I’ve previously taken to my media pulpit to preach about how the burger is often the most maltreated of menu items. There are some (many) abominations out there, treating it like a pick-and-mix of misplaced and ill-suited accoutrements and toppings — a towering, heaving burger with a puck of seasoned (a collection of dried things found in the kitchen cupboard) over-ground, dry and over-cooked animal lurking somewhere within.
Bunsen does not do that. For me, it’s very much protein purity at its utmost.
I first revealed the Dublin chain was opening up shop in Belfast more than four years ago. Despite having paid a visit to its Temple Bar location, I wasn’t sure if the pared-back nature and focus on key ingredients would work and catch on here.
But judging by the number of those paying it a visit and its presence on Deliveroo, it appears to have garnered similar success.
Bunsen is very much about simplicity and a reverence for the core elements. The burgers are made from a well-balanced ratio of three forequarter cuts, each chosen for a balance of flavour, texture and fat content.
The buns are simple and classic, made for the restaurant and forgoing the ongoing lust for sugar-laden brioche.
The rest? Some standard American cheese, a pickle, a murmur of salad, tomato and a classic sauce containing mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard. It’s also under seven quid. You’ll find others charging twice for something not half as good.
The menu, printed on something akin to a business card, highlights just how simple things are here. A hamburger, a cheeseburger, a double, three options of fries and a few drinks. That’s it.
The classic cheeseburger cooked pink (another key to the success of the entire experience) is the quintessential representation of the higher-end fast-food burger, done right.
It’s moist, rich and has clean beef minerality and a flavour more akin to a half-decent steak than a burger. Everything else has its place and balances the burger — just enough fat from the cheese, the softness of the bun, the acid and texture from the onions and pickle and the piquancy from the sauce.
Personally, a double is often too much. You’re pushing the boundaries of the structural integrity and ingredient equilibrium — don’t expect it to respond with the same level of stability.
The attention to detail extends to the fries. The shoestring option is the way to go — a generous and hefty serving brings thin, crisp strands of crunchy and clean potato flavour. Often, they are more of a distraction from the main act, but Bunsen brings them to the table as a solid accompaniment.
Tom Gleeson, who co-founded the restaurant, has high-end cooking pedigree. Bunsen is what happens when you’re schooled in tradition and fine-dining and can then transpose the technical towards something considerably more humble.
Think Picasso’s earlier works, learning the skills in painting realism before turning his attention to creating something very much his own.
Cheeseburger x2 £13.90
Beavertown beer x2 £10
Shoestring fries £2.75