Who doesn’t like a good gourmet burger nowadays? As a matter of fact, they’re downright inescapable in Berlin. Restaurateurs of all nationalities have jumped on the bandwagon: put it on your menu, you know it will sell!
And since it only takes a bun and a leaf of lettuce to turn a good old steak haché into a bona fide burger, it didn’t take long for the French cooking set to add that legendary je ne sais quoi to the winning recipe (The Francophone duo behind the Bunsmobile food truck led the wave two years ago). Since April, Gaël Baisson and Nicolas Machabert of Spud Bencer have been pushing Gallic creative freedom one step further with ‘burgers’ that, besides the name and the bread, have little to do with the real McCoy: a mighty duck confit-foie gras-fig chutney concoction (Le Canaille, €14.90); fresh marinated salmon with white-wine butter mayo on a bed of leek fondue (Lachs Burger, €10.90).
The vegetarian option (photo) is so successful that you wonder why no one’s thought of it before: a messy mountain of top-notch ratatouille with a generous slice of French goat cheese and a perfectly cooked sunny-side-up egg on top. Pure food joy, stuffed between two halves of a delicious springy homemade bun. The only drawback? It’s impossible to eat it with your hands, like a real burger should be eaten. Knife and fork required!
For purists who might scream at the above – how haram can you get? – they also serve two convincing beef options – a great classic burger with cheddar and onion confit (The Spud, €6.50; €9 with extra egg and bacon), and a version topped with Roquefort blue cheese that really hits the mark. They’re all served with a handful of homemade Belgian-style chunky fries – expect a slight lack of crunch more than compensated for by the sweet, genuine taste of home-cut potatoes. A rarity in Berlin, where ‘homemade’ fries are often pre-cut.
As a matter of fact, almost everything here is made from scratch: the mayo and the ketchup, the yeast buns (so delicious we suggested they start selling them ‘to go’ for breakfast), the onion confit, the foie gras terrine and of course the ratatouille.
Spud also caters to patrons still mourning previous occupant L’origine du Monde (Baisson was a regular and Machabert was the manager; that’s how the two met) with a traditional menu that runs the gamut of French favourites from foie gras (€9.90, with fig chutney) to roast Camembert (€8.50 cooked with white wine and garlic confit); from moules-frites (€13) to, yes, frog legs (€9). Anyone after a good piece of meat will enjoy the cut of Charolais beef (entrecôte or faux filet). Although we didn’t really care for the green pepper sauce, we enjoyed every bite. And served with a side of Dauphinois-style potato gratin or ratatouille, at €15.90, it’s one of the best deals in town.
Expect live music on Fridays and real gigs in the basement club, properly fitted with a tiny stage and bar – eat your heart out, Burgers and Hip Hop!
Originally published in issue #144, December 2015.