The enormous rise in quirky hamburger and fast food joints that has taken the UK restaurant market by storm over the last couple of years means that any new kids on the block have a lot to contend with.
Some choose to stand out with a gimmick, often retro-themed overload, while others aim to find original ways to broaden the limits of burger-based creativity.
But the trend at the moment is all about basic food quality and the restaurants that are getting it right know that customers care more about exactly what’s on the plate, rather than whether or not it’s delivered on rollerskates.
Frank’s Hamburger House, in Wellingborough Road in Northampton, has definitely taken this approach. Not only is the food made from top locally-sourced and well-cooked ingredients, but its no-frills unpretentious ethos is nicely balanced with light-hearted dish names inspired by Northamptonian themes.
Perhaps that is to be expected as the restaurant is little brother to the reputable Frank’s Steakhouse just over the road. Tom Hewer, owner of the small chain, is currently adding more siblings to the growing family as he opens two more Frank’s - one in St James and one in Watling Street in Towcester - and transforms The Artizan pub in Abington into a cosy pizzeria.
With plenty of experience serving local meat-eaters over the last few years, it’s no surprise that the food itself was well up to scratch.
When I visited for a casual weekday dinner with my landlord and his brother - who were apparently most alike in their palettes - they both ordered the ‘Pig Out’ burger, consisting of the standard hearty beef pattie, topped with a generous scoop of pulled pork and sauce.
I went for the ‘Saints’ burger, which replaced the beef for a juicy grilled chicken breast topped with chorizo slices and melted cheddar.
I swapped the standard brioche bun for a gluten-free roll, which I felt was the most impressive part about the meal. It’s usually quite tricky to find gluten-free baked goods that actually taste of anything, but the bread served up at Frank’s is easily one of the best I have ever had.
Another key point-scorer was the ‘bottomless fries’ policy, which we took full advantage of.
We finished off the meal with a sundae each: two chocolate brownies and one bannoffee. They were nothing more or less than you would expect, but they were very tasty and the ice-cream came from the ever-popular Northampton-based brand Gallone’s.
So the food was good and the price was reasonable, but there were a couple of little elements that let the experience down slightly.
While the aforementioned unpretentious and no-frills decor was refreshing, it was perhaps a little too understated. There was little to give the place any sort of distinguishing character or talking point, which, while that probably wouldn’t have mattered much on a busy weekend, was very noticeable on a quiet weekday evening.
Also, despite how quiet it was, the service left us feeling a bit rushed. Although the waiters were all very friendly and attentive, I had no sooner put down my cutlery when my plate - actually a wooden plank - was whisked away and, when we asked for a minute before seeing the dessert menu, that was taken more literally than we were expecting.
But that still didn’t detract from the quality of the food, which, all in all, was pretty good value for money, especially considering that most of the produce is locally sourced.
Even if you are not a big hamburger fan, there are a selection of ‘not hamburger’ options, starters and sides offering something to please everyone in the family. I’d be happy to check out any of the Frank’s restaurants around the county and trust that I’d get a burger, or steak, worth travelling for.
Food: Good quality burger ingredients
Disabled access: All ground level
Parking: On Wellingborough Road