Is the perfect burger out there? Susan Wong muses. She certainly believes it does and heads to News Cafe for a classic burger experience.
The search for a perfect burger is to me like the search for the perfect man – an often arduous journey full of surprises, some good and some pretty bad. When a burger first arrives, it inevitably looks irresistible; but after your first bite, you begin to realise that the bun is crumbly and the beef patty is overcooked and then after the second bite, it dawns on you that God Forbid what you are actually eating is highly processed piece of meat.
Some burgers may not look perfect but reveal themselves to be astonishingly good once you take the plunge and take a mouthful. So have I found my perfect burger? No, not yet, but on my recent trip to News Cafe in Nairobi’s Kilimani neighbourhood, for example, I licked my fingers after indulging in a burger. Surely, that’s a good sign.
The new kid on the block, this South African franchise injects its signature style into their Kilimani branch – one that emotes a special vibe. Gentle house music thumps in the background as the generous space fills-up quickly before the dinner rush and guests enjoy a full menu of cocktails and spirits that loosen tongues and inspire conversation. At the stroke of eight, the lights dim to an ambient glow and the volume of the music increases – it can go a bit high at times with conversations eventually transforming into shouting over the next table’s conversations.
The U-shaped bar anchors the space, transparent glass pendant light fixtures hang from the ceiling, copper pipes that run up the faux brick walls – whitewashed and blackened – add an urban feel while the heavy black crush velvet drapes at the front ensure that the space maintains a sensual vibe.
My companion and I begin with the Jalapeno Bites – their style of deep-fried poppers encasing melting feta, mozzarella and cream cheese with finely diced jalapenos. The interesting sticks, subtly spicy, arrive with servings of guacamole. Don’t forget to squeeze some fresh lime juice onto the poppers – it’ll definitely help cut through the richness of all that delicious cheese!
Our Tempura Prawns, despite being a starter, arrive looking like a healthy main dish. The mountain of deep-fried breadcrumbed shrimp are not exactly a light and airy tempura-style, rather more a Deep South favourite. No complaints here though! The dip, a mayonnaise with sweet chilli sauce, is altogether forgettable. Stick with a squeeze of fresh lime and you’ll be heading to a comforting food coma.
When a classic becomes fashionable, it’s always easy for its basic virtues to be lost; thankfully at News Cafe, they managed to showcase what a classic burger experience should be like.
The menu features ten burger choices: from classics to exotic twists. The burger patties come custom-blended for the chain – the lean-to-fat ratio remains a closely guarded secret. The classic Bacon and Blue Cheese comes with a juicy beef patty topped with crispy streaky bacon and gorgonzola sauce. The Big Beef, a popular selection – on a good day the kitchen will pump out 100 orders – arrives as a towering burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, mushroom sauce and slices of avocado.
The burgers both arrive with sides to the table on a wooden platter that always stops conversations thanks to their sheer intimidating size and display. The spread stares back and almost dares you to eat it. News Cafe burgers are a wonder.With all the busybodies roaming the restaurant floor, service is swift…often too much. The rhetorical question “May I clear this?” is usually accompanied by a rapid motion of removing dirtied plates, even before your companion has finished.
The burger movement of delicious new takes on the American classic in Nairobi has heated-up in recent years. From using locally sourced meats, artisan breads, organic produce, homemade condiments, funky names, to that burger patty that’s been injected with extra love thanks to grilling over charcoal – the “better burger” movement has taken Nairobi by storm.
There’s nothing wrong with a humble dish getting a noble makeover. For now, at least, the options for burger enthusiasts are at an all-time high, especially with the inaugural Nairobi Burger Festival! The perfect burger is said to be hard to find, but I believe out there, there is one for every person.