Bunsen is an independent Irish burger chain with four restaurants in Dublin, one in Cork and a recently opened location in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The first Bunsen opened on Wexford Street, Dublin in 2013 and it’s been a roaring success, hence the rapid expansion throughout Ireland.
The burger industry is surely a difficult one – when you’re not only competing with the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King but also the more expensive, trendier chains such as Five Guys, you’ve got to be supremely confident in your product to bring out a menu which fits on a business card. But that’s exactly what Bunsen have done.
We checked out Bunsen in Belfast on Sunday evening. Based in the bustling Cathedral Quarter, a few doors up from the Black Box and directly across from the Dirty Onion, it’s the perfect location for some quick, quality food before a night out.
From the outside, it’s not immediately obvious, there’s only a small neon sign above the door. It’s minimalist and feels like you’ve stumbled across a hidden gem. It’s almost certainly intentional – the interior is also minimalist; a real industrial chic vibe crossed with neon lighting, a hint of americana and a bit of an old school lunch hall feel. It feels effortlessly cool, hipster-friendly and perfect instagram fodder. It still feels inviting though; there’s often an air of pretension with some food joints that are trying too hard to be cool but there’s none of that here. Bunsen ain’t trying to be cool, they just are. Big difference.
The service was great, we had two very friendly staff members look after us – one even complimented me on my watch! They brought us a jug of water for the table and checked in on us a couple of times to make sure we had everything we needed. It was attentive without being imposing.
The menu itself literally comes on a business card. You’re basically getting a burger and some kind of fries. If you’re looking for an extensive menu, this ain’t the place for you.
We opted for the hamburger, with no mayo, and the skinny fries. One of the best things about Bunsen is that they ask you how you’d like your burger cooked – they’re not afraid to serve it rare if that’s what you want. It’s the only burger place we’ve tried that’s actually asked our preference, and it allows for some customisation. So even though the menu is limited, Bunsen want to make sure your burger experience is tailored to your taste.
The food itself is great – the burgers are juicy, cooked as requested and full of flavour. The toppings combine to create the quintessential burger experience. Even though this is, essentially fast-food, it’s made to order, and you can tell the ingredients are high quality.
The accompanying side portions are also massive. Price-wise, Bunsen nail that sweet spot between fast-food and traditional restaurants. It’s only a few quid dearer than going to one of the huge burger chains but the food, setting and service make it more than worth it.
Oh, and the beer! Bunsen’s current beer selection in Belfast is small but perfectly formed, much like their food menu. You’ve currently got four choices – BrewDog’s Punk IPA, Beavertown’s Gamma Ray, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale… and Peroni. The first three come in at £5 each, and Peroni’s £3.50.
Bunsen have gone for three of the most iconic, well-known and well-respected craft beers possible – which means they may even open some eyes to the world of craft beer – while making the best burgers in Belfast.
We’d call that a double-win. Now go get a double hamburger.