Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Manhattn's Burgers (rue Henri Maus/avenue Louise)

I have a confession to make: I don't really like the idea of burger places. When I go out to eat I like choice, uncertainty, a bit of mystery even. I'm not that excited by restaurants that offer variations on one meal. Still, the high-end fast food joint trend of the 2010s has clearly reached Brussels, and one day (fortunately when I wasn't doing any proofreading work) I had the chance to visit Manhattn's (sic) Burgers.

That spelling still annoys me but I'll stop sneering now, as my initial and follow-up visits (one to each branch) turned out rather well. Yes, the menu is short: about eight different burgers (beef, chicken and one vegetarian, with different sorts of cheese and a few other toppings), a couple of salads and a few ice cream- and biscuit-based desserts. Obviously this isn't the place for a multi-course gourmet extravaganza, but the Manhattn's stff (sorry) clearly favour efficiency and finesse over breadth. On arriving, you queue up to order and pay and are then given a discus-like object - see above - that lights up excitedly when it is time to collect your order. On both occasions the process worked without a hitch and the food appeared within a very few minutes.
Moreover, despite that speed, there was no suspicion that it had been anything other than cooked directly to order. I was in fact probably more impressed by my Tribeca Chicken burger (10€) than any other gourmet burger I've ever had. The brioche-style bun was in a perfect state of freshness, and contained a generous slab of tender and juicy chicken with a pleasantly smokey coating; it was further enveloped by barbecue sauce that erred on the side of not too sweet. A box of frites (3€; bigger than the picture suggests) would not have shamed Maison Antoine or any of its competitors, with a fine balance between crunchy exterior and potato-y middle. A little more salt might have been good, though.
On my first visit, beef rather than chicken was the meat of choice; clearly of high quality, the patties were cooked to a well judged medium rare state, which made for a slightly messy but not disgustingly disintegrative eating experience. On that subject, all meals come with a towelette, a thoughtful touch that I've often found lacking elsewhere. The cheese on my Empire Cheeseburger (9.50€) had that plastic consistency which is appropriate only on a burger, although it seemed to me neither the 'Cheddar' promised on the menu or the 'American cheese' I've had in similar places in the UK, and lettuce and pickles offered a green contrast. Rosemary-seasoned frites worked well.
So while burger restaurants still aren't my first choice, I'm very happy to recommend Manhattn's. Managing to be reasonably on-trend without lapsing into hipsterness (cutesy packaging aside: see above), it provides a quality product, at a not extortionate price, and operates with impressive efficiency. A lot of other establishments would do well to follow.

Avenue Louise 164 / Rue Henri Maus 39
1000 Brussels


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