I am more than willing to admit that I have a propensity for snobbery when it comes to food. My fondness for fluid gels, purées, and my ever increasing collection of truffle oils has led some friends and family to believe that I am incapable of enjoying simple food. The truth is very different- simple food is very often the source of great pleasure. Unfortunately, a lot of simpler dishes have been ruined by chain restaurants and supermarket convenience food. Yo Sushi! have replaced the philosophy of beautifully fresh fish and attentive service with conveyor belts of bland, stodgy items that don’t deliver what they should. Pizza Express and Zizzi deliver a good pizza, but their pasta dishes lack authenticity and excitement. However, of all the simple dishes we know and love, the burger has been worst imitated. Fast food chains have almost destroyed the reputation of the burger, while nearly every pub has an unpleasant, grey and grainy offering. The core problems are overcooked meat, unnecessary toppings and rubbish rolls. Thankfully, these are three problems that Byron completely avoid.
Tom Byng’s restaurants are predominantly based in London, but are beginning to open up in cities around England, most recently in York. The menu is short and uncomplicated, with more beers than burgers. Opt for a classic with mayonnaise and salad, or choose from a diverse selection of cheeses. The eponymous ‘Byron burger’ is a classic combination of beef, bacon, and cheese, and seems like the most obvious choice. Burgers are cooked medium as standard, but I opt for medium rare, while the vegan opts for a veggie burger with avocado instead of goat’s cheese and no mayonnaise. The Byron approach to veggie burgers is to put together a selection of vegetables with a grilled Portobello mushroom in a squishy roll, and it delivers on almost every level. The only slight problem is the structural integrity of the burger, but I think that was largely down to the added avocado. The Byron burger is spot on. Pink and juicy beef with a nice chargrilled flavour, fresh salad that still has its crunch, and a proper roll which is better than any other offering on the high street. The tanginess of the cheddar finishes off what is probably the best burger you can get in York. There’s no need to mess around with unnecessary extras, and I don’t even bother adding ketchup. I think pickles are essential to a good burger, providing much needed acidity to cut through the richness of the meat. At Byron they are served on the side and are really nicely done. They don’t have any of the back of the throat, harsh acidity that put most people off pickles in the first place.
The drinks selection is excellent, with a half decent looking wine list and few types of bourbon. The really interesting stuff is the craft beer. I tried an Odell IPA, a sensationally hoppy beer with a long grapefruit finish. The Brutal Brewing Pistonhead Kustom Lager was a great example of the affinity between burgers and beer, although perhaps not as interesting as the last beer we tried. Dale’s Pale Ale is a canned beer, something which Byron champion. Again the hops are present and interesting, another excellent beer that pairs up nicely with the burger.
Byron is a welcome addition to York’s casual dining scene, and for my money is one of the best options available in York. Dodge the dodgy wine lists of the pseudo-fine dining options in town and pick up a burger and a beer for half the price instead.