If you like playing old school arcade games while smashing in burgers, Burger Theory at Kongs may be of interest to you.
The arcade bar sits on Hill Street (just off Victoria Square) and fills the space left by the relentlessly awful Chameleon bar. Unlike the former meat market for people too drunk to go to Broad Street, Kongs is cool and a breath of fresh air to an otherwise boring street. As well as a plethora of retro games and table tennis to play, the venue boasts enough craft beer to drown in and has its own pop up restaurant: Burger Theory.
Kongs and Burger Theory have been in cahoots for sometime now, with shared premises already in Cardiff and Bristol. If it’s good enough for the Welsh it’s good enough for me and my husband who’s anyone’s for Pac-Man. The bar itself is massive and there’s plenty of games to keep you entertained, but unsurprisingly it’s what BT is bringing to the city I was more interested in.
Having initially carved out a following at festivals and pop ups, the folk behind Burger Theory pride themselves on getting creative and using quality local ingredients. For example, the meat for their patties is sourced from butcher Walter Rose – the same supplier to the likes of some bearded chap called Glynn Purnell and, a man of no notoriety in Birmingham whatsoever, Adam Stokes. In other words, the burgers should be pretty good if the base is quality meat.
The offering is quite large, with beef and free-range chicken options plus an array of sides that sound like they’ll bring on gout. There are also vegetarian and vegan alternatives, showing they’ve gone to some effort when crafting a crowd pleasing menu. As if punters don’t have enough choices to make, all burgers come with a bun of your choosing from a list that reads like the new Spice Girls lineup: seeded, wholemeal, gluten free, or naked. I don’t imagine Victoria Beckham has ever eaten a burger but even she’d find something to eat here.
The Blue Cow (£9.50) consists of a single beef and jalapeño patty, plenty of crisp bacon, rich blue cheese, a creamy chipotle mayo, and the ketchup they make in house. You can add a second patty for £3. The burger patty itself was a good size and seasoned well, with enough fat to keep it all moist and but I couldn’t detect the hum of heat I expected from the green chilli. I suspect it was just the usual beef patty used on all the other burgers. The cheese, whilst tasty, wasn’t remotely melted either – it was actually borderline cold – which seemed a bit weird, maybe even lazy. The burger was served just pink, so specify if you prefer well done.
The bun itself was a massive let down and couldn’t hold its own against the sauces – I ended up ditching it, suspecting it may have even been stale or the gluten free offering. Whilst there are various options I wasn’t asked which bun I wanted, and I only realised the choices available on the menu later on. A good burger patty with plenty of flavour, I’d order this again but with a different bun that doesn’t fall apart as soon as you touch it.
I wouldn’t get too excited about the fries either – freshly cooked but nothing special unless you pay fairly substantial upgrades for toppings.
This is a nice enough addition to the city, although my initial dining experience was a bit mixed to say the least and I’m not in a rush to return at the moment. Perhaps my expectations were too high after hearing positive feedback from those visiting the other venues, but I left feeling a bit underwhelmed. There’s some kinks to be ironed out and service was pretty confused at points (the advertised midweek lunch deal wasn’t available due to the till being unaware of it, and no one asked what bun I wanted or seemed to be able to work the card machine) but I’ll return to see if it has improved in the new year. The menu is creative and playful without being pretentious and I admired them for making all the sauces in house.
On the two occasions I’ve visited (one midweek lunch and one weekend evening) it’s appeared quite quiet, but then the space is massive. If you end up at the German markets and want an escape a change of scene, hop onto Hill Street and into Kongs where you can drink beer without paying a deposit for a glass that’s covered in Santa’s smug face.
Burger Theory, Kongs, 1 Victoria Square, Hill Street, Birmingham B1 1BD
Disclosure: I paid for all food at Burger Theory (and drinks at Kongs) that have been included in this post. All words, photos and opinions are mine.