Tuesday 12 March 2013

[Review] The Balham Burger from The Grove Pub, Balham

For all you burger lovers South of the river, regular Hamburger Me! dining partner in crime Anthony hits up The Grove, Balham for their burger special - The Balham burger.
The Balham burger from The Grove, Balham
The Balham burger from The Grove, Balham
Let's see what he has to say...

At the risk of sounding like the opening of a short story...it was a cold, blustery Tuesday in darkest Balham. I was meeting an old school friend for dinner and he'd wanted to try The Grove on Oldridge Road.

An easy find, half way between Clapham South and Balham tubes and only 100 yards off Balham Hill, this Young's pub appears as a hidden gem with an exterior that belies the ornate and eye-catching interior. Our table was situated directly under a stunning glass ceiling. (Possible title for short story: Burger by Moonlight). A read of the menu revealed a mix of comforting gastro fare - steak, pie and general heartiness. And the obligatory gastro burger. Although where The Grove differed was in offering their Balham Burger coming in at £12.50. The Balham Burger aims to elevate excitement levels with the addition of being cooked in bacon dripping, served in a steamed Viennoise bun and incorporating beer soaked onions, American cheese, bacon and peanut butter. 

Yes. Peanut butter. Crunchy peanut butter. As our waiter commented, "Sounds weird, but it works." 
The Balham burger cut-through
The Balham burger cut-through
Being a Tuesday night, the restaurant was light on diners so our burgers arrived promptly but to a muted reception. Despite the promise that this burger was something out of the ordinary, the presentation could not have been more beige. A white plate, burger and chip surround was not the stamp of creativity I was hoping for. If you are going to create a unique dish (that apparently warrants it having its own page on the website!), then surely what you deliver needs to wow the eye. The criss-cross char marks on the bun were the only visual flair on display and I could feel little evidence of the steamy dough. Having said that, I got through the whole burger without having any bun catastrophes - it stood up to the contents and the oral assault. And although I am not normally a fan of toasted buns, the slight crusty edges gave a nice twang of flavour. Which was just as well as the meat was doing very little to excite the taste buds. Despite being served as described (medium-rare), the chin-dribbling juiciness was at a minimum and without it the steaky flavour was just not there. 

The Balham burger at The Grove.
The Balham burger at The Grove.
American cheese would never be my choice and this burger was exactly the reason why. Slices of flavourless yell-o were nowhere near enough dairy to bring anything to the party. Its sole job was seemingly to ensure that the bacon was glued to the other contents of the inside. The bacon itself had good flavour and the crispiness of the unsmoked streaky added the required contrast to the softness of the medium-rare meat. I could have happily gone without the beer-soaked onions. The dismal beige of soft slippery shards only lubricated the situation to the point that my patty almost shot out of my bun on a couple of occasions. But the peanut butter. Now that was a different story. I was a little sceptical about peanut and beef. But as my friend pointed out, it works on satay! It was a great addition to this burger - every so often after the initial chew of soft patty, you'd be met with a supersavoury kick of salty peanut and bacon. I would definitely consider adding a dollop of Sun-Pat to my domestic burgers now. Consider me converted!
The Balham burger from The Grove Pub
Pink in the middle, but meat lacking in flavour
The chips were a big disappointment. I had asked to upgrade from the regular fries to the triple-cooked chips. The entire point of going to the effort of triple cooking chips is to guarantee a fluffy inside and a diamond-hard crispiness. I'm not sure that the pictures do justice to the limp averageness - these had either sat on the side for a while or just not been cooked properly in the first place.

Overall rating: 4/10

I'd happily go back to The Grove for its good selection of beers, pleasant surroundings and a genuine willingness to try other items on their menu. But for me, this burger has too much to fault it to be saved by the mere introduction of peanut butter. Sadly this story won't be heading for the top of my bestseller lists. 

Hamburger Me: So there we have it folks - not a burger that will be making its way into my Best Burgers in London shortlist, but if you're fancying a decent pint or two, it's well worth popping in.

The Grove
39 Oldridge Road
SW12 8PN
020 8673 6531

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Grove on Urbanspoon


  1. Bun fail/win , have the heading's gone hamburgerme?

  2. Neither win nor fail for the bun - it didn't fall apart, but that was about all that it had going for it...


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