There are countless places in Leeds at which to grab a burger. There are cheap and cheerful fast food outlets serving convenient takeaway meals, big-name pubs firing out beer and burger combos at competitive prices, independent breweries collaborating with local food heroes to produce perfect pairings, and even fine dining venues offering their own creative and contemporary versions of the mealtime favourite. If it’s a burger you’re after, you really don’t need to look very far to find one.
One of the newest additions to Leeds’ diverse foodie scene is Honest Burgers. Established down in Brixton back in 2011 by two friends who shared a love of cooking and a passion for quality British produce, Honest Burgers now boasts almost 50 venues across the UK. The no-frills, no-fuss eatery opened near Leeds Corn Exchange just a couple of weeks and I was invited over to sample some of their bestselling burgers and legendary fries. Eager to discover why this relatively simple-sounding restaurant concept with its basic menu and stripped-back branding has been such a success, I headed over last week with my husband and son.
The city centre restaurant is spacious with a large central bar area and simple, unassuming decor. Wooden tables, large chalkboard menus, and industrial-style fittings and fixtures reinforce the message that Honest Burgers is all about the food. This is an eatery definitely meant to be judged by tastebuds rather than by Instagram likes on selfies. When we arrived, the venue was surprisingly quiet with just one other table of diners present but that soon changed when a large party of happy twenty-somethings came bounding in and filled the two tables adjacent to ours.
The menu at Honest Burgers is short and sweet. If you’re after foot-high burger stacks laden with sauces and jam-packed with weird and wonderful toppings then this isn’t the place for you. The guys behind this brand have spent many years researching and retraining in order to create burgers that taste sensational without a plethora of added extras. All of their beef comes from British native breed cows that are bred on a farm in Gloucestershire and they have their own butchery too. The burgers are made from chuck and rib cap cuts which are chopped rather than minced to retain all the best bits and guarantee a texture that is meaty yet tender.
We ordered our drinks before ordering our burgers as my husband was being uncharacteristically indecisive. I’m not a big beer drinker as I much prefer red wine or spirits but will always opt for a cold pint of lager when ordering a burger. Honest Burger’s ‘Burger Beer’ is brewed specifically for them in collaboration with Laine Brew Co in Brighton so myself and Mr Wilson-Barrett ordered pints of that and Freddie chose a glass of homemade lemonade.
The drinks took some time to arrive but the staff were very apologetic and informed us that there was a problem with the keg which they were working to rectify. Once our drinks arrived, we were ready to order food and our server asked us if we had any allergies. As usual, I declared my tomato intolerance, and the chef was notified. I’m not sure how common it is but I always feel rather guilty telling eateries I can’t eat tomato. Puree is a particular trigger and it is used in so many sauces and dishes. It isn’t a life-threatening allergy and eating vast quantities of it won’t result in me keeling over and requiring medical assistance but it will cause me to vomit and that would make for a less than enjoyable experience.
On the menu at Honest Burgers there are two chicken burgers, four beef burgers, three vegan options, and a monthly special usually created in collaboration with a local independent brand. Each comes with a choice of sides and they are priced between £10 and £14.75. Having been assured it was tomato-free, I opted for their Tribute burger. My husband chose the Buffalo Chicken and Freddie went for the Children’s Beef Burger with extra lettuce. We all chose their Rosemary Salted Fries as our sides but requested a portion of seasonal coleslaw and some onion rings to share too.
Our meals arrived promptly and I was somewhat taken aback by the size of Freddie’s meal. At eight years old and growing rapidly, he often finds the meals on kids’ menus to be a little too small for him. The burger he was served was a really good size and it was accompanied by plenty of fries. My child needed no encouragement to begin tucking into his meal and other than the occasional exclamation of delight, we didn’t hear a peep out of him until he was full.
My burger comprised of two beef patties, crispy bacon, American cheese, burger sauce, salad, and pickles. Apart from those being served to children, all the beef patties at Honest Burgers are cooked medium rare unless you request otherwise. On this occasion, I needed to request mine be served well done but being cooked for longer certainly didn’t have a negative impact on the final result.
Not blessed with the largest of mouths, I tackled my burger with cutlery. I could slice through my patties with ease and without them crumbling disappointingly into pieces which they so often have when I’ve ordered from other established burger chains. They retained their shape and texture perfectly and were both incredibly moist without being greasy.
The sauce, cheese, bacon and salad which accompanied my beef patties in the buttery brioche bun enhanced the dish but didn’t they didn’t overpower the meat at all. The delicious flavour of the perfectly seasoned beef shone through to make it one of the tastiest burgers I’ve eaten – juicy, beautifully seasoned, and boasting a divine meaty texture.
Mr Wilson-Barrett’s Buffalo Burger consisted of a whole free-range buttermilk fried chicken thigh, lovingly drizzled in the ever-popular Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce. Crispy on the outside and moist in the centre, it was a cracking chicken burger and my husband enjoyed every mouthful. Although, after trying my Tribute burger he did state he would order a beef one next time. As tasty as his chicken burger was, it wasn’t quite as impressive as mine.
The burgers themselves were each delicious in their own right and none of us could fault what we ate. So much focus is put on the source and quality of the meat used in their burgers that we didn’t really expect much from the side dishes. We certainly hadn’t anticipated that they would be as good as they were.
The Rosemary Salted Fries were absolutely perfect. Unbelievably crispy on the outside, super fluffy in the middle, and scattered with plenty of seasoning they were annoyingly moreish. The onion rings were equally as impressive. The golden-brown crunchy rings of seasoned batter and sweet white onion were almost the cause of a public domestic as Mr Wilson-Barrett eagerly reach over for his third before I’d reached for a second.
We left Honest Burgers feeling more than a little full and in agreement that none of us would be requiring an evening meal that day. Our whole experience at Leeds’ newest burger place was thoroughly enjoyable and Honest Burgers will definitely be our go-to venue whenever we’re craving beef burgers.
This review was written and published following an invitation to dine at Honest Burgers An invitation does not guarantee coverage on our publication or any other publications owned by Roaring Media Ltd – we only publish reviews following positive experiences, whether we have been invited to dine or made a personal reservation. The brands we work with have no editorial control over our content