Tuesday, 8 June 2010

GBK - How The Mighty Have Fallen

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but we used to live in Brentford. So we used to goto Chiswick a fair bit, mainly because Lina worked there. But as time passed, Chiswick ground me down to the point where I really did not like it at all. Still don’t. People keep asking us why we live in North London now. Chiswick had something to do with it.
Since our return, I have been back once or twice to see friends and meet Lina after work for a drink or some nosh somewhere.
This particular Saturday, we had a goodbye party at the Bollo. A good pub near to Chiswick Park tube. Lina was working that day, so I met her after work and we went off to get a beer and some grub before the party.
We were actually double booked that day. As we had a 40th party at The Green in Clerkenwell that night as well. It was going to be a long night.
We wandered down as far as the Roebuck. Nice gastro pub. Good beers, fun crowd and does some tasty food. Plus it has a nice large garden out back with plenty of seats. Unfortunately we never ate there, as there was nothing on the menu that took our fancy. Shame number 1.
We wandered past Franco Manca, but as I had eaten pizza the afternoon before, I really didn’t want to eat more just yet. Shame number 2.
But in the distance was the round sign of GBK. It sung out to me. Good memories came flooding back to me. Hmm hamburgers. We’d had a fantastic one recently in Byrons on Upper Street, and maybe with those sweet memories I made that fateful mistake of suggesting it. Shame number 3.
Now way back then, we used to eat once in a while at GBK. Then the burgers were pretty damn good, I used to particularly like the barbecue sauce they had. The fries were good, the milkshakes were even better and they sold Steinlager as well. What more could you want.
A big warning should have hit me as we approached. It was pretty much empty. Now this normally sends alarm bells ringing in my head. But this time they were silent.
I had more or less always eaten the barbecue burger, and it was what I wanted again. Lina opted for it as well. So off I trotted to the counter to make our order.
As I was giving my order, the kid asked me how I wanted my burger. I said “Both medium-rare”. He then replied, “ It is company policy that we can not guarantee your burger to be medium rare. Is that ok?” This left me dumfounded. Why bother to ask how you want the burger cooked, if you can’t do it. Damn I hate that in places. I mean it’s not too hard to cook a burger anywhere from rare to well done. Any chef can do it. It’s not rocket science. Grrrrrrrr.
The burger towers came, after being placed in front of a couple that had just sat down. Oh dear. Finally we got them. I really wish I had my camera with me, as they looked a sight. They were everything I do not want in a burger. To start off with, the bread bun did not look appetising at all, and tasted a bit stale. It had been put on the griddle to crisp up a little, but it wasn’t a good bun.
The patty itself had no real taste at all. The inside looked like it had been pureed not minced, and was a rather nasty looking grey colour. Maybe this is why they smother their burgers in sauces. The barbecue sauce itself was lacking in that all important barbecue taste.
The chips were nearly cooked but not quite. They were borderline on being a bit soggy, and they were not hot.
At least the beers we had were damn good. Then again they were not prepared fresh in the GBK kitchen.
What happened to the burgers I used to like. Where had they gone? Gone in their franchising scheme it had. Looks like profit before quality has taken over the GBK machine.
All this may have been because GBK have had a massive expansion over the last few years. On their website they have 51 branches in the UK, plus one to open soon in Nottingham. Also there the ones they have in Ireland, Turkey and I’m assuming Oman, Dubai and Greece pretty soon according to their website.
In my view expanding so big so fast has hit GBK hard. To source good quality beef for their burgers now has obviously been pretty difficult. Also to find decent waiters and chefs is proving problems also it seems. In some countries being a waiter is a good job. Here it is done by people who do not give a damn, and have no idea how to do it. You only have to look at Carluccios and Fish Works to prove that fast expansion does not work.
On this performance GBK has sunk a lot. Can they drag their sorry selves up again? Who knows? To be honest I don’t really care. GBK will never see the inside of my wallet again.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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