Shove a fistful of cooked ground beef between two halves of a bread roll, and you’ve got yourself a burger. But for most of us, a burger in its most rudimentary form just isn’t enough. We want bigger patties in duplicate and triplicate, with rivers of melted cheese and gushing tomatoes. We want punchier pickles, lovelier lettuce, sassier sauces and better buns. And we want them last week. Which is why we sent out our merry band of mince-munchers to search out the city’s best.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
You know what they say about men with big hands? Yes, they wear big gloves. But not only will you need hands the size of snow shovels to get a grip of this monster burger, you’ll also need a mouth the size of a sperm whale’s. The Kiwi boasts a slab of beef that’s bigger than a one-armed lifeboat oarsman’s bicep, not to mention a runny fried egg (probably from an ostrich), red onion, lettuce, hulking pineapple rings, an ocean of melted cheese and an orchard of fruit relish on a sesame seed bun you could roof Wembley Stadium with.
Verdict: Too damned big.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Ground floor, building 5, Dubai International Financial Centre (800 287437). Other location: Uptown Mirdif (800 287437).
Like a grotesque concrete tower block from the 60s, this lurching burger just has to be demolished as it’s simply too big to pick up without it disintegrating all over your lap. You won’t need explosives – just removing the crispy onion rings will suffice. But even then the sauce-heavy burger breaks up into a sloppy, amorphous mess of mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce. The 7oz pattie lacks any kind of flame-grilled flavour, but the chips are OK when dipped in the Jack Daniels’ non-alcoholic Tennessee sauce.
Verdict: JD? Just Don’t.
TGI Fridays, Garhoud (04 282 0284). Other locations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 9100). Mall of the Emirates (04 341 0030).
Despite being named after a dodgy Queen album from the 80s, The Works is a tasty burger that presents a one-pound pouffe of meat in a delicately toasted bun of light and fluffy bread. There’s turkey bacon in there, as well as mushrooms and cheese, but there’s also a proliferation of grease that makes the bun go soggy. For the real works, trot up to Fuddruckers’ topping bar and pimp your burger accordingly with salad and sauces.
Verdict: Too much grease clogs up
Fuddruckers, The Works. Garhoud (04 282 7771).
Homemade Beef Burger
When it comes to fast food, the IV burger would give Maccy Ds or Burger King a run for their money. No sooner does the order trip off the tongue than it appears on your table next to a mound of fat fries and a pot of coleslaw. But just as quickly, it begins to break up in your hands in a Richter scale-busting burger-quake, as the substantial patty, lettuce, tomato, cheese, fruit relish and crumbly bun all decide to slip and slide to anywhere and everywhere they shouldn’t be. Which is usually all over your shirt.
Verdict: The James Blunt of burgers – gets everywhere although you wish it wouldn’t.
Irish Village, The Aviation Club, Garhoud Road (04 282 4750, www.irishvillage.ae).
Even pseudo-sophisticates with iPhones, laptops and lattes love burgers. So, buckling under irresistible pressure after four years of being silly, More Café introduced this Me Generation classic. The huge cheese-topped burger comes on a rye bread bun with the More logo scorched into it, and it arrives next to a three-tier stand festooned with civilised little pots of chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, caramelised onion, relish, mayo, dill pickle, coarse grain mustard. Forget what Burger King tells you, with More Cafe’s build-your-own burger, you really can have it your way.
Verdict: The best self-build since IKEA – fantastic!
More, Garhoud (04 283 0224). Other location: Al Murooj Rotana complex (04 343 3779).
The Oldtimer? Doesn’t exactly prick the appetite, does it? Once you’ve banished the image of a senile, geriatric cow in a nappy, going on and on about World War II, you can get to grips with this manageably proportioned yet impressive-looking burger. But you’ll soon discover that the Oldtimer’s schoolboy error of slathering American mustard on the bun – underneath the meat – makes the base unacceptably soggy, and prone to disintegration. That undoes all the good work done by the moist, pink, flame-grilled meat, cheese and slices of dill pickle. Shocking.
Verdict: Typical old-timer – suffers from a soggy bottom.
Chili’s, Garhoud (04 282 8484). Other locations BurJuman Centre (04 352 2900), Deira City Centre (04 295 9559), Jumeirah (04 344 1300), Mall of the Emirates (04 341 3355).
Legendary 10oz Burger
Hard Rock Café
This mountainous burger boasts a 10oz mattress of meat, a quilt of melted cheese, tomato, green lettuce, turkey bacon and an onion ring the size of Evel Knievel’s favourite neck brace on a bun that could easily double as a bouncy castle at a village fete. It even has a Hard Rock Café flag planted at its summit, as if some crampon-wearing carnivore has conquered it first. When it turns up at your table, you’ll probably look as surprised as Sir Edmund Hilary did when he became the first man to climb Mount Everest, only to discover a branch of Hard Rock Café at the top.
Verdict: Impressive, but any burger that requires a team of Sherpas to eat is just a shade too big.
Hard Rock Café, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 399 2888)
They call it the chilli cheeseburger, but in the hushed circles of Dubai’s burger aficionados it’s known as ‘the coronary classic’. Sure there’s lettuce and slices of tomato, but that’s little more than make-up on a cow’s carcass. The patty is thick, juicy, covered in melted heart-clogging cheese and the grease drips out when you lift it up – but that’s a sign you’re onto a winner. Then the chillies kick in and that flavour pulls a handbrake turn and heads towards Tijuana. Sometimes the chef drops a few too many in there and the experience is like being maced while in McDonalds – one for the anti-globalisation protesters perhaps? – but such a culinary gamble pays off 90 per cent of the time.
Verdict: Part food, part practical joke. What’s not to love?
Boston Bar, Jumeira Rotana Hotel, Al Dhiyafah Street (04 345 5888)
Italian Beef Burger
As someone once said when asked why rock band AC/DC sounded the same on 17 consecutive albums, ‘you don’t f*** with magic.’ So letting Italians loose on a burger could be disastrous, but here they keep the alterations to a near perfect minimum. The lettuce, tomatoes and onions are all present and correct, but it’s the slathering of melted mozzarella that provides a big nod to the old country. The patty is juicy throughout and the buns are so big and firm they put Beyoncé to shame. In fact, it’s so big, it requires a wooden spike to hold it all together and like the Italian infantry of old, you could be throwing up your hands and surrendering early into proceedings, but those who battle on will achieve a sense of culinary victory.
Verdict: Big beef with a fine touch of the Italian
Bella Donna, Mercato Centre (04 344 7701)
Big King XXL
We suspect that the ghost of Elvis Presley hovered above the white lab-coated scientist at Burger King’s top-secret research facilities, as he laboured over the creation of the Big King XXL burger. ‘That’s right, uh-huh uh-huh’ the ghoulish crooner would have whispered as he eyed the two 4-inch beef patties stacking up nicely. ‘Uh-huh-huh! Mmm… Thank you very much!’ he would have slavered, watching the thick layer of special Big King sauce being slathered on a microwaveable bun. And no doubt he would have wiggled those incorporeal hips with glee as two slices of a cheese-reminiscent yellow substance, four pieces of pickle, a load of lettuce and some onions were thrown on.
Verdict: A hefty hunk ‘a’ burnin’ love.
Burger King, Mall Of The Emirates (04 341 1190) and various locations around Dubai.
Majlis Al Bahar
They pamper them, they massage them, they feed them sake and beer, sing nursery rhymes to them, tickle them under the chin and mollycoddle them until they’re spoilt rotten – then they go and throw them into a mincing machine and make them into burgers. Kobe or wagyu beef is prized for its intense flavour, extreme tenderness and marbled texture, so this one might upset food snobs. But posh people enjoy burgers as much as the rest of us, so this 100 per cent wagyu burger with foie gras and homemade tomato relish will have to do for them. The 380g burger costs a whopping Dhs430 – the equivalent of 39 Big Macs – and comes with fries, coleslaw and lettuce, but will it make you happy?
Verdict: Hmm, a burger or a night on the town? How about any other burger AND a night on the town?
Majlis Al Bahar, Burj Al Arab (04 301 7777).
The woman behind the counter is completely unintelligible and the pattie she gives you is deep-fried, but this isn’t Glasgow – it’s Deira, and one of the last few remaining Wimpy restaurants in the universe. Britain’s original burger bar has taken a turn for the worse since its 50s heyday, and the Maxi Burger must lie at the core of its degeneration. Deep-fried beef burgers are up there with fur coats and minstrel shows on the list of things we don’t do any more, and no amount of limp lettuce, tarnished tomato and curdled ketchup is going to change that.
Verdict: They’ll be picking lumps of gristle out of your teeth on your death bed.
Wimpy, Naif Road, Deira (04 235 1210).
It’s been lambasted and lampooned, dissed and dissected, pilloried, poked and pulled apart – but it’s probably the world’s best selling and most famous of burgers. Whatever you might think about McDonald’s, the Big Mac is an iconic burger of Burj Dubai proportions. The familiar all-beef patties (x2), special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions…etc. formula still tastes like no other burger on earth, which is probably why many people prefer a burger that tastes like a burger instead.
Verdict: We’re not lovin’ it, but we’re not particularly hatin’ it either.
McDonald’s, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 0911) and various locations around the city.
Five Star Burgew
The capacious cardboard box that houses this, the jewel in Hardees’ beefy crown, could easily double as hat storage: it’s that big. Don’t be put off by the posters of sickly-looking mushroom burgers that festoon the windows of this American chain; The Five Star is the real deal: a massive, juicy flamegrilled cowdisc wedged in a satisfying sesame bun, delivered in a thoughtful paper sheath for the avoidance of fallout and sauce-stained shirts. And get this, quirk-fans: the salad (lettuce, onion, gherkin and two slices of monster tomato) is on the underside of the meat, which means you can actually taste it. Just five stars? Oh Mr (or Mrs) Hardee, you’re too modest!
Verdict: Asterisk the great!
Hardees, Trade Centre Road (04 396-7800).
‘Casino Royale’ Celebrity Burger
What is it with the word ‘celebrity’ nowadays? Shove it in front of absolutely anything and it’s meant to have us giddy with febrile aspiration. Where does the Celebrity Burger buy its jeans? How can I recreate the lustrous shine of its hair? Well, we’re not playing ball. Maybe it’s because we made the schoolboy error of ordering ours with blue cheese (better to go for cheddar or mozzarella), maybe it’s because we felt cheated out of the French fries we so craved (mysteriously, we got potato wedges instead) – but this bulky US Angus sirloin beef patty, housed in a featureless English muffin, felt distinctly B-list.
Verdict: Casino Royale? More like Gala bingo.
Planet Hollywood, Wafi City (04 324 4777).
Rocket Double Burger
You don’t have to be a basketball player, a descendant of Jimi Hendrix or somebody else with massive mitts to handle this sensibly-sized burger. Watch as two substantial lumps of ground beef are flattened on the hotplate, then salivate as they’re arranged with a solitary-but-thick slice of beef tomato, a couple of smoky onion rings and a modest amount of lettuce on the lightly toasted bun. The melted tilamook cheese merges with an ooze of special sauce (essentially Thousand Island dressing) but there’s hardly any dribble or disintegration – just mouthful after mouthful of burgery goodness.
Verdict: A delicious alternative to Prozac. Officially the city’s best burger!
Johnny Rockets, Marina Walk (04 368 2339). Other locations: beach Road, next to The Village mall (04 344 7859). Mall of the Emirates (04 344 7859).