Saturday, 13 February 2016

Beef & Liberty - bloody good burgers

I'm a sucker for Australian beef, and even more so when that beef is ground up and forms part of a spectacular burger!

That's what I was hoping for when I visited Beef & Liberty, the latest in a long line of burger joints to hit the shores of Hong Kong.  Beef & Liberty started its life in Shanghai of all places, and picked the gentrified part of Wan Chai to establish it's first HK outlet.  

The team behind Beef & Liberty are pretty confident in their product and proud of their location, which they proclaim on their website as being the best location for burgers in Honkers!  I'm not so sure about that, but trendy Wan Chai is changing pretty quickly and the second floor location (above Pizza Express) in Wing Fung Street is very convenient.

Paying homage to the beefsteak clubs of old, Beef & Liberty takes its name from the beefsteak club phenomenon that (apparently) formed part of the 18th century's gastronomic culture:  I didn't really know that there was a gastronomic culture in the 18th century (outside of Paris), but you live and learn!  Whether or not the team have replicated the essence of the 18th century 'Sublime Society' founded by John Rich (look it up) or not is probably not too relevant, but what is pretty darn relevant is the approach Beef & Liberty takes to creating their burgers.

Using only hormone-free grass-fed beef, sourced from a small-scale farmers in Hobart, the Hereford and Angus cattle, Beef & Liberty take pains to ensure only the finest quality beef is passed onto their patrons.  Using grass-fed and hormone-free beef is important, not only for the superior flavour of the beef, but the leaner cows produce higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, making them super healthy to boot (please note, I am not a doctor and cannot substantiate that comment).

There is a pretty decent looking menu at Beef & Liberty, with the obvious plethora of burgers on offer, there are also options for those less inclined to dine out on burgers.  All hailing from from the southern part of the US, there are some sides and salads that look interesting, along with some smaller sliders  and some sumptuous looking desserts.

We were there for burgers though, and that's what we ordered, along with a side of fries to share. Drinks were kept simple, I went for the vanilla shake and the girl went for 'gunner', which was a ginger ale with a dash of Angostura bitters thrown in for good measure.  Both were tops, with the vanilla shake being super creamy and vanilla(ry) and the ginger ale quite gingery.

I'd kept my selection simple and went for the classic, which says everything you need to know about my preferences for burgers, the simpler the better.  I'd asked for my burger to come out medium and was a little dismayed to find my burger still mooing, and bleeding all over the place. I was impressed with the look of my burger though, the magic ratio of beef to buns to salad was perfect.  The classic contained the Tasmanian beef patty, butter lettuce, tomato and red onion (I'd skipped on the pickles) and the salad was fresh and nice.  In fact, bleeding and rare patty aside, the burger was quite tasty, perhaps lacking a little seasoning, but quite satisfying overall.

The girl had gone all US on me, ordering the Bacon Cheese, which couldn't have been more different than mine, but it did come with (you guessed it) bacon, melty cheese and bacon jam. She'd also asked for medium but her burger had suffered the same fate as mine, getting a light grilling before being slapped onto the buns and sent on its way.  It also needed a little extra seasoning, although the bacon jam helped a little with the seasoning.

Reading a few online reviews, it seems as if receiving a medium rare or even rare patty is pretty normal, something which the team at Beef & Liberty will have to watch out for.

While there were a couple of little issues with the burgers, there was no such issue with the side of chips.  I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say they could quite possibly be the best chips slash fries in all of Honkers!  The crisp golden outer was seasoned perfectly, and cooking the chips with the skins on had helped retain that lovely potato flavour that signifies great chips. Even better was the soft and fluffy interior, which when combined with that golden crunchy outer made for good eating!

We'd decided not to order dessert, but were completely surprised when the wait staff brought over a complimentary dessert for us to share.  It was totally unexpected but none-the-less really appreciated, especially since it was the wonderful banoffee!  The pretty looking dessert had a perfect round of crispy oats as a base, then was covered in a banana and caramel cream that really rocked our world.  The cream was really light and the caramel had that ever-so-slightly-bitter twang that good caramel has.  Mixing the bitter and the sweet always goes down well, and so did the banoffee.

It was pretty quiet when we arrived at Beef & Liberty for our lunch, and we were a bit bummed that we were given the smallest and crappiest table in the dining room.  Sure, it filled up quite a bit while we were there, but we'd have felt more comfortable on a table that was bigger than a postage stamp (well, maybe a little bigger than that).

There is a really modern feel to Beef & Liberty, and the dining space is much larger than most of the other burger joints in Hong Kong.  I couldn't say that it's very American(y) inside the dining room, even though the back wall is dominated by a mural created by American artist Cyrcle.  The room is dominated by a kitchen that's largely hidden behind a glass wall, and I for one would have preferred the kitchen to be open for all to see.

Service was acceptable on the day, we did have a little trouble getting the attention of our waiter to pay the bill, but on the other hand, the team did send us out a complimentary dessert, so I can't complain too much.

Would I go back to Beef & Liberty?  It's a good question, and one that would be dependent.  I'm thinking of moving from the Mid Levels to Wan Chai in a couple of months, so if that happens, I guess I could become a regular.  

My only ask would be that a medium burger come out as medium.  I don't mind them bloody, but it needs to be on my terms!

Quite a well thought out logo, the B & L clearly on display
The light brioche bun was light and just the right thickness
The golden ratio of beef x bun x salad was spot on
Yeah, who doesn't like a free dessert!
I'd loved it if the kitchen was more open - for the world to see
Quite cramped in the dining room though
Yeah, they sell beer on their pretty comprehensive drinks list
It's a modern space and I'll be back

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