Monday, 17 October 2011

Blas Burger, St Ives

Blas Burger sprang onto my radar when I saw it featured in an article on MSN on the best burgers in Britain.  Seeing it was in St. Ives, and having a week booked down in Padstow, I started to get excited.  After calming down and actually looking at a map I realised Cornwall is a rather large place, and it was still a good hour's drive away from where we were staying.  Luckily the Ewing agreed to a schlep down there, even after finding out it only opened in the evenings off season, so we could sample some premium Cornish beef for ourselves.

The Burgerworks is safely tucked away on a narrow, cobbled street, aptly named the Warren, with lovely views back out to the harbour.  After successfully finding the place it I dragged the Ewing down to sit on the sea wall outside to wait for the doors to open.  Due to its bijou size, and not accepting reservations, we found ourselves queueing alongside a handful of equally furtive characters who were also hoping to grab a space on one of the four communal tables.

Inside is dark and cosy; four big wooden tables that look onto an open plan grill area, with a small kitchen area out the back.  The smoke and heat were bearable on a blustery autumn evening, but might feel a bit more oppressive on a busy summer's day.  The decor is quirky, with surf memorabilia, bright murals and mirrors, and shelves of books and papers in the far corner.  They source as much of there food and drink locally as possible, and even have a display listing the providence of their ingredients on the wall.

As soon as they opened their doors for business the Ewing and I grabbed a quiet corner spot and got in some drinks; a Cornish apple juice for the Ewing and a nice bottle of  'Betty Stogs', a locally brewed bitter from the Skinner Brewery, for me.

Burger choice was easy; two Cornish beefburgers with Cornish blue cheese.  After enjoying moules frites at lunchtime we skipped the chips, but ordered a side of their Blas slaw.

The menu  offers a small number of variations including a cheeseburger with Cornish Davidstow cheddar, a Huevos Rancheros burger with guacamole and a fried egg and an 'Mushroom Classic' served with grilled field mushroom and Bearnaise sauce.  There also have free range chicken breast burgers, veggie bean burgers, halloumi burgers and even chargrilled local fish - Providing the conditions at sea are good and Peter the fisherman has had a successful morning!

The Blas blue cheeseburger: I could talk about the over sized lettuce leaf and the slightly too thick slice of tomato;  I could also mention the bun, although still very nice, that was just on the wrong side of 'too healthy' with its sprinkling of seeds and grains.  But why would I want to waste a moment thinking about anything but the most perfectly rare, beautifully seasoned piece of freshly ground Cornish beef.  The blue cheese was the ideal foil, sweet and creamy with that faint metallic edge that emphasized the 'beefiness' of the patty.

Normally I prefer my burgers to be a little less rare in the centre, finding rare patties, especially if finely ground, can often be cold and slightly slimy in texture. Here the coarsely ground and well salted beef had a depth of flavour  and slight chewiness that deserved it's brief grilling time.  The contrast between the tender middle and the smoky, char-grilled outside crust was perfect.

Pudding was Sally's Chocolate Brownie with clotted cream and chocolate sauce.  I'm not sure who Sally is, but she's a bloody great baker.  The brownie was properly dense and 'puddingy' while retaining a beautifully crisp crust.  The bitterness was offset perfectly with the thick dollop of cream and rich puddle of warm chocolate sauce.

This burger, and indeed the whole experience, was brilliant.  Maybe our appetites had been sharpened by the sea air, maybe it was the excited anticipation when queuing outside, maybe it was the top quality ingredients simply dealt with, or just maybe it was the friendly service and ambiance that made us feel so welcome and relaxed.  In truth it was probably a combination of all the above.  If it wasn't over five hours drive away Blas Burgerworks would be a regular haunt, as it is it remains a perfect, meaty seaside memory.

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