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The five star burgers

The five star burgers

The five star burgers
01 September 2013

It's over. Our year-long search for the UK's best burger has finally come to an end. After 150 burgers and countless episodes of stomach-holding guilt, we've found the country's 15 greatest patty and bun combos.

Read all about them below (in chronological order) and make sure you enter our competition to design your own burger here.

Hollyrood 9A, Edinburgh

Address: 9A Holyrood Road Edinburgh, Midlothian EH8 8AE

Burger of choice: The Holyrood

Toppings: Hereford Hop cheese, beer mustard, rocket, red onion, caramelised onion mayo, dill pickle, tomato, lettuce

Chips: String fries

Price: £9.45 (with chips)

Thoughts: Given the proximity of the Scottish parliament, it’s not unusual to find political bigwigs conniving in the corners, although thankfully the burgers at Holyrood 9A are far easier to swallow than the rhetoric. Resting on a perfect sourdough bun, the flavoursome 6oz ground beef patty comes slathered in a creamy, gooey toasted hop-coated cheese which imparts a ridiculously moreish sour tang. Vitally, the underlay of salad isn't limp or sweaty, adding crunch and texture, while the burger-to-bun ratio is spot on, making it possible (with some finger-licking) to eat this with both hands, just as nature intended.

Star rating: ★★★★★


The Surprise, London

Address: 6 Christchurch Terrace, Chelsea, SW3 4AJ

Burger of choice: Angus Rare Breed burger

Toppings: Cheese and bacon

Chips: Thick cut

Price: £10.50 (£1 extra for cheese, bacon, and onion rings)

Thoughts: When an amazing burger comes along, it’s hard to remember what a bad burger ever tasted like. While it was the only choice (they used to have one on the menu which included Foie Gras), it was so delicious it didn’t matter. As per, it was served on a board, except this time it was left to us to close it up. This meant we could judge how much filling we want to include, which while this isn’t imperative to the taste, it did add to our eating experience. Other than the patty, the filling included cheese, bacon, raw red onions, fresh tomatoes and lettuce. Crucially the lettuce wasn’t damp and the red onions added an extra crispness to combat the softness of the meat and the bun. Speaking of the bread, it was done to perfection. Not toasted, it was the ideal combination of being slightly sweet, although it wasn’t brioche (we asked), and savoury. The chips were also well cooked. The only small disappointment were the slightly damp and battery onion rings, which didn't matter after such a great burger.

Star rating: ★★★★★


Giant Robot, London

Address: 45 Clerkenwell Road London EC1M 5RS

Burger of Choice: The 'Royale Wit Cheese'

Toppings: American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard

Chips: Salty fries

Price: £11.40 (with fries)

Thoughts: As part of the Lucky Chip stable of burgers, expectations were extremely high for this Pulp Fiction-inspired offering. And oh were they met. In fact they were smashed into puny pieces. A mess it might be to eat, this dream-worthy burger aims to emulate a greasy diner-esque cheeseburger and manages to do this while still relying on only the finest ingredients. So while the sweet relish and American cheese might scream guilty pleasure, the succulent, finely made patty reminds you that you're in the company of something pretty special. Don't miss this one.

Star rating: ★★★★★

NB This burger is no longer available at Giant Robot. Check for venues


Honest Burgers, London

Address: 4a Meard Street London W1F 0EF

Burger of choice: Honest burger

Toppings: Red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce

Chips: House chips with rosemary salt

Price: £9 (with fries)

Thoughts: It's not an exaggeration to say that you guys have been desperate for us to include Honest Burgers from the get go. We receive at least three enthusiastic emails about it a day. So expectations were extraordinarily high. We're pleased to report that they were met. And then exceeded. The lightly toasted brioche bun was slight, meaning a minimum of bread to wade through, the relish wasn't over-sweetened and packed a huge amount of flavour, the cheese was strong but not overpowering, the bacon was crispy and the patty was cooked perfectly. Any self-respecting burger buff/food eater will leave weeping in awe. A very special burger.

Star rating: ★★★★★



Address: Turner Street, Manchester M4 1DW

Burger of choice: Once In A Lifetime Burger

Toppings: Buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork, melted vintage cheddar, lettuce, onion rings, chow chow slaw

Chips: Medium chunky fries

Price: £16.90 (with fries)

Thoughts: This three-in-one megaburger might cost twice as much as any other on the menu but then you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. Inside a taut bun you'll find a fillet of fried chicken on top of a pile of unctuous pulled pork and a slab of minced chuck steak studded with bone marrow and given a smoky flavour by the INKA grill. A German smoked beer, Schenkerle, is the perfect match, natch. The slaw is mayonnaise-free, but a side of chicken skin scratchings or the house dessert of deep-fried Coke will make you feel less of a health fiend. Stellar work.

Star rating: ★★★★★


Red's True Barbecue, Leeds

Address: Unit 1 Cloth Hall Street, Leeds, UK LS1 2HD

Burger of Choice: Pit Burger

Toppings: Sliced brisket, pulled pork, streaky bacon, melted Jack, dill pickle, "dirty" sauce, mustard, barbecue sauce and oh, an onion ring for good measure

Chips: Skinny, unseasoned for dipping in the 5 homemade sauces

Price: £15.95

Thoughts: Now don’t let the toppings fool you into thinking that this is some kind of Man vs Food vulgar meatathon. Sure it’s pretty substantial, but each carefully selected goody in this burger perfectly complements the homemade steak patty – the brisket and pork for a bit of extra juiciness, the dill and mustard for a bit of zing and the bacon for crispiness. The meats are definitely centre stage here, carefully sourced, lovingly glazed, rubbed and then slow barbecued in custom built wood fuelled ovens. For god sake, they even import their hickory to get the perfect taste to their bacon! And the treats keep coming - the dirty sauce with its combination of 30 herbs and spices rounds off this perfectly curated burger. But the supporting cast doesn’t disappoint either – optional sides of deep fried pickles, spice-dusted crackling and air dried housemade beef jerky to die for. It’s true, sixteen quid is expensive but don’t see this as just a burger, it’s more of a life affirming experience.

Star rating: ★★★★★


The Drift, London

Address: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY

Burger of Choice: Double Cheeseburger

Toppings: Guacamole, Pineapple, Beetroot, Mustard Mayo, Pickled Coleslaw

Chips: Cowboy Fries (with Chilli, Honey & Garlic)

Price: £18.20 (includes Chips)

Thoughts: Nothing less than a literal towering triumph, this creation is not for the fainthearted. It's a big beast of a burger in sheer size, so meat fatigue was an issue halfway through - however, teaming it with the brutal firecracker-hot Cowboy fries provides the perfect pick-me-up to take you to the finish line. The burger itself is certainly not just about volume, however: the unexpected pairing of pineapple and beetroot is an absolute masterstroke, accompanying the perfectly-cooked patties and giving a zesty tang to proceedings. Come prepared for the fight and you won't be disappointed; you may need to be carried home afterwards but you'll be smiling all the way.

Star rating: ★★★★★


The 23 Club, Liverpool

Address: 23 Hope St, L1 9BQ

Burger of choice: 12oz Ranch burger

Toppings: Brioche bun, mayonnaise, grilled bacon, beer battered onion rings, Monterey Jack cheese, barbecue sauce

Chips: Hand-cut chips

Price: £12.50

Thoughts: Save for Chuck Norris wearing the chef’s hat, the double 12oz Ranch Burgers at this basement whisky bar couldn’t be more American if they tried. That’s because it’s all about size: rich toppings, all densely packed onto the top of some melted Monterey Jack cheese, feel almost as heavy as the lofty slab of beef itself, presenting the danger of beer-battered onion rings plummeting back onto the plate before you’ve even sank an incisor into that tender 100 per cent beef showstopper. Moreover, once you finish the meat – which is terrific – there should be enough of the nicely grease-glistened bun, coated inside with a barbecue sauce of pupil-dilating proportions, left to mop up any remaining leftovers. If you make it to the finish line, that is.

Stars: ★★★★★


The Ship, London

Address: 41 Jews Row, Wandsworth, London. SW18 1TB

Burger of Choice: Chargrilled beef burger with cheese

Toppings: Pickled cucumber, cheese and lettuce with mustard and ketchup sauce

Chips: Skinny fries

Price: £12.00 (with fries)

Thoughts: It would be rude of us not to go into detail about the sheer brilliance of The Ship’s burger, not just because it’s one of the best we’ve eaten so far but because they clearly spend a lot of time and effort perfecting their formula. Encased in a brioche bun, the meat, from local producers, is 20% fat and 80% meat, and is bought ready minced, which they make into the patties themselves. In terms of toppings, there’s a delicious mix of lettuce leaves and a special part ketchup and part mustard sauce. There are also gherkins but you won’t find any tomatoes in the winter as The Ship leaves them out as they don’t taste so good in the colder months. As if that attention to detail wasn’t enough, what really impressed us was the cheese. They even make it themselves. While the chef wasn’t keen to divulge precisely how they make it, he did say that the cheese was made with extra cream to ensure when it melts on the burger, it does so perfectly. This was all topped off by the fact that everything had been seasoned to perfection. Clearly these guys know what they’re doing. We’ll definitely be going back again.

Star rating: ★★★★★


The Burger Joint, Bristol

Address: 83 Whiteladies Road Bristol BS8 2NT

Burger of choice: Own creation

Toppings: Smoked streaky bacon, cheddar, roasted peppers.

Chips: Chunky, hand-cut

Price: Varies; above example £9.45, including two free sauces and one free side.

Thoughts: There’s a BYOB policy at The Burger Joint – build your own burger. According to a super smart friend of Shortlist (thanks Niall), the myriad combinations of patties, toppings, buns, and sauces mean that if you ate here for lunch and dinner every day it’d take 423 million years to exhaust the menu – an immortal T-Rex wouldn’t even have made it a quarter of the way through at that rate. But no matter which of the 300 billion or so options you go for, you’re almost certain to be satisfied. The flavours are deep and lasting, the ingredients clearly expensive (the meat comes from a posh butcher literally across the road) and the buns are toasted perfectly. The meat isn’t greasy and the burger will only be over-stacked if you make a mess of the order. We’d guess at least 10,000 potatoes have to die to cover the preposterous portion of perfect chips. Nothing is lacking here (the other sides are also faultless and the soft drinks unfathomable) but the burgers, whether beef, venison, wild boar or any of the other options, are the real stars. If you accept the limitations of the dish – a meat puck in an edible glove – it’s hard to imagine how they could improve. This is something approaching burger perfection.

Star rating: ★★★★★


Duke's Brew & Que, London

Address: 33 Downham Road, De Beauvoir, Hackney, N1 5AA

Burger of choice: The Californian

Toppings: Monterey jack cheese, jalapenos, guacamole and bacon

Chips: Fries

Price: £12.95

Thoughts: "Try the beef ribs! Try the beef ribs!" It's all we heard when we told our Hackney-based pals about our impending visit to Duke's. It's as if they weren't listening when we told them we're on the search for the UK's best BURGER. Duke's is indeed famous for its ribs and they sell out most nights. However, why they're not famous for their burger is beyond us. The burger's better than the ribs. It's a great, big beefy wonderpunch to the head. "I worry that most burgers don't have the right ratio of fat to meat" said the incredibly lovely chef. "I worked on that for weeks. Then I started using brisket in mine which basically doubled the flavour overnight." If worrying about beef ratio is his business then worrying about toppings ratio is ours'. So often a burger comes heavily-laden with excessive dollops of extras, but at Duke's they have it nailed. The guacamole doesn't sodden the bread. The jalapenos don't overpower the beef. It's perfect matrimony. Hat tip to the restaurant in general for the wonderful atmosphere, cheery staff and perfect beer, brewed in-house. But all five of these stars are earned by the burger. Bravo.

Star rating: ★★★★★


Patty & Bun, London

Address: 54 James St, London W1U 1EU

Burger of Choice: Ari Gold (with bacon)

Toppings: Cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, ketchup, smokey P&B mayo, bacon

Chips: Crispy, with rosemary salt

Price: £7.50 (without chips)

Thoughts: One of the city's most respected pop-ups settled down in this central London location earlier this year and it's rapidly become a staunch reader favourite. We can see why. Their trademark burger, the Ari Gold, was exceptional. Although it's a total mess to eat (arm yourself with plenty of napkins), the creation couldn't be more precise. Managing to balance sweet caramelised onions with smoky house sauce and a perfectly seasoned patty, every ingredient is given its moment to shine without anything being drowned out. A glazed brioche bun that is lightly toasted but remains springy helps matter greatly. A tremendous meal.

Star rating: ★★★★★


The New Club, Brighton

Address: 133-134 Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2HH

Burger of Choice: Dirty Burger

Toppings: Hickory onion and bacon relish, sliced pickle, Monterey Jack, house sauce, shredded cabbage and romaine lettuce

Chips: French fries

Price: £10

Thoughts: Get an eyeful of that burger in the picture above. I mean really look at it. Long and hard. Study the perfectly cooked patty made with organic Black Angus and Longhorn rump, chuck and marrow. The texture is just right – chunky and juicy – with a solid beefy flavour. Inside, there is just a faint blush of pink.Now gaze at the homemade brioche bun. Underneath that shiny, seeded crust, it is soft and fluffy and sweet, but this is a bun that does not shirk its responsibilities. It's sturdy enough to hold the burger together as you eat.Then there are the details – a velvety smooth blanket of Monterey Jack, the bite of the pickles and the sweet and salty tang from hickory smoked onion and bacon relish. What you are looking at, my friends, is a very rare thing on this blog – a genuine five-star burger.

Star rating: ★★★★★


Red Dog Saloon, London

Burger of choice: The Devastator

Toppings: Pulled pork, bacon and American cheese. Lots of all of them.

Chips: French fries

Price: £22.75 (fries an extra £2.95)

Thoughts: We visited Red Dog Saloon expecting to hate The Devastator – a gargantuan burger consisting of three 6oz patties, 200g of pulled pork, six rashers of applewood smoked bacon and six slices of American cheese. We expected it to be all quantity and zero quality. A grim product of the Man v Food generation.

It was absolutely spectacular.

Our top tip, as if you needed it, is to share this monster between two or three. The 100% chuck beef is tantalisingly juicy, but the grease factor, which you’d expect to be as high as the burger itself, was gratifyingly low. The love that went into those patties was as much love as went into any on this page, irrelevant of how many go between the bun.

And the pulled pork. Ahh the pulled pork. It’s cooked in Red Dog’s award-winning smoker that’s been imported from the USA and is built to recreate the cooking process of the original South USA fire pits. They use the traditional American woods of hickory and mesquite to give a full smoke flavour, and the meat stays in the smoker for up to 16 hours, adding to the burger but taking nothing away from the patties.

Quality from top to bottom.

Star rating: ★★★★★


The Bar, London

Address: The Dorchester, Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K1QA

Burger of choice: Wagyu burger

Toppings: Tomato relish, cheddar cheese, truffle mayonnaise and onion jam

Chips: Jumbo handcut, salted

Price: £29 (with chips)

Thoughts: Just as no one goes to The Ritz for a pint, no one goes to The Dorchester for a burger. And we're all mugs for not doing so. This is a gourmet creation that easily matches the opulent surroundings of The Bar and the immaculate suit of the French waiter who took our order. The Australian wagyu patty was of a generous size, cooked to medium rare perfection (our choice) and loaded with bovine flavour: the fluffy bun was easily capable of handling the resulting juices. But it was the combination of tomato relish and truffle mayonnaise that blew us away - a groan-inducing flavour (think When Harry met Sally) we've never before encountered in a handheld meal. This isn't a gimmick to keep the big spending American guests happy, the chefs of The Dorchester have constructed a burger readily capable of going toe-to-toe with any of the five star burgers on this page. Yes, it's the most expensive yet, but every ounce of it is crammed with deliciousness. Put on a shirt, book a table and find out for yourself.

Star rating: ★★★★★