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Berlin’s best new burgers

The burger craze refuses to die, and vegheads are getting in on the action too. Here are our favourite recent entries from both sides of the spectrum.

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Big Sur’s “Patsy Cline” with caramelised onions, cheddar, pickles and truffle mayo. Photo by Giovanni Dominice
The burger craze refuses to die, and vegheads are getting in on the action too. Here are our favourite recent entries from both sides of the spectrum. Meat: Big Sur If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that democracy doesn’t always work. So it was with some trepidation that we ordered the burger at Big Sur. As its social media crows, the new Graefekiez restaurant’s mobile counterpart Gorilla Barbecue has won burger voting competition Burgers & Hip Hop for its past two iterations. We’re sceptical of these taste tests, where the public tends to eschew subtlety in favour of populist, monstrously unhealthy creations with dominant flavours that appease your reptile brain, align with white supremacists and attack journalists on Twitter. Wait, what were we talking about again? Trumped-up fears aside, and closing our eyes to beef’s climate impact, we had nothing to worry about. Comprising 150g of nicely charred medium-rare Irish beef topped with cheddar, caramelised onions, homemade pickles, rocket and truffle aioli in a pillowy bun from an undisclosed “family bakery”, the “Patsy Cline” is luxurious but balanced, filling without being gut-busting – unless you pair it with an order of homemade fries, which are deliciously crispy despite their odd disc-like shape. At €16 including fries and dipping sauce (it’s €12 a la carte) this is definitely an indulgence, but it’s not an unreasonable one. The rest of the menu is “California-inspired”, which apparently means American gastropub fare with all its requisite buzzwords: pork belly, rillettes, preserved lemon and kale aplenty. (No Brussels sprouts, though?!) The vegetarian main on offer, a chickpea-tomato stew with tapenade toasts and a poached egg, was tasty enough but underwhelming. Despite the earthy-crunchy vibe of the namesake California region – has German owner Martin Lerche actually ever been? – Big Sur may be more of a meat eaters’ destination. There are still a few bugs to fix, especially when it comes to the service: we were waited on by three different people in two languages, all with the same American-style solicitousness (though none were actually American). But the burger, at least, has got our vote. — Jane Silver Big Sur, Graefestr. 11, Kreuzberg, Tue-Sun 18-2
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Lia’s “Smokey BBQ Mushroom” burger with hand-cut fries.
Vegan: Lia’s Kitchen Like politics around the world, the city’s food scene is getting increasingly polarised – every new opening seems to cater either to lovers of red meat (see above) or to hardcore vegans. In Prenzlauer Berg’s Kollwitzstraße, the vegans are fighting back. Directly opposite the beef-crazy Grindhouse burger emporium, three friends from Tel Aviv have opened up the tiny Lia’s Kitchen, an Imbiss serving burgers, salads and smoothies. The pleasant brick-walled room seats just 11, but, judging by the appearance of several Deliveroo riders during our visit, they’re also doing brisk take-out business. But let’s get to the meat of the matter: we tried the “Smokey BBQ Mushroom” (€6.40) and the Chili Bean Burger (€5.50) and both deserve a spot atop the Berlin veggie burger charts. The former is truly “meaty”, a portobello-based patty topped with a sweet-and-tangy maple syrup BBQ sauce. The latter was more of a classic bean patty, refined by some ultra-thin, almost burnt flakes of sweet potato. But what Lia’s really excels at is the full composition: great seed-topped buns, adequate crispy lettuce, tomato and onion come together for so much burger mouthfeel that even omnivores won’t miss their meat. Our only gripe: the “chili” in the Chili Bean Burger is unnoticeable. And the “chilli mayonnaise” sitting on the table intended to be eaten with the great hand-cut fries (€2.50, €3.50 for sweet potato fries) is ridiculously sweet. The only spiciness to be had is in the half-dozen jalapeño slices you get for 50 cents. Two more minor points of criticism: no booze available, just the usual assortment of Fritz sodas; and like virtually every snack bar in Berlin, there are no customer toilets. We wholeheartedly recommend the burgers, but go with an empty bladder and pack your own bottle of habanero! — Seymour Gris Lia’s Kitchen, Kollwitzstr. 47, Prenzlauer Berg, daily 12-21