It's not fancy, it's not big and it's not clever, but the scrag end is delicious. For simple, honest opinions on restaurants, recipes, supper clubs and what not, you've come to the right place.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Byron, Westfield

Fifteen years ago, shopping centres in England were simple. You knew where you stood. They were largely unpleasant places, grim and breezeblocked, full of uninspiring shops like British Home Stores and Mad House. As for the food, well, these were not places you’d voluntarily eat. Overpriced coffee and sandwich counters dominated, with the occasional McDonald’s thrown in for good measure. Brent Cross is still like that. So is the Bentall Centre.

Westfield is a little bit different. Yes, it’s still a shopping centre. And yes, despite pretensions to the contrary, it’s still pretty ugly. But here’s a dirty little secret: Westfield is a good place to eat. You have to be discerning, but anywhere with a branch of Wahaca must have something going for it.

The same could be said about Byron. Clearly, I’ve rather missed the boat on reviewing this in a timely fashion, but you know, that’s the beauty of being your own editor.

Now, I could start by taking you through the menu. But what would be the point? At Byron, you eat burgers. Burgers and fried things. Burgers and fried things and milkshakes with malt in. I had a Byron burger – a medium rare beef patty, crispy, dry-cured bacon, cheddar, salady bits and ‘Byron sauce’, in a bun. I’m not sure what exactly is in Byron sauce, but it’s not a million miles from the burger sauce you sometimes have with kebabs. And that’s nice, isn’t it?

The burger was delectably cooked, juicy and flavourful. People go overboard about it, but basically, it’s very good: a big step up from TGI Fridays or Hard Rock, but perhaps not quite in the same league as Hawksmoor and the like. At £8.25 without fries and what not, it’s about right.

We opted for four different fried things. Normal French fries were good, thin and salty; home-made, skin-on chips were fine but nothing more. In contrast, the courgette fries were something of a revelation. Covered in a polenta batter, they tasted as if a Japanese tempura expert had moved to somewhere really unhealthy in the south of the US, and all the better for that. The onion rings were even more delicious: crunchy, light and extraordinarily bad for you, but in a good way. The pools of oil left at the bottom of the basket felt like a kind of endorsement, congratulating the customer on having finished such a fatty Trojan horse.

My accompanying vanilla milkshake was disturbingly good. The balance of ice-cream, malty flavour and vanilla was just right, and my word, they give you a lot of it for £3.75. Highly recommended.

I’m told that Byron is so-called because it means ‘of the cow shed’ in Old English. My etymological knowledge (and that of the Oxford English Dictionary) doesn’t stretch to being able to verify the claim, but it’s terrific nonetheless. I must say though, I was slightly disappointed it’s nothing to do with Lord Byron. I’m reminded of his lines from Childe Harold:

“;there is a fire
And motion of the soul, which will not dwell
In its own narrow being, but aspire
Beyond the fitting medium of desire;”

Replace ‘fire and motion of the soul’ with ‘beef’, and you have the Byron hamburger experience. Sort of.

Phil Letts' take: 7/10

Byron on Urbanspoon


  1. Lord Byron was a keen carnivore, Phil:

    But man is a carnivorous production,
    And must have meals, at least one meal a day;
    He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
    But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey:
    Although his anatomical construction
    Bears vegetables in a grumbling way,
    Your labouring people think beyond all question,
    Beef, veal, and mutton, better for digestion.

    Kat El-Shehd

  2. This may solve the long-standing question of what he fed his bear.

    Said af-Freis