Pavel Le Bouche of How Not To Do A Food Blog knows the Eight Bells in Safron Walden well – he worked there for two years while he was at college. A lot has changed since then, owners have come and gone, so Pavel returned, wondering if the ancient beamed pub still serves up a great burger...
Saffron Walden is a very quaint and beautiful Essex town, a million miles away from what you see in The Only Way Is Essex, and I love coming back here to see my Nan. When I heard the Bells was open again I thought it was a great excuse to make the trip up from London to check out what was on offer.
It’s safe then, given my history with the pub, to say that I had high hopes for my meal. I mean what can go wrong with a home made 7oz burger with mature cheddar?
Quite a lot it seems; the kitchen has gone rogue from what we’d call standard burger presentation – and that’s just the start. The burger arrived squat, almost ball like in its bready home and the cheese had been toasted onto the bottom half of the bun under the patty for some bizarre reason.
No lettuce, tomato, gherkin, ketchup, mustard or onion in the sandwich but plenty of salad on the side so I add my own Heinz and Mustard combo ahead of digging in. This, it turns out, was a bit of a mistake but let’s talk about the meat for a minute…
Aside from the fact it wasn’t squashed down into a more manageable size and shape I could tell that it had been pre-seasoned (and with a heavy hand) from the cut through (below). The texture was very smooth; meat when exposed to salt for any time begins to break down and this is what happened here.
What I didn’t notice till I’d taken my first mouthful was the coarse grain mustard that had been mixed through. This made my addition of a healthy dollop of English seriously ill-advised.
A homogenous, salty and overall mustardy mess sat before me, distinctly dry and brown despite asking for medium rare. The waiter had even clarified I wanted it pink, I take this on the chin like a big boy and don’t complain as I’m with my Grandma and don’t really want to spoil an otherwise lovely and quite rare lunch out with her!
The cheese? This was hard to describe; grilled away to almost nothing on the bun only to add a slightly greasy feel to the whole experience. It had a slightly garlic edge? Had garlic been mixed in accidentally I couldn’t tell maybe the mustard was playing tricks on my palate.
The bun? A non-descript floury bap, adequate for the job. It didn’t have to worry about any juices so held together well. Skinny fries? Oddly floury as well, I’d hazard from the freezer or a bag as I’ve never had a home cut fry that bad.
Presentation 2/5 Cheese toasted to the bun? That’s pretty leftfield in my books…
Structure/Bite 1/5 the firm almost solid thick patty made this unwieldy and difficult to bite even when cut in two.
Component parts: 2/5 and I think I’m being generous here.
Taste/Texture 1/5 if you are going to put coarse grain mustard in your burger advertise the fact on your menu, simple.
Experience 3/5 I can’t knock the service from our waiter and the pub is gorgeous still plus it’s always great going out for something to eat with my Nan!
Total score 9/25 ONE STAR - almost two but not quite…
The Eight Bells
18 Bridge Street
Tel: 01799 522790