Was it really two weeks ago that I wandered into a restaurant on a Monday afternoon to sit round a table and judge burgers with three other people? Except we weren’t sitting round a table but facing a roomful of chefs, who collectively growled when I accidentally, um, mentioned that you can’t get a good burger in Glasgow.
I remember the date because it is officially the last time I tell any journalist just to conjure up a quote from me. I know, I know: 17 years of being a reporter myself, and all I learned is that I can’t be bothered thinking of something to say. Hence I woke up to read that I have apparently found 15 new restaurants worth visiting, for the rest of my life. Ha, ha. My own fault. But I’m afraid not. In fact, the only one I am racing to visit is the somewhat surprising inaugural winner of the Glasgow’s Best Burger award, the Drawing Room.
Why did it win? Well, we had already eaten 13 other burgers and become weary of poor buns, soggy bread, too-slabby marbled meat, toppling towers of taste-obliterating toppings and a general misunderstanding of what a great burger is. Which is simply two things: a juicy-in-the-middle, full-of-flavour patty and a good roll. And that’s what the Drawing Room served up. Not yet to the standard of the great American burgers, from the likes of In-N-Out, Fatburger or the Michelin-starred Bradley Ogden in Las Vegas, but not that many miles away.
As we slide in, well under the radar, at eight o’clock on a Sunday night, I wonder aloud to Cal: was that just a competition burger? A special dreamed up just for the day? Hmm. Scanning the room, I can tell you they possibly need to finish decorating in here – maybe hang some pictures on those walls, put some cloths on the plain wooden pub tables, or do anything to break up the somewhat dreary look of the place.
There are two couples in this evening, both eating burgers, which is surely a good thing. There’s not much sign of the Drawing Room blowing its own trumpet, though. True, there are cut-outs of newspaper reports about the burger competition sellotaped clumsily to the front door and a mention of the chef’s secret burger in the short and thin menu, but nobody is going crazy with self-publicity.
So, what about the starters – or tapas plates, as they’re inevitably labelled? They’re fine: hunks of chargrilled and seared chorizo with a simple mayo and leaves, and a couple of big king prawns on a slightly-lacking lemon and black olive butter. Both simple but full of flavour. We also order a rib-eye steak with Bloody Mary butter, which is superb: thick and exceptionally tender, and just £12.95, served up with real, crisp and flavoursome chips.
And then the burgers arrive. Two of them. A chicken burger, largely to see if anybody can turn the two potentially blandest substances on earth – chicken and bread – into a flavoursome combo, and the two-cuts-of-beef burger. Let’s dismiss the chicken burger right away, as it is inoffensive but not carrying nearly enough punch from the garlic and thyme marinade to defeat its inherent dullness. The meaty burger, however – bulging, caramelised and served with fresh tomato and onion relish – is an entirely different proposition. It comes on a brioche-like shiny-topped bun, which stays soft and hangs together long enough to eat, and is firm and tasty. It is not overloaded and can be picked up and eaten without being skewered by toothpicks. Perhaps the bread could have been a bit fresher, but it is a Sunday. Maybe a bit more seasoning to the mix, too? I’m not sure.
I am sure, however, that it’s pretty much identical to the competition winner – and, at £7.95 with more of those great, fresh chips, exceptionally good value. Well worth trying until somebody comes along next year and knocks it off its pedestal.
The Drawing Room
1055 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
(0141 339 2999)
Hours Mon-Thu 4-9pm; Fri 4-10pm; Sat noon-10pm; Sun 12.30-9pm.
Menu A simple thing with steaks, chicken and, of course, the burger that was officially voted Glasgow’s best. 3/5
Atmosphere A bit dim and somewhat plain inside. Needs work. 3/5
Service Friendly enough and reasonably laid-back. 4/5
Price At £7.95 for an award-winning burger and chips, and just £12.95 for steak frites, very good value. Tapas starters a tad expensive, though. 5/5
Food Excellent burger and steak. 7/10