When is a burger not a burger? When it's an hamburgé, of course. Last week, French burger mini-chain Big Fernand opened its first UK restaurant just off Tottenham Court Road. To celebrate, they were giving away burgers to the first few hundred people who showed up wearing a moustache and/or a striped shirt, but sadly I couldn't get away from the office to enjoy such soft-launch folies. I did, however, make it over there on Sunday lunchtime.
The self-proclaimed burger workshop's London base is on Percy Street and is filled with cheerful, plaid-shirt-wearing French staff. There is a choice of five different burgers: two beef, one chicken, one veal and one veggie option. Now, the prices are not cheap — in fact, the UK menu seems to have simply substituted the Euro symbols for pounds — with the cheapest burger, Le Big Fernand, costing £11. You can make your burger into a 'formule' with fernandines (fries) and a drink for £3 extra, but £14 is still not bargainous for a fast-food restaurant akin to Shake Shack or Dirty Burger. The 'workshop' element appears on the back of the menu, where you can create your own burger, selecting your perfect combination of meat, cheese, vegetable, sauce and herbs.
I ordered a Big Fernand meal and grabbed a seat near the counter while I waited. Le Big Fernand includes a beef patty, sun-dried tomatoes, Tomme cheese, parsley and burger sauce. This being France (well, as close as you can get in W1), you can have your burger cooked however you like, and so I confidently ordered mine medium rare.
The food arrived promptly and was served on a tray, rather than a plate, adding to the fast food feel. I couldn't resist dipping a few of the fries — double-cooked and paprika-seasoned — in the home-made mayonnaise before unwrapping the burger and they were rather tasty. Slightly crunchy and very moreish.
The burger itself was very good indeed — up there with Shake Shack, Dirty Burger and Meat Liquor. I'm normally a cheddar purist when it comes to cheeseburgers, but the Tomme worked really well. The meat was particularly excellent: juicy, tender, flavoursome and pinky-red all the way through. I only tasted a little of the sundried tomatoes and parsley, but then I tend to prefer to keep my burgers on the simpler side anyway: with the 'Tata' sauce too, there were a lot of flavours going on here.
In conclusion, then, if you're in Fitzrovia, in need of a swift and tasty meal and don't mind spending a little bit more than average for a burger-based meal, give Big Fernand a try. They may even be reconsidering their prices following a review from the Hamburger Me blog. Stay tuned on that front, or restez à l'écoute!
Big Fernand. 19 Percy Street, London, W1T 1DY (Tube: Goodge Street). Website. Twitter.
Update: As of 18 March, Big Fernand's burgers are priced from £7-10.