El Perro Negro, Glasgow

SOMEONE peeking from that open kitchen spots me standing waiting not very patiently with other customers just below that gloriously neon El Perro sign.

From behind my mask, I watch muttering, nudging and within minutes I’m being picked out and shown to a comfy bench on a high seat at the picture window overlooking Woodlands Road.

Uh-oh, I think, as my classic burger arrives suspiciously pronto, sesame studded bun looking fresh, cheese melting in movie-style beneath caramelised onions, skin on fries here too and already that Southern Chicken Burger, with confit garlic and chipotle mayo has bounced up to join the party.

Uh-oh, The Herald’s clearly already taken the photo and El Perro’s expecting a supposed-to-be secret review. But no, it will turn out the picture desk doesn’t even know I’m in here tonight.

I guess the staff are assuming the geezer in the suit is a lost climate fat cat or a fat climate lost cat who has wandered up from the King Canute Conference Centre just down the hill there.

I was certainly advised when I phoned earlier that what with COP26, and them not taking bookings, I may have to wait a while for a table.

Fast forward a few minutes anyway and the Maccabees sing X-Ray over the sound system, numerous cops cruise by outside and a man with a rolled-up yoga mat stops prophetically right at the window, walks forward and looks straight back in at us all.

Gulp, guilt. And I’m already on my seventh napkin, wiping away a gloopslide of mayo and garlic, house dill and chilli pickles, melted cheese, all oozing from around moist chicken with a still crisp coating and all encased in a slick, buttered bun.

I pause to consider the batter on these confit wings, dusted with micro spring onion, doused in en vogue Korean Gochujang paste. They’re like savoury toffee apples, a neon red glaze shattering into sweet, almost sour flavours, in a sensation that’s weird but good.

I already have a complaint though. El Perro may just have won the UK’s best burger for the second time – which is why I am here – and the classic burger that I have just consumed almost the very last bite of has been almost a joy, carefully, professionally, even artfully assembled. Consisting of another good bun, just enough beef to make its presence faintly known, more melting cheese and this time the glooporama is from burger sauce and….way too powerful for me anyway…caramelised onion.

But is it even a classic? I just wanted a plain burger, a simple burger, and a star to steer here by, to steal a line from long forgotten English poet John Masefield.

A real classic burger with cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle and ketchup. It’s surely a settled scientific fact that this is the best way to have a burger, but it also means the core flavours, the beef, the bun, and the balance are not hidden away behind flashy, frippery distractions.

And also because I think El Perro are way, way good enough to serve the simple stuff too – even though they won their latest award for their Top Dog Burger with bone marrow, Roquefort and black truffle mayo.

That burger’s sitting right at the very top of the menu tonight (I actually think it’s a hot dog at first glance) but as I’m currently post bone-marrow and officially way-weary of bloody truffle everywhere, especially on chips nowadays, I picked instead the plainest burger I could have in here.

And frankly? For me? Strange but true: It’s not been plain enough.

Saying all that? As I’m sitting in yet another COP26 traffic queue later, this time at the end of Woodlands Road and as Joe Biden’s cartoon cavalcade sweeps by feet away, cop whistles blowing, Secret Service gas guzzlers speeding, an American ambulance and an actual armoured car struggling to catch up, I ask myself this question: gloop aside, would I go back to El Perro? Yes.

El Perro Negro

152 Woodlands Road


0141 332 8440

Menu: Home of the best burger in the UK and it’s right in the heart of Glasgow. Small farm beef, buttered buns, attention to detail, plus all the usual chipotle, gochujung, truffle flavours. 4/5

Service: It’s the size of a shoe and they’re busy with take-away too, but the service was first class. Friendly, bright and swift. 5/5

Atmosphere: It’s pretty much what you want and expect a burger place to be. Intimate, cosy, buzzy and confident. 4/5

Price: Considering their reputation, they’ve kept a grip on the prices. Made-with-care burgers from £8.50, fries from £3.50 and those wings at a fiver. 4/5

Food: Their two-time UK champ winner goes the full bone marrow, truffle yadayada hog, but underneath the gloopy glam there are decent buns and good beef. I liked the fried chicken best. 8/10