Saturday, 20 February 2010


222 Kensington High Street
W8 7RG

020 7361 1717

[See here for return visit to Byron when the gas was working!]

Four of us went to the Kensington branch of this chain of seven upmarket burger joints in Kensington high street after going to the cinema. We order. I go for the "Byron", rare. The Byron is a burger with"dry cure bacon, mature Cheddar, Byron sauce". They come "in a soft, plain bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and mayo". There are four categories of red wine: GOOD, BETTER, GREAT, BEST. That's simple then. We ask for GREAT.

Its quite a noisy place. Its around 8pm and there are a lot of kids. Its brightly lit. An attempt at romance is a candle night light in a glass dish. Not a place for a first date though. Fine, its a hamburger place. Its busy. The cooking area is open plan in the middle of the restaurant. The open plan kitchen though needs supplies from to the left of where we are sitting. I watch as large bags of chips are taken through, then a huge stack of tupperware boxes with brightly coloured ingredients, then more larger tupperware boxes, then rubbish from the kitchen going the other way in a black bin liner. If this is meant to be part of the action, bustle, it sure as hell isn't elegant. There are a few chips scattered on the floor by the table in font of me. The walls are a bit scuffed, the paintwork damaged.

After ten minutes or so we get our wine but its not the GREAT we ask for, an Italian merlot, its the BETTER, an Italian cabernet sauvignon £16.50. Ok but surely its not that hard to get this right when there are only four red wines on the list. After fourty five minutes more seriously still no food. Our waiter explains that there is a problem with the gas. What problem I ask? There is no gas ergo no cooking. Ah. We are brought a few rather soft tortilla chips, a bit of guacamole etc. I go to the kitchen area. A waiter is just loading up with some burgers on plates. How come you can serve these if there is no gas I ask? " There is still er some er heat from the grill..." he says.

Ten minutes later we are presented with our burgers but we are told there that the portion of fench fries and skin-on chips can not be cooked. I don't understand how the burgers can magically be cooked when the chips cannot but communication is not quite good enough to pursue this. Bynow we have almost finished our wine.

L.O. pronounces her burger overcooked when she ordered it rare. I must say mine is rare and the meat is really good quality; however the 'mayo' and Byron sauce (maybe its just the Byron sauce) is a pink marie rose colour and not to my taste. The molten cheddar is fine. The dry cure bacon is too limp, not cripsy at all which I prefer. The soft plain bun is, well ,a soft plain bun but hamburger buns have seldom done it for me. And of course its all spoilt a bit by the lack of chips. The burgers are served on a sheet of semi-transparent paper on the plate. I've no doubt this makes clearing for the dishwasher easier but personally I find it aesthetically unappealing.

All in all (despite for me the crucial beef filling being good) not an altogether successful experience! I complain. I say to our waiter we were brought the wrong wine. We waited for nearly an hour for our food. I acknowledge the gas situation may well have been outside their control but the fact is we had this long wait, and we didn't get all we had ordered. I said that although I understood he personally was not responsible for all the problems were we not entitled to some recompense? A future free meal ,whatever? He was about to put my credit card in the wireless machine. I had already received the bill. There was an immediate back down. He handed me back my card. We were given the meal (which came to around £45 for four) for free! well that was very handsome of them and made up for quite a bit of what had gone wrong. Neverlethess something made me a little uneasy. It was clear that management had sanctioned zero charges in the even of complaint. We had seen the manageress briefing the waiters earlier and when I had said to our waiter was he definitely authorised to make us this offer it was clear that he had been. What made me uneasy was I felt that it was only because we had complained that we had been offered our money back. It was gracious, but if the restaurant had made the offer even without us complaining it would have been more gracious. I suspected we were in a very small minority, and that most had paid up without complaint.

Our waiter said that the gas problem was not an isolated incident and had happened several times before. Thy even suspected sabotage and had put closed circuit TV cameras in place. Strange.

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