're preparing a BBQ for friends of your partner or colleagues that you really don't like.

JimJuly 8th 2014.

Good review but what annoys me slightly is that the reviewer says the New York Burger was the best, and the classic was the worst which is fair enough but they then proceed to give all 3 burgers 5/10 which implies they were the same! Its obviously a very petty grumble!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldJuly 8th 2014.

Should have been 5.5 for the New York. Will change

JimJuly 8th 2014.

Cool. It was just a petty grumble but it makes the review scores make a bit more sense! Either way i'll probably be giving this place a miss :-)

GordoJuly 8th 2014.

thanks for that Jim, he treatrs me with contempt ;-)

Michael IngallJuly 8th 2014.

Took you so long to get to the point skipped the review, as assumes you were going to pull no punches, shame, pity so close to spinningfields, please do not assume that it's one of ours, getting ready for the @thekitchens maybe a burger operation may win a unit, let's see, !! GBK still the best cleanest burgers!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
MikeJuly 8th 2014.


AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.

No way - Byron Burgers best.

Sharyn CaseJuly 10th 2014.

GBK the best? Nah Byrons beats that place hands down!

AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.

No. Bill's has nailed it.

Paul CarterJuly 8th 2014.

Great review, absolutely spot on. Can anyone decipher what the chap who has commented above is on about?

1 Response: Reply To This...
TimbucJuly 8th 2014.

I can help you with this, no, no-one can decipher what he's wittering about.

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

'Back to religion. Burgers are being worshipped by food entrepreneurs at present like a new Godhead when, in fact, they are false idols.' False idols helping screw the planet:- cowspiracy.com/…

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

Bit late to the party

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

Would have been late to the party ten years ago.

Geoffrey LittmanJuly 8th 2014.

A masterpiece of erudition and analysis. Jonathon you improve with age. I do not like religion or burgers !

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

surprised no one''s mentioned Bill's yet...

Andrew JonesJuly 8th 2014.


Paul HamesJuly 8th 2014.

Its all about the bun for me. Best burger in town hands down is All Star Lanes....shame its predominanty a ten pin bowling alley!

MeJuly 8th 2014.

I liked it! Liked that it wasn't a brioche bun, and the chips were amazing! A little pricier than the other burger joints though!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.

Brioche buns with a burger are just unpleasant...

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

Ballaro is of course an actual Italian restaurant on Haverstock Hill NW3. Indeed I passed it at the weekend. Here is a review www.independent.co.uk/…/restaurant-review-ballaro--an-offer-you-cant-refuse-9047095.html… Other reviews are complementary too. No burgers that I could see

1 Response: Reply To This...
Arturo PredanticoJuly 8th 2014.

Do you mean 'complimentary' or do you mean to say that the reviews enhance the qualities of each other. Interesting concept.

AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

Hate the ordering system...ONE to avoid...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
JimJuly 8th 2014.

Sounds like the same ordering system as GBK and Nandos. I personally don't mind it in burger joints as it saves you having to wait around for the bill at the end of the meal.

AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.

Plus it means you don't have to tip.

David OlliverJuly 9th 2014.

Gordo should realise (he obviously does) that Giles does not write for the real world:he writes for people like himself,Public School,Oxford,telephone number salaries,living in the centre of London.He cannot be bothered to accept that there are restaurants outside London,producing food at lower prices.Giles' qualifications for The Times food critic are: Public School,Oxford degree in English,and father who was Editor of Punch:what more could you want?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Arturo PredanticoJuly 9th 2014.

Gordo didn't write this

SmittyJuly 9th 2014.

"the onion rings were sinister". Perhaps one of your best ever lines, Schofield...

1 Response: Reply To This...
Michael O'RingJuly 9th 2014.

"Smitty, the onion rings - they're behind you!"

AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.

Sounds like it suffers from the same kind of pretentious, self absorbed nonsense as Almost Famous. When will these people understand that style is no substitute for good customer service especially if I'm paying over the odds for a bit of grilled mince?

John HarrisJuly 9th 2014.

I can confidently inform you that the world's best burgers, sublime, tasty, wonderful, orgasmic, heavenly ... are available from the Sunshine Grill off West Bay Road in Grand Cayman. If you want to try them, British Airways offer a round trip from Manchester (changing at Heathrow and Nassau) for about £900. The burger will cost you about £8, and you can top up your tan while you eat.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.

'sublime, tasty, wonderful, orgasmic, heavenly'? Are you sure your name's not Rolf?

LesJuly 10th 2014.

I always enjoy reading Giles Coren on Saturdays. As good as reading Jonathan!! Burger overkill in Manc without a doubt. Sat here wondering what my favourite regular restaurants are in Manc. ( Manchester House and the French at the Midland are irregular delightful treats) . Enjoyed the newish Cote recently on a £9.99 lunch and plan to return. I like Bottega. Also Rice Bowl. San Carlo. Grill on the Alley pretty good too. None of my choices would include burger food !!

Paul CarterJuly 11th 2014.

I keep saying this but go to Bar Boloud in London, have their Piggy Burger and you'll never want to eat another burger anywhere else again. No burger in Manchester comes remotely close.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 21st 2014.

Bit far to travel just for a burger but if you are willing to pay my train fare, ok :)

Alan WharrierJuly 14th 2014.

Ive eaten there twice. I really liked it. The chips are probably the best in Manchester. As for the wierd ordering system??? Its exactly the same as Nandos. Great that you can have a burger that isn't on brioche. Reservations: having to pay for dips sauce!!?? Miles better than Byron and GBK.

AnonymousJuly 14th 2014.

"So they wasted the readers’ time and put the disclaimer at the end rather than the beginning of the article." You're right - total con when disclaimers are put at the end of articles. Such as when you see the phrase "This is a promotional article produced in association with..." at the end of an article rather than the start pot, kettle, etc

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