Slowly but surely the hamburger is shaking off its unhealthy reputation. Today I’m going to explore the world of luxury burgers, and the best way to do that is to tuck into one. Freshly prepared by the chef, of course.
I’m meeting sous chef Sascha Vietzke in the foyer of the Radisson Blu in the city centre. He works in the hotel restaurant The Lobby, and he has offered me the chance to watch him at work as he prepares a delicious burger for me. Bring it on!
We both enter the kitchen, where the young chef has already prepared everything for our little burger session. “Today we’ll be making a Lobby burger, our house burger,” Sasha explains and points to the ingredients. A rye and sea salt bap, sour cream, an onion, sun-dried tomato and bacon relish, and – most importantly – a patty of minced beef. “We prepare these freshly every day with prime beef from Cuxhaven,” he emphasizes. “That has a big influence on the flavour.” As I will discover for myself later on.
I can follow step by step how the ingredients come together to make the burger. The patty is seared on the grill, where the roll is also briefly toasted. The fries go into the fryer, and the relish is heated in a pan.
While the half-pound patty sizzles away until it’s well-done, as ordered, we have a chat about the trend towards luxury burgers that has also taken hold in Bremen. Suddenly, hamburgers are being marketed as a luxury dish. The first time I encountered this was in the United States. I was a little surprised when we agreed to meet for a burger. But once I had in front of me a 20 dollar cheeseburger with sweet potato fries, fresh salad and a balsamic dip on the beef patty, I knew that the everyday burger had evolved. This had nothing in common with the average burger from a fast food outlet. And I must admit that since then I’ve become a bit of a burger fan.
There’s something about the combination of patty, vegetables and bread that seems to hit the right note. The origins of the burger are still a little obscure, but what we do know is that the ‘ham’ in hamburger has nothing to do with ham. Then the theories diverge, as it’s not necessarily a given that the hamburger originated in the German city of Hamburg. There are four stories on the origins. The counterpart to the hamburger is – just as in real life ;-) – the bremer. However, this maritime version of the burger is a fish patty with remoulade.
After around 15 minutes my luxury burger is ready. Nicely presented on a fancy plate, draped with steakhouse fries and a little pot of coleslaw, and with three types of dip for the fries. My mouth is watering. I can taste the quality with my first bite. Fresh is still the tastiest option.
Taste and enjoyment take centre stage again
So where has this trend towards luxury burgers come from? “I believe that people want to return to healthier eating and to enjoy what they eat,” Sascha concludes. On more or less every street corner in Berlin it’s now possible to buy a good burger that is far removed from the fast food idea of yesteryear. “And there are more and more in Bremen.”
That’s certainly true. Off the top of my head I can think of a handful of places in the Viertel quarter alone where you can get really good burgers. There’s the quick but still yummy type at Burgerhaus in Vor dem Steintor, or the slightly posher version at Rockwurst in Am Dobben. There are also some other burger hotspots in the city centre besides the restaurant in the Radisson Blu hotel. There’s the Q1, for example, and just a few metres along there’s 1885, which opened recently and specifically calls itself a burger restaurant.
Vegetarian burgers are also bang on trend, of course, and most places serve these too. The Lobby, for example, serves its veggie burger with pan-fried courgette, mozzarella and a rocket salad. Sounds pretty tasty – I’ll try that one next time.
After getting through half my burger I have to throw in the (paper) towel. The half-pound monster with the 140 gram roll, salad and relish has beaten me. And this was by no means the biggest – there’s a burger listed here in the menu as Bremen’s biggest that is twice the size of mine. I enjoy the rest of my burger later, as I’m given – in true American style – a doggy bag.
There are bound to be other places in Bremen that serve up a good burger – if you’ve come across one, please add a comment.