If you think burgers are a strictly non-serious item on a fast food menu, you’re in for a surprise. In Delhi’s best restaurants, burgers intersect that point between science and art. The Upper Crust definition of a serious burger is one whose patty has tenderloin: vegetarian burgers, chicken burgers etc are oxymorons. Salt and pepper are all you need as seasoning in the patty: there is no call to use mixed dried herbs, chilli powder or anything else! There has to be bacon rashers, the bun has to stand up to being held in your hands without disintegrating under the onslaught of the juices of the patty, the tomatoes and the dressing, yet it can’t be so hard as to be toast.1911, the gracious old restaurant at the spectacular Imperial Hotel has, what connoisseurs feel is the finest burger in the whole of Delhi. The meat they use is pure Angus tenderloin, and what makes it even better is the charcoal grill they use to grill the patty. The “taste of carbon” is how Chef Ashish Dhar describes the burger and that, combined with the sweated onion rings with their pleasantly sweet tinge is what gives Imperial Hotel’s burger that edge. There are a couple of tomato slices, mayo and shredded lettuce that complete the picture.
The Qube at the Leela Palace Delhi does a serious burger too. As Executive Chef Glenn Eastman says, they’re the only hotel who imports the meat specifically for the burger patty, and they use Black Angus chuck. “It has the ideal meat to fat ratio, being 80-20”, explains Eastman. “Unlike the competition, we don’t grind scraps of tenderloin to make our burger patty” he grins. The Qube burger has a choice of two relishes: grape mustard and chunky tomato. The bacon rashers are as crisp as cardboard and the cheese is a choice between cheddar, emmenthal or blue. Best of all, the burger bun is a brioche, which means it stands up fairly well to handling.
Hard Rock Café is known to have their Legendary Ten Ounce Burger, but even General Manager Tarek Gaber, part Sicilian, part Egyptian, was taken aback to see exactly how popular this dish is. In all the branches of Hard Rock Café that exist in India, the highest seller is this burger. The tenderloin is local, it is more finely ground than the competition, the patty has the least amount of seasoning of any of the other places that we visited, but the cheese is a tad more generous and the bacon rashers almost cover the patty to offset the minimal salt. Onion rings fried in batter complete the set. There’s a subtle flavor of smoke, but that appears to be a trick in the kitchen rather than a charcoal grill. Bite into the burger so that you get a bit of all the elements simultaneously. You won’t know that you are not in heaven!
Café at Hyatt Regency Delhi has always been famous for its burger. Like all the other burgers that we checked out, this one too offers a choice of doneness of tenderloin: rare, medium or well-done, as well as a choice of three cheeses: cheddar, emmenthal or Monterey Jack. Carefully chosen tomatoes are sliced: only the reddest ones make the grade for the burgers. There’s a (cos) lettuce leaf, raw onion slices and sliced gherkins in the burger, in addition to two generous slices of cheese. Chef Maria Martini says that if she was in her native Argentina, she would have cooked the patty on a wood fire and served it with chimichurri, a strongly flavoured relish of mixed dried herbs, lime juice and minimal chilli.