Rachael Kealy tucks into the burgers at Bunsen, Cork
French Church Street is so-called because of a small contingent of Huguenots who made Cork City their home in the 18th century. One wonders what they might have made of Bunsen Burger, the newest addition to their quarter.
The menu has two dishes: hamburgers and fries. The whole thing fits on one side of a business card. The beverage list boasts a marginally wider variety, with a blackboard listing of craft beers, ales, lagers and wines.
The interior is as simple as the menu: exposed brick, steaming vents, polished concrete floor. The tables are dinky. Like, elbows-slipping-off-the-corners tiny. We, like some of our fellow diners, took to leaving our water jugs on the floor. A hefty stack of napkins doesn’t help the space situation, but it’s necessary, because there is no cutlery.
Our ebullient server brought us our meals on metal trays; the burger is wrapped in paper, the fries in cardboard, with bottles of mayonnaise, ketchup and vinegar on the side. It is refreshingly anti-hipster: no Kilner jars, no chopping boards, no miniature friers. The menu makes no promises of sustainability, locality or diversity. The food is unmolested by foam, jus or purée. You get your wine in a glass tumbler. Your beer in a can. It’s just burger and chips.
Oh, but it’s a good burger. The melted cheese oozes like golden lava, chasing rivulets of glistening fat down the side of a thick Aberdeen Angus patty (€7.45). Served medium, the gorgeous Maillard seal gives way to soft, blush-pink tendrils of freshly-minced beef. The sauce, I’m told, is a simple combination of ketchup, mustard and mayo, with some chopped onions and iceberg lettuce for texture. The pickles add a superb sharpness, slicing cleanly through the rich, umami flavours.
I opted for a gluten-free bun (50c extra), just to try something different. Those with genuine gluten sensitivities have my sympathy: the dry, crumbly charlatan was no match for my companion’s buttery brioche. His double patty (€9.45) was a two-hander, but he bravely rose to the challenge, savouring an extra layer of juicy, well-seasoned meat and rich cow’s milk cheese. It was washed down with a robust, malt-heavy Brooklyn Lager (€6), the aroma of hops escaping from the colourful can.
In a feeble attempt to reduce the calorie load, I opted for sweet potato fries (€4.95), but found them a touch flaccid, lacking the delicious crunch my companion’s shoe-string fries had in abundance (€2.95). He was happy to share, however, and the diet went out the window.
My strawberry milkshake (€4.50) served as a creamy, delicately sweet dessert, one to take with us as we strolled down the narrow streets of the French quarter. Elaborate, Escoffier-style dining it’s not, but with simple, quality ingredients and relaxed conviviality, the old residents may well have approved.
We loved the simple approach, quality ingredients and lively environment
We spent €35.80 on two burgers, two fries, a beer and a milkshake
4 French Church Street, Cork City
Tel: +353 (0) 21 2390660; www.bunsen.ie
Open: Sunday – Wednesday 12.00-21.00, Thursday to Saturday 12.00-22.00