Burger King has opened on the Isle of Wight. A corner of that monstrous leisure shed that used to house Staples has been walled off into another of those bizarrely-misshapen spaces that characterise big box retail these days, and in it has appeared the Island’s first ever branch of the other famous burger chain.
We understand the first few weeks at BK Newport were quite lively, with queues stretching far out of the door as desperate locals vied with each other to taste this strange new wonder. We rolled up too, to give it a go, because, well, you know. It just felt as though we ought to.
In all honesty, we were hoping to be appalled. We’d have enjoyed writing about it. And there’s nothing more you’re hoping to read right now than an excoriation of a dismal national chain, where we can all feel smugly superior to these overners coming over here showing us how to cook burgers. We will put that out of your mind for a start. It wasn’t that bad, really, for a chain burger place. But wait – don’t go! It wasn’t that good either.
BK features huge interactive touch screens so we could order food without the discomfort of interacting with a reluctant teenaged human wearing a baseball cap. Tech-fiend Matt went straight for this, whilst traditionalist Cat trotted up to the counter to talk to Travis. Both experiences resulted in the delivery of food and the payment of money, so could be described as satisfactory.
Matt accessorised his BIG KING™ XL meal with an extra patty and large fries. Surely nobody wants those old-fashioned chips any more? Or burgers? No, clearly we want – or at least deserve – the latest thing as seen on TV, patties and fries. Biting into it he was immediately reminded of the unique feature of Burger King – the meat really is flame-grilled and it tasted like it. In fact, it tasted like a bag of damp sawdust held in front of a firehose of smoke. The fries were adequate, the bun was a sweet bit of fluff that fell apart in his hands. After eating the meal, he was less hungry. If there was anything else notable, it escaped him.
Cat ate a chicken royale meal with extra cheese, as referenced by Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. It was not clear what imbued this butty with majesty, although Cat could have dined like a queen by donning one of the cardboard crowns that were scattered about the restaurant. A crown inexplicably emblazoned with the word ‘REBEL’. Perhaps someone had mis-spelled ‘REGAL’? No matter.
The breaded chicken breast – curiously pointy-ended – looked like a piece of fish, but was moist and bland enough to be factory chicken. It was joined in a soft sub bun by a spillage of mayo and some stalky chunks of iceberg. It couldn’t have been more haphazardly assembled if Gypsy giant Tyson Fury, trying to manipulate shreds of lettuce in his massive boxing gloves, had been the royale’s chef. Perhaps it was the fannying about photographing it but certainly, by the time Cat put the end in her mouth, the butty had lost a considerable amount of heat – if it had, indeed, had much to begin with. It was ok though, in a perfunctory way. She helped it down with smooth Tropicana orange juice, rather than a bucket of ‘soft drink’, or the undoubtedly brain-freeze-inducing frozen coke.
Big King XL meal with extra patty £8.99
Royale with cheese meal £6.99
Oreo fusion £1.29
Whilst we chewed on our meals, we checked out the shiny new interior of this curious establishment. Brightly lit, hard, wipe-clean surfaces, big spaces; it felt like the interior of a school cafeteria that was trying way too hard. Still, as a new installation at least it was clean – as well it might be by the amount of sweeping it was getting. Whilst his colleagues were chattering cheerfully in the kitchen area one guy was stuck out the front avidly pushing a broom around the otherwise empty restaurant with such Sisyphean diligence that the gleaming new floor will most likely be worn away by this time next year.
We thought we ought to have another go round, so we went back for dessert. Matt asked the lady at the till to recommend something and she was pleasingly helpful and well-informed, eventually guiding him to the OREO® FUSION, a cup full of ice cream mixed with crumbs of Oreo biscuit, that was actually quite enjoyable, even if it did come with a bizarrely overspecified plastic spoon that was more like an orthopaedic appliance. Cat got a warm chocolate brownie ‘hottie’, which sported a substantial quiff of white ice cream. The dessert, with its pleasingly gooey centre, was rather nice, and the texture better than some restaurant fondants. Maybe.
So we conclude that the advent of Burger King isn’t really a matter of much importance, being neither a good thing nor a bad one. It is fairly cheap, it keeps some Island folk in employment, and stops another corner of Newport falling further into the retail doldrums. Unless you really like that powerfully smoky flavour in otherwise bland meat, you can get something better almost anywhere else. But most of us will go there anyway.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Desserts are not bad, and cheap
- Inconsequential and uninspiring food