Week two couldn’t come soon enough for us and here we are on a Monday craving another burger. Today’s stop is Kua’aina, a Hawaiian themed burger joint on Goodge Street. I had heard mixed reports on this one so we were keen to try it out and make up our minds for ourselves.
The interior was small and cosy and the tables were tightly packed in, it had a rustic feel like Honest burgers but the interior wasn’t quite as polished or comfortable. The place was bustling and most tables were taken. For a Monday that was a strong initial sign that the food was good. The menu was a decent size with plenty of options but we opted as per schedule for the standard cheeseburger and a portion of fries each. A selection of cheddar, swiss or monterey cheese were given but for consistencies sake we opted for the cheddar, there was an option of two buns on the menu but we were never asked which we wanted so default became the standard seeded burger bun.
On the menu were two burger sizes separated in price by a little more than a pound offering two different size burgers coming in at 1/3lb and 1/2lb sizes, the larger option was of course our choice but at £8.95 for the burger and £2.95 for the fries, it wasn’t a particularly cheap combination for £11.90, especially when considering that Honest burgers have their burger for £9 including fries. In terms of how they cook the burgers we weren’t offered to select how we wanted them cooking but we were told that they arrive by default as medium, which sounded perfect to me, we were also informed a reason by the waitress as to why burgers should not be cooked less than medium, relating to the bacteria on say the outside of a piece of meat where the majority lives, for a steak you cook the outside and the middle can be rare, but if a burger is minced from steak then the bacteria will become mixed throughout the burger and if the middle is not cooked sufficiently then there becomes a possibility for food poisoning, I have never heard this before but it does make some sense so will have to read more about it, handy knowledge to have as we throw ourselves further in subsequent weeks into the wonderful world of burgerdom.
The beef in the burgers is sourced fairly locally from a farm in Hertfordshire and all produce we were told was fresh and not frozen. A short time later our meals arrived and we were given a variety of dips and sauces including ketchup, mayo, BBQ and mustard. The food was presented neatly in a flower pot like container lined with printed paper for the fries and a wooden long bowl with the same branded paper for the burger which was presented open in half ready for action, a nice touch.
The burger itself was certainly slightly more cooked than medium, the meat was even texture and free from any pieces of fat and gristle and had a slightly charred taste to it, pleasant enough but certainly it lacked the wow factor, it wasn’t the tenderest nor juiciest of burgers and required some chewing to get through the meat but in chewing released a lot of flavour from the meat which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, the patty itself was a good size and was deeper in comparison to Honest Burgers the week before.The bun was very good, certainly fresh and the classic sesame seeds scattering the top of the bun added a subtle and welcome flavour to the overall taste. The salad was more substantial and seemed fresher than the whimsical scraps of lettuce we had received the previous week at Honest. All in all we both enjoyed it but there did seem to be some room for improvement particularly in the overall dynamic between meat, cheese, salad and burger. The fries were a modest portion but tasted pleasant, very standard salted French fries as per usual working as a great compliment to the star of the show, they were enhanced with a spiced salt on the table bearing the name “da secret salt,” this seemed more London street talk than Hawaiian themed for its namesake.
After the meal the waitress was as per during the meal very informative and paid a lot of interest as to our mission as we talked through the meal and drew up our results after discussing. By this time we had also been gifted mini cocktail umbrellas and Hawaiian Leis which came in magnificently for the customary photo with the staff. As we received the bill the manager came over to talk to us and declared that he would like to make the whole meal for us complimentary as part of our journey, a wonderful offering which we paid great thanks for, we chatted with him and he was very passionate and enthusiastic about the restaurant and the fresh qualities of the produce and we talked of a monumental burger challenge of which a free meal can be had for completing the feat of demolishing a huge burger plus extras within 15 minutes. A short time later we left satisfied but craving for something that really hits home.
Would I recommend Kua’aina? perhaps, the problem is as we are learning there is such fierce competition with what I gather is a strong field of big established hitters and to gain real traction and growth you have to push the boundaries of what is on offer in terms of taste with consideration to price and in contrast to say Honest Burgers last week Kua’aina falls slightly short of the hurdle. Saying that I will certainly visit again in the future to try one of the more experimental and exotic options which follow the Hawaiian theme as I feel there is more to deliver with the extent of variety present on the menu.