WHEN I first heard about C.R.A.F.T Burger in Headington I presumed it was another chain, sneaking its way on to every High Street, like the norovirus.
And then I reconsidered because places such as The Gourmet Burger Company or Byron are only offering a better, more healthy alternative to the Burger King/McDonald’s stranglehold of yesteryear. And anything’s got to be better than that.
The burger is after all, one of the trends that has survived the endless food fads, and ever since we got wind of what the Yanks were enjoying, have been fans.
Turns out C.R.A.F.T is an independent, run by the owners of Dong Noodles who realised that there was probably more money in burgers, closed down, committed to a proper refurbishment and reopened as C.R.A.F.T.
However, as every gastropub is judged on the strength of their burgers, and to compete with the big boys, their product needed to deliver.
So well done with the urban interior which ticked all the boxes thanks to its exposed pipework, bricks and untreated wood, its tables and booths indiscriminately scattered about, but would it live up to expectations?
The menu looked promising, a good choice of burgers; categorised under beef, chicken or others, as well as several encouraging veggie options.
We shared the nachos for starter which I always think is as good a measure as any – would it be homemade or squeezed out of packets like the inedible version served at cinemas? Luckily it was the former with a fiery salsa, lashings of guacamole, jalapenos, cheese and cream. It could have been more grilled but it was a good start.
Then a long pause as we tried to decide what to have, which was more complicated than you’d think such was the varied choice and options. The chicken burgers for example came as chicken or panko (breadcrumbed). The lunch menu was £5.99 for a smaller burger and chips or a salad, which seemed great value, and what extras to go for?
Everyone around us was on laptops, but it was noon, and that seems to be the way of the world. There were also several families, with children tucking into the decent kids menu and the staff were nice and friendly. Plus the place is open all day which is always a bonus.
The food arrived promptly; the main course sized panko chicken burger with pulled pork and BBQ sauce (a steep £13.50) was devoured instantly, the double burger classic (£13) came served with the included skin on fries on a suitably trendy enamel plate, and the grilled mushroom and halloumi burger with chilli salsa, garlic mayo and rocket (£12.50), was a novel, generous and inspired choice for any herbivore.
The rosemary fries were included, although the sweet potato version came in at an extra £1.50. And it was all good – generous, tasty, sloppy, bespoke and filling. Great milkshakes, craft beer, brioche buns, beef just the right shade of red. Job done.
We ordered the waffle and ice cream (£4.95) out of sheer greed, just to see what it was like but although it looked nice it was rather flaccid. Waffles need to be crispy to contrast with the softness of the insides and the creaminess of the ice cream, but it was the only false note of the meal.
So what did we think? We enjoyed it – it’s a nice burger restaurant and if I lived in Headington I’d pop in with the kids regularly. But to compete with Oxford’s burger giants, it had to bring something new to the table to bring the out-of-towner into Headington.
That said, with a burgeoning population, an up-and-coming restaurant scene and enough students to fill a stadium with, perhaps the out-of-towners aren’t C.R.A.F.T Burger’s primary concern.
C.R.A.F.T Burger, 1 The Parade, Windmill Rd, Headington www.craft-burger.co.uk 01865 708163