What’s pink and wrinkled and hangs out your pyjamas?
The answer, of course, is ‘your nan.’ (© Cardiff University Rag Mag, circa 1983.)
As an aside- what happened to rag mags? Are they Still A Thing, available as a scratch’n’sniff app with added VR functionality, or is their unfashionable comedy now deemed too toxic?
Anyway. ‘Hanging out.’ lt’s not just something that happens when you’re wearing your best sports shorts and a malfunction means you come free at the side. (It wasn’t deliberate, I promise you. It’s not a cry for help. I’ve had these shorts since 1982. They did have an underpant lining, but it’s perished. They’ve taken a bit of a pounding over the years. Can you get me some new ones please, Lynn? Lynn?)
But ‘Hanging out’ is what Kong’s is all about: an alluring triptych of beer, burgers and gaming. The decor here is functional, and the walls painted by someone who thinks Battleship Grey is a shade too flamboyant. Seating is a mix of high stools and low sofas, and the overall effect is not opulent.
The games include table tennis, but if that’s a tad too energetic for a night out and you prefer the simpler pleasures of forcibly extracting your opponent’s spinal column, then Mortal Kombat (FINISH HIM!) will see you right; if names like Capcom, Taito, Konami and Namco on a cabinet mean anything to you, Kong’s will have you in retro hog heaven.
There’s a decidedly decent line up at the bar: you don’t often see Kona’s Golden Wave in cans, and it’s complemented by several Beavertown brews including Gamma Ray on tap. West Country indies Wiper & True, Arbor and Wild Beer Co feature alongside more local brews and US titans Sierra Nevada.
I came to the launch event here, and was wildly impressed; I may even have said the mushroom burger would trounce most beefy rivals in the city.
But it’s easy to overreact to a new arrival, so this is based on several visits. (The sacrifices I make for you lovely people…)
So how does Burger Theory stack up when you tackle the menu ‘proper’?
Fries- one plain, one dressed with blue cheese- are the standard straight-cut skin-on jobs but well done. Onion rings, slim and lightly battered but grease-free, are another indicator that the kitchen knows its stuff.
The Coca Cola pulled ham with cheddar and barbecue sauce fries is a mouthful to order and almost a meal in itself. These are the fries other ‘dirty’ fries want to be when they’ve grown up. In fact, if other fries are ‘dirty’, these have done a Shawshank-style crawl through a river of… Look, this one’s getting away from me. Just order some and see for yourself.
A seeded brioche is your default bread-three alternatives are available including gluten free- and a strikingly burnished thing it is too.
My Cheese Theory is a tried and tested combination of crisp bacon with smoked cheddar and a mustard mayo and the house tomato relish. There’s a deep savouriness to the meat here, hinting at the reliance on a decent fat to meat ratio and some fierce grilling temperatures.
Guido’s ‘Kimcheese’ teams the spicy-sour tang of kimchi with pulled beef rib and is clearly going to be a two-hander demanding your whole attention. It’s a sprawling mess of a burger. This is A Good Thing.
These are messy burgers- hardly first date food- and many a lap and cuff will come a cropper this year. At least you can’t claim you weren’t warned.
The Prairie Girl is a sizeable chicken breast with southern-fried spices and the kind of lightness of batter you only get from being made to order.
Flavours are ramped up and cooled down by Frank’s Hot Sauce and a drenching of blue cheese sauce respectively. It’s a substantial handful and passes the ‘squidgeability’ test with room to spare: if there’s a better chicken burger in the city I am yet to find it.
Good- very, very good- though these burgers are, the pinnacle is one of the sides, and an unusual one for a burger joint.
You can opt for their Korean fried chicken as a burger in its own right, but the naked version is exemplary. The thigh, the thigh, always the thigh: when it’s the filling in a bun I miss the sheer animal pleasure of tearing the pieces with my hands, though this is a mere quibble.
I’ve a constant craving for this KFC and this was as good an example as I’ve had outside London recently. There’s a thick, sticky soy sauce glaze dark brown sugar, soy sauce, chili flakes, garlic and mustard. and a scattering of crushed peanuts and scallions, sliced red chillies and black sesame. All in all it’s a lovely thing which still has my lips tingling by the time I’ve taken my seat in Cineworld.
A resoundingly successful transition from Bristol, then. Burgers of a very high order, with some thumpingly good sides, with plenty of choice at the bar and a chance to relive your wasted youth at the machines.
So, to the usual question: are these the best burgers in the city?
Yes. Sorry, it’s that blunt.
Hanging out won’t be getting much better than this: practice is so much more fun than theory.
Full disclosure: I was sent a number of vouchers for Kong’s, which entitled me to burger and fries. All drinks and sides/upgrades were paid for, including that Korean chicken.
114-116 St Mary St,
Open every day; lunch Thurs-Sun only.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.