We all crave a good burger sometimes, but can we all honestly say that we’ve had one? Unless you’ve tried Honest Burgers, you’ve been compromising. Here’s their secret.
Tom Barton and Phil Eles co-own Honest Burgers, Manchester’s most talked about burger restaurant, on Bridge Street. Recently we headed down to learn about the mastery behind crafting both the perfect burger and chips and the kind of business model that will support an enterprise built almost entirely upon ideals.
Talking us through the roots of Honest Burgers, they divulged that they originally imagined the company as a street vendor.
‘We thought that we could do festival burgers better than anyone else. We thought, surely you could just put better meat in them and they would be amazing.
‘We quickly realised why people don’t serve good burgers at festivals – it’s because you don’t need to. You can serve sh** meat and sell it for a tenner and still have a queue all day.
‘We never really thought we would open a restaurant. The best thing about street food is that you can see straight away whether people enjoyed it. Rosemary salted chips were something that people were always excited by. They liked that we were doing wholesome, farmers market style burgers too. We’ve always has an amazing amount of passion and energy and people love our food, but we were sort of aimless. We would rock up to these little jobs with blinding confidence and just hope that we didn’t bankrupt ourselves.
‘We pitched up in Brixton market and got lucky really. It was a really edgy sort of place, and burgers has just become a new sort of edgy thing, and it just seemed to work. From there we moved to Soho, but we were really careful not to fall into the Soho trap. We wouldn’t increase our prices or compromise on our ingredients, and we absolutely refused to put quotes in our window from critics saying how amazing we are.
‘And now we’re here, in Manchester! And we’re exactly where we would want to be within the city. Initially we thought Northern Quarter, because there’s loads going on there that’s cool and different. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we aren’t just two lads with a grill anymore, Honest Burgers is a chain now. So we’ve situated ourselves close to the companies that we admire in Manchester, like Dishoom and Crazy Pedros.
‘The point is that we’re still here, we still care, and we still make homemade food and care where it comes from.’
We asked them, why Manchester? True to their honest brand, they replied, ‘Big city innit’.
‘Our prep kitchen and our butchers are the things that matter to us. We’ve made pretty much everything from scratch, and the volume that we’ve made over the years has meant that we’ve constantly improved.
‘We started a butchery because one day we just stopped and thought ‘Hang on, why the f*** aren’t we making our own burgers? It’s always been important for us to be able to trace our ingredients, and we knew that we weren’t getting anything crazy like horse in our burgers, but we weren’t necessarily getting what we wanted. So we started the project in 2017 and quickly realised why people don’t do it.
‘Most butchers live for the trim. It’s easy, it makes profit. We were fed up of that and wanted to make Honest Burgers with just two cuts of beef, which are chuck and ribcap.
‘We don’t even mind the burger chains you know – it’s cheap beef, people know what they’re getting when they pay 99p for a burger. It’s got loads of different cuts in it and they ground it loads of times, but you get what you pay for. Pub burgers are different though – who wants to pay £15 for a burger that’s made from rubbish and passed off as home cooked?‘
We realised that when it comes to Honest Burgers, you have to taste it to believe it. It’s like that feeling when there’s a hum in the background that you didn’t really notice until it’s turned off and the quiet envelops you like a duvet on a Sunday morning. We didn’t realise that the burgers that we loved and craved were so far removed from what they could be, and honestly, neither will you until you try Honest Burgers.
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