Yawn. Not another burger bar, goes the conventional wisdom, although no-one seems to mither on when there are twelve humdrum Indian restaurants and fourteen identikit Chinese takeaways in the same postcode, let alone the proliferation of pizzas. A new burger place seems to rouse the ire, somehow. A burger joint with a new angle is like a bad meal from Hang Fire: possible in theory, but unlikely to happen. Time and Beef is sat squarely in what is fast becoming a mini food quarter at the hospital end of Canton, alongside Purple Poppadom, Chez Francis, Kimchi, Chai St and others.
However, it would be a shame to not give Time & Beef credit for what it does well. Even before you take your first bite, it’s hard not be impressed by the place. It ticks all your boxes: local meat from a local butcher? Tick. Bread by Alex Gooch, baker to the great and the good? Naturally. Fish by Fish At 85? Present and correct. Locally-brewed beer on tap from Tiny Rebel? Check. It’s a manifesto which hits every hot ‘foodie’ (oh, the vigorous loathing I have for that word..!) button you’ve got.
You tick a BAO-style order form in five sections for your desired bread, burger, cheese, topping and sauce. They claim this results in more than 400,000 possible combinations-though whether you’d actually want pulled pork and fried egg on fish (or on a veggie burger, for that matter) is another matter entirely- so boredom is unlikely to set in soon. It’s got a pleasingly upcycled, local indie vibe which puts you at ease: there are stools from a Bridgend school, pews from a Canton church and light shades from an Army barracks.
More importantly, their ‘Five Commandments’ takes pride of place near the door. They’re core principles which fire a shot across the bow of several competitors, and a couple bear repeating here, specifically a promise to never use frozen meat and to always cook to order.
It’s a while since I’ve seen fried squid or hummus on the menu of a mere ‘burger bar’, but here they are. The former was spot on, too: light, crisp, palpably fresh. It’s one of those unfailing barometers of whether a kitchen knows its basics- Elgano recently passed the test with frying colours, and so did T&B.
A selection of other starters- crumbed and deep-fried oozy, gooey, sexy mac and cheese bites, for example- were hugely moreish; the southern fried chicken strips were a lot lighter than you might expect, while sacrificing nothing of the flavour. It all tastes fresher than you might be used to in this kind of place, somehow- even the beer, an impressive pint of Cwtch.
My fries were generously coated with salty, garlicky butter (why is no-one else doing this?) and were an instant hit. How could they not be?
The main event? For my Fat Man (no, really: you name your own burger here, and ‘El Gordo’ seemed fitting) I kept it classic: a potato bun, a slab of Stilton and a thick rasher of bacon. Despite the strong hit of blue cheese, the texture and quality of the hand-shaped patty shone through. The bread’s great too, as you’d expect. All in all, this is a pretty damn fine effort. It’s worth the extra few minutes’ wait.
Clearly, this is not ‘just another’ burger bar, and has the potential to develop: breakfast has been added since I visited, and they tweeted a picture of a lamb kofte ‘light bite’ last week, homemade raita and all.
There’s an awful lot to like about Time and Beef, from ethos to food to drink. It’s not perfect- I have some qualms over them charging £2 for meat topping, but that’s pretty much it. It’s food to put a smile on your face, though. And that’s pretty much what counts. The Canton renaissance continues apace.
Huge thanks to Jordan Harris for taking some of these pictures- he’s at @jordsharris.
Time and Beef
169 Cowbridge Road East
029 21 158539
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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.