Thursday, 20 July 2017

Travel & Food: Valencia, Spain Part II - Bueno Burgers


Okay so I know that burger restaurants are hardly synonymous with Valencia or indeed Spain but during our week in the city we sometimes craved something different from the more traditional Spanish fare, which I will cover at a later date. But in reality it's a testament to the ever evolving food scene in most countries that as well as a craft beer explosion we are also seeing great burger bars - other than the usual globalised suspects - cropping up in most cities. And as I was going to try some of the local beers it seemed only fair that we also sampled some local burgers, and so on three occasions when the mood for a meat sandwich hit us we tried three different spots in the city...

Mediterranea de Hamburguesa
First up was Mediterranea de Hamburguesas on Calle San Fernando (It has a sister restaurant in the trendy Ruzafa area...) quite close to the the huge food market that dominates this part of the city. Valencians don't really start to strap on their nose bags until well after nine so unsurprisingly we arrived to an almost empty restaurant. We were seated near the door beside an American group who were obviously used to eating early like ourselves. It had rained pretty hard that day and as there was a bit of a pong wafting in from the street we decided to move further inside the restaurant. It was only when we were sitting down again that we thought that the Americans may have thought we were moving to get away from them ... the fact that they were black exacerbated that feeling and our discomfort. (It is quite possible that somewhere out there someone has written a blog post discussing the racist Irish family that they came across in Valencia...)

Anyhow, hiding our embarrassment we studied the menu, which boasts 14 different types of burger - with a choice between veal or beef - and includes a vegetarian and vegan option, as well as a selection of starters and sandwiches. I chose the Ibérica - an Iberian pork burger with ham, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and crispy onions - served in a rustic Mediterráneo bun, while the rest of the family went for a Mediterranea - a veal burger with goat's cheese, baby spinach with apple and mango chutney in an Americano bun; a Panceta - a veal burger with emmental cheese, bacon, lettuce and onion in a Mediterráneo bun; and a kid sized burger for the smallest in our party. Incidentally there were three types of bun servings available including a topless version!

The beer list didn't seem to run past macrobrewery stuff and anyway I wasn't really in the mood for beer so I plumped for a sparkling water - teaching our confused waiter a new English term in the process. Service was quick, unsurprising I guess given how empty the restaurant was at this time, and my pork burger was decent sized with an undersheet of lettuce leaves and a snug duvet of ham on top, with the crispy onions cleverly scattered on the mayonnaised bun. The fries were pretty standard but inoffensive and nicely cooked. The burger tasted good with the succulent pork combining with its piggy cousin perfectly and complimented by the crunch of the lettuce and crispy onions - but I still looked jealously at the burgers being devoured by the rest of the family as we sat quietly eating our meals and taking in our surroundings, which were a nice mix of urban (If that's really a descriptor?) with a rustic modern feel, and a few bicycles and advert-throwing projectors thrown in for good measure.

We had room for a chocolate and a cheese cake afterwards, with ice cream for the kids (Well I say we had room ... in truth it was a tight squeeze.) before paying the bill and waddling out onto the square where most normal people were only just considering that they may go for a meal in a couple of hours time ... it was 8pm.

Our Opinion: Very pleasant and efficient service plus quite tasty food. The lack of beers that I like might have been an issue on another day but is hardly a deal breaker. The atmosphere was a bit quiet but that was down to our early visit we presumed - but were all happy all with the choice of restaurant and the food itself.


Berny's Burger
few days later, we arrived at Berny's Burger on Carrer dels Valencians a little after its supposed opening time of 8pm to find it shut, but as we were walking back down the street we heard the rattle of shutters and turned to see it opening up for the night. We decided to give them a chance to properly open up before heading in so we grabbed a quick drink close by and wandered back half an hour later.

As with Mediterranea de Hamburguesas it was pretty quiet when we got there with just one lone guy munching on his burger. This place has an arty/music vibe and theme with movie star photos and some cool looking t-shirts, which were for sale, hanging on the walls. Indeed the menu is music themed too, as each burger is named after a musician or movie star it seemed. The very freindly Berny himself - we presumed - was in attendance and quickly translated the menu for us with no fuss, explaining the menu carefully and concisely. We decided on the Berny's Nachos for a sharing starter and then the kids went for plain beef burgers, one with an egg on top, while I went for the Jackson - a veal burger, crispy bacon, mushrooms, loads of cheese and a bourbon sauce - while herself went for the Boris (Karloff?) - a veal burger with goat's cheese, rocket, alfalfa and salsa del bosque.

From my research I knew that they had some craft beers here but sadly he was out of stock when I asked, so instead I was recommended an Alhambra Reserva Roja. This was a doppelbockesque red lager - far from exciting but pleasant and clean enough, and suspiciously easy to drink given its 7.2% abv.

The nachos arrived quickly, laden with guacamole, chili and what appeared to be a mascarpone-style cheese. Personally I would have liked some jalapenos too but it was still all very tasty and nicely balanced when scooped up together. Our burgers arrived soon after, served with a handful of potato wedges and in a nice floury bun. My own burger was a wonderful combination of juicy meat with the cheese, bacon and mushroom raising the flavour profile up a notch ... as only bacon can do! The wedges were fine if a little boring, but then they are only the supporting cast and not the stars so that wasn't a huge deal for us. The rest of the family were well impressed too and as we sat there discussing our day the place started to slowly fill up, with Berny greeting everyone - many by name - with a great smile and a genuine interest in their choice of meal and drink. This came across as a real local hangout as well as well as attracting the odd (literally) pale looking Irish family with their monolinguistic issues.

We had no room for desserts after the nachos and our burgers - I'm not sure if any were available - so we paid our bill and made our way out into the darkening streets of the city to walk off our meal and perhaps find somewhere along the way for a digestif...

Our Opinion: We really enjoyed the personal service, the laidback vibe here and the quiet street it stands on, you could easily wander past it and not give it a second look - I was lucky I had researched a little before heading to Valencia. The lack of microbrew beer was a little disappointing but again it was wasn't a big issue, and seemed to be just a temporary blip. We were all very impressed with the food though!


Burger Beer
When I spotted that there was a spot called Burger Beer in my research of Valencia I knew that my life would be somehow incomplete if I didn't give it a try. This is another burger joint that has an outlet in the Ruzafa area of the city but we visited the one on Calle de Luis Bolinches, as it was less that ten minutes from Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) where we had spent an enjoyable and educating morning wandering through exhibits and gazing in awe at the ultramodern buildings, pretending to be time travellers - or at least I did! Having spent a good while there we were a little tight for time as we wandered in through the easily-missed door of the restaurant a little after 3pm, as they close at 4pm but open again in the evening until late night.

We were seated quickly and shown menus in English which helped ... even if it also helped to highlight once again how useless we were with foreign languages. An impressive range of mostly Spanish and Belgian beers were cleverly listed on our place mats and I decided on a Tyris CCCP IPA (Pronounced Ee-Pah seemingly!) while my other half decided to forgo her normal Ribera del Duero and tried the Zeta Hell. Foodwise I chose the B&B - a beef burger with pork belly slices, lettuce, tomato, gherkin with a mustard and tarragon sauce. Herself went for the Pastor - a lightly spiced lamb burger with tomato, lettuce, yogurt sauce and caramelized onion - while the boy went for a plain burger with bacon and cheese, and the girl a kid's sized hot dog.

The place had a clean clinical but not overly harsh look that I liked and I could imagine that this was a busy spot at night, processing orders and turning seats quickly. My beer was pleasantly citrusy and relatively clean, and I enjoyed it more than some others from Tyris that I had tried. (More about that in another post.) The Zeta Hell was criticised for being, 'Too flavoursome'. Go figure... (More about this in another post too, as I had enjoyed it at a well-timed-for-me tap takeover a few days earlier.) Again service was quick and efficient and our food arrived at our table in no time.

The food was nothing short of superb. The burgers seemed to me to be cooked over charcoal as they had that wonderful smoky flavour and tasty charred bits. The succulent pork belly, trimmings and the toasted bun were all top quality, as was the sauce that covered the burger itself. The fries were incredible too, and strangely shaped as you can see from the top photo, with the right amount of crunch and lightly covered in seasalt. The rest of the family agreed with me with our youngest declaring her meaty, grilled hotdog the best ever!

At 3:58 pm we paid our bill and wandered back into the heat of the Valencian afternoon - full, happy and reeking of meat and contentedness - we heard the door click closed behind us...

Timing is everything, remember that.

Our Opinion: Excellent food and great service, and a pretty good looking beer list. We certainly couldn't fault them on anything and we were tempted to try their place in Ruzafa another day but time got away from us sadly. To be fair their burgers are slightly more expensive than the previous two places but in our opinion they were well worth it. Top marks Burger Beer, we were very impressed!


As mentioned earlier it might seem strange for a tourist to search out burger bars with all the great tapas and paella around but they do seem to be a big part of the food offering in the city so it would have been remiss of us not to try some. Overall our favourite was Burger Beer but we did like the food and personal service in Berny's Burger ... and in truth had no real complaints in Mediterranea de Hamburguesas, so choose your pick and try one!

(Just a quick note on the meat...

As you can see veal is popular, and you will be asked how you would like your burger cooked ... there is a good deal of conjecture about the cooking temperature/colour/preparing, etc. of minced beef. We chose medium each time and had no adverse effects but as with everything, make your own decision - I am not a meat-cooking-sciency-person!)


Part III is here.

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