This week Ian Morris ruminates on the price of fine dining, as a shock to his wallet at Gunwharf leads him to on a quest to find the best – and most reasonably priced – burger in the city.
I am told my problem is that I have no idea what things cost; as it is my wife that reinforces this message most often, I am slightly dubious of her motives. However, my economic barometer was stretched to breaking point at the weekend over the price of a burger.
A visit to Gunwharf with Noah had been planned to watch Bill & Ted – Face the Music – which, sadly, wasn’t quite as righteous or bodacious as I had hoped – but it needed to be prefaced with a nourishing luncheon.
Allow me to digress for a moment onto my love of the burger. I think it is a wonderful thing: simple to cook, fits nicely in your hand, and, when done well, can be a thing of great beauty. Even one purchased from the Golden Arches can be most satisfactory (if you haven’t yet their triple cheeseburger is so wrong it’s right).
On Saturday we settled on Hubbox, a small chain originating from Devon, which claims excellent provenance for their beef. I thought I would give them a go. The lad went for a bacon cheeseburger and fries, I opted for the chilli burger and a portion of nachos and we got the obligatory onion rings to share. The beef patty itself was sublime, juicy, flavoursome and texturally interesting, though it was somewhat let down by a bland chilli and lack of the promised jalepenos; the nachos were really poor with bland sauces and few jalepenos, again. The lad was proper delighted with his, and the onion rings were tip top.
Then the bill arrived…totalling £32! £16 a head for burger and chips? When had the world changed, that this might be a thing?
I posted this query on a BBQ Facebook page and was generally advised that I had paid a fair price.
I disagree. The place basically sells burgers and fried chicken so the chefs don’t really have to show the full range of culinary skills, and whilst I accept that rents are probably expensive in Gunwharf and they have to make a profit, I still think we were robbed.
I benchmarked the triple cheeseburger and fries from the Golden Arches; a mere £3.18. I could have had five of these for the same money. Yes, I know it’s not the same: they can’t tell me where the cow was raised and the quality is different but still, five times more expensive?
As I became fixated on this bovine dilemma, I searched the interweb for ‘the best burger in Portsmouth.’ The interweb allowed me to benchmark against the two top-rated burger restaurants on TripAdvisor, 7 bone in the Guildhall Walk, and Feed in the arches at Gunwharf.
Now, it isn’t easy to compare exactly, but I reckon we would have saved somewhere between £5 and £9 in these venues. I explained to Nicky how I had been robbed, but I think she was starting to lose interest, if I’m honest.
We were both taken back to our youth when someone on the Facebook group chastised me for not frequenting Uncle Sams in North End. We both repeated ‘Uncle Sams’ like a mantra and went slightly glassy-eyed. I had to ‘fess up that I have never actually been there, which drew scorn from my wife, although to be fair, Nicky confessed it was probably the thick end of 30 years since she had last nipped in. I learned that Uncle Sams is, in fact, a chain: the first store opened in Brighton in 1971 and they now have branches stretching across West Sussex, with our Portsmouth branch the furthest west they’ve reached.
The end result of all this? I really want a burger now. Perhaps I will head to Uncle Sams. Their menu does look very keenly priced...
Something for the Weekend will be back next Friday, tackling national issues from a local perspective. In the meantime, you can check out all of Ian’s writing for S&C, here, along with past editions of the Pompey Politics Podcast.