Burger League: Byron Westfield

The Byron Burger

The Byron Burger

The Restaurant:  Byron, The Loft, Westfield Shopping Centre, London W12 7GF

The Hungry Ones:

The Panel, left to right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), David (Stats Man), Trish (Token Veggie)

Left to right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), David (Stats Man), Trish (Token Veggie)

Gemma ordered:  Byron Burger (dry cured bacon, mature cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Byron sauce), French Fries, Ginger Beer.

David ordered:  Byron Burger (dry cured bacon, mature cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Byron sauce), French Fries, Strawberry Milkshake.

Trish ordered: Veggie (grilled portobello mushroom, roasted red pepper, goats cheese, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and aioli), Strawberry Milkshake.

The Scores:

The inside of the Byron Burger: medium rare

The inside of the Byron Burger: medium rare

Eating in a shopping centre is never a particularly thrilling experience, however when you work in this particular corner of West London, there is little choice for lunch.  Byron has been something of a saviour in a land of pre-packaged sandwiches, fast food chains and chicken shops.  The menu is the same in all of the 36 restaurants and, thankfully, they have stuck to a few simple classics and a good selection of drinks – it is very much ‘what you see is what you get’, but this need not necessarily be a bad thing.  I rather like the burgers at Byron, and will often try the seasonal specials when they pop up on the menu, such as last year’s Mo Burger, the proceeds of which went to Movember, however I sometimes find the patties just a little bland.  They are always cooked perfectly – when I order medium rare, I get medium-rare, but I can’t help but think a little extra seasoning would improve them enormously.  I also have issues with the sloppiness of the toppings and the ‘Byron sauce’ is also a little bland, basically a lightly seasoned mayonnaise.  That being said, the bread is excellent and holds together well and the fries, if you can manage them, are very good.  If you’re in an unknown place and you spot a Byron, you know you can get a good lunch, but it probably falls far short of your favourite burger bar.

Byron on Urbanspoon


Burger League


Burgers have been a big thing in London for some time now.  When once they were detained in the menus of fast food joints and chain pubs, they have now exploded into just about every type of restaurant imaginable. They have been reinvented for fine dining, rehashed for international cuisines with kimchi and curry and raised to new heights in the quest for perfection in the many burger-specific restaurants that have spread across the city.  Whilst there are whispers among foodies that burgers are passe and overdone, their popularity does not seem to be waining and you will still see queues snaking around the block outside any burger joint in town on every night of the week.

The competition among the many dive bars, walk ins and food trucks has vastly improved the quality of London’s burgers – in many of them you can expect to find high-quality meat, house-baked brioche and a range of toppings and sides previously unseen.  This, coinciding with the trend for strong cocktails, created the perfect storm of dining in the city and everybody wanted a piece of it.  They are cheap, readily available, damn tasty and you can eat them just as easily stood around a market as you can sat at a table.  My friends and I eat a lot of burgers – we aren’t experts, but we know a good one when we see, and taste, it.  And we all have an opinion on which is the best – when MEATliquor’s Dead Hippie came top of my Top 10 Burgers of 2012, many arguments followed.  Some thought Mother Flipper was better and others argued for the merits of Dirty Burger. It was a contentious topic.

This is how the idea for Burger League came about.  There are many burger lists online, from blogs and Time Out to the food sections of national newspapers, offering up their opinion on what is the best burger in London, and even in the UK.  There is no real scientific test for this and, as we have seen, everybody has their own opinion on the subject.  Burger League is simply a league table, created by myself and my friends, with our own take on the subject and contribution to the discussion.  Overall, it is meant as a bit of fun and an excuse to eat our way around the UK’s burger restaurants.

It will not necessarily be the same ‘panel’ each time, and we’re not going to do some crazy test and all order the same burger.  We will simply eat and score.  The scorecards consist of seven catergories: patty (/10), bread (/10), toppings (/10), sides (/5), drinks (/5), atmosphere (/5) and value (/5).  The scores will be averaged and added to the table, which can be found in the ‘Burger League’ link in the opposite column (or here).

I see a lot of burgers in my future.  Elasticated waistbands at the ready.

Orzo with Courgettes, Pine Nuts and Bacon

Orzo with Courgettes, Pine Nuts and Bacon

Orzo with Courgettes, Pine Nuts and Bacon

As we pulled out of our street this morning and drove past Peckham Rye Park, I realised that it was winter.  It wasn’t the people walking by in scarves or the fact that we could see our breath that gave it away, but the carpet of frost stretching from one side of the field to the other.  Just as we started to settle into autumn, the seasons are on the change again.  As is often the way in the colder months, I go into hibernation mode – putting off leaving the house until the last minute in the morning and eagerly anticipating walking back through the door in the evening – and find myself craving serious amounts of carbohydrates.

I also become unspeakably lazy by the middle of the week.  I start off well, but the laborious commutes by underground, long days in the office, dark mornings and even darker evenings, sap away my energy.  By the time Wednesday evening comes around, I am good for little more than reading, eating and watching television – all from the comfort of the couch.  On the rare occasion I am tempted out, I go swathed in knitwear, insulated by gin and in pursuit of food.  When at home, I want meals that take no longer than 20 minutes.

Orzo has quickly become one of my favourite ingredients and I have recently taken to keeping a bag in the cupboard for those moments when you need a speedy meal.  It crosses the boundary between rice and pasta, so can be used as a substitute for either.  You can boil it and stir into other ingredients to make a speedy pseudo-risotto or ‘orzotto’, can cook it in stock as a handy side dish, or can simply stir through some pesto for a, literally, five minute meal.  As with risottos and pastas, you can combine it with any number of ingredients that you have languishing in the bottom of the fridge and create a satisfying meal.  At the very most, you might have to pop to the corner shop.  This dish used up a few bacon rashers I had leftover from the lost weekend, a couple of courgettes that were about to venture beyond their best, an old chunk of parmesan, a little leftover wine (see: lost weekend) and the end of the rocket and pine nuts I bought for the leftover roast chicken salad.  You could add in and substitute just about anything – just use this recipe as a guide for quantities and go crazy in the kitchen.

A note on bacon:  There is no denying that bacon adds a beautiful salty, meatiness to a dish that cannot be replicated by any other ingredient.  When I was a vegetarian, heaven knows I tried.  The best bacon to use for this recipe is one that has a little fat, such as streaky bacon – pancetta also works well.  If you cannot find this, lardons or back bacon will also work fine, but you may need to add a little extra oil when cooking as they do not yield as much fat.  I used smoked bacon because I prefer the taste, but feel free to use unsmoked if the mood takes you.  The equivalent pancetta or lardons to 4 rashers of bacon is approximately 150g.

Orzo with Courgettes, Pine Nuts and Bacon

  • 300g orzo
  • 4 rashers bacon (see notes above)
  • 1 large onion
  • Olive oil
  • 250ml white wine
  • 2 large courgettes
  • Handful rocket
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts

Cook the orzo in salted boiling water according to packet instructions.  Drain well and set aside.

In a large saucepan, gently fry the onion in the olive oil until slightly translucent.  Cut the bacon into small pieces, approx 1″ squared and add to the pan.  Fry until cooked, adding a little more oil if necessary (see notes on bacon above).  Add the wine to the pan and allow it to bubble away until reduced by half.  Add the courgettes and cook for around 10 minutes, until they are tender.

Remove from the heat and stir in the orzo.  Once combined, fold through the rocket, grated parmesan, salt and pepper and pine nuts until fully combined and the rocket has wilted.