It is the normal way of things that when stuff doesn’t work out the way you planned, it is a disappointment but my experience at Almost Famous in Great George Street was quite the reverse.
During the various lockdowns I had managed to shed about a stone in weight and now that we are moving towards a new normal I am not exactly anxious to pile it back on again. Looking down the various eateries on line I had covered most of the foods listed – how many more noodle houses can Leeds take – but I realised that I hadn’t been out for chicken or a burger for ages so that was my short list. Whilst on my weight loss regime I had more than my fair share of chicken at home so I thought burger it!
Obviously lots of burger places are chains and the one I looked at has four branches, two in Manchester, one in Liverpool and this Yorkshire outpost, but it seemed to be an independent so that was fine by me. The only problem was that the photograph on their website made it look as though their concoctions were constructed especially for an edition of Man v Food. With the price of the cheapest version on offer at £9.50 that did nothing to allay my fears. My need was something a little more conventional but I thought that I would take a chance anyway.
The premises are a large, sparsely furnished room stripped back to brick with another huge room at the back. As it was about 2.30 when I called and there were very few other customers, the chasm seemed even greater.
There is a bar to your left with the dining area to the right of the entrance. I was told to sit anywhere so I picked a seat near the window. The choice was more for the light than the view as they are too high to see out of from a seated position.
Having perused the menu before leaving home I had decided on the Phoenix at £10.50, but first a pint of Corona, £5.50. As I was expecting a burger of gigantic proportions, and there was no-one eating in the vicinity from whom I could get an idea, I didn’t augment the order with fries although there were several types to choose from.
The constituent parts of the Phoenix were listed as double cheeseburger, bacon, shoestring onions, frazzles, red chillies, redneck BBQ, bacon bacon mayo (sic) and bacon ketchup. That seemed to cover all the bases.
My Corona was swiftly delivered with the food following shortly after. As you can see from the photograph, there was a long enough interval for me to have taken a couple of gulps before I remembered I need to take a photograph. As you can also see from the photograph, the size of the burger was nothing like as large as I was expecting and my first thought was that it didn’t seem like something I would normally pay north of a tenner for.
The empty side of the tray seemed to be pleading for some fries but it was a bit late by then. Anyway, the proof etc etc… As it turned out, the eating was a revelation with a mass of flavours vying for my attention. The beef was extremely succulent and the bacon smoky. It wasn’t until I got nearer the centre that the chillies kicked in which added another dimension. They were not overly hot, just piquant enough to let you know they were there and wanting to be acknowledged. I am not usually a lover of BBQ sauce but this was as good as I have had.
If I have one criticism of the meal it is that instead of there being two thinnish patties I would have preferred one thick one so that it could have been a bit rarer in the middle. Otherwise it was fine. Although not the tower of food I had anticipated, it still needed eating with a knife and fork as not even a gob like mine was big enough to get round it. The less than picture perfect image below will illustrate the ingredients better than the above shot.
As delicious as the dish was, I still think that £16 for a pint and a burger – pushing a score with basic fries – is a bit steep but that is the way of things at the moment. I fear that because any rent, business rate and tax holidays granted during lockdown have now to be repaid this kind of price point will be part of the aforementioned new normality.
There are no desserts on the menu but that might not be a bad thing because I did find that my appetite had been sated and so it would have just meant extra unneeded calories. Unneeded calories? That is like leftover wine, a fantasy.
All photographs by Stan Graham