A restaurant dedicated to Mushrooms = Cafe Des Spores

A few years ago – we had a supper club on a Sunday night… meeting & eating at 5/6pm at each others homes… Sadly, this died as people’s lives changed & getting a regular sunday night get together into our diaries became a bit difficult (especially when someone actually had to spend most of the day in the kitchen whipping something together)

Recently – we started a new “supper club” which we have aptly named “TEAM EAT“…. with 6 of us trying out NEW (for us) restaurants in Brussels. Our first get together was for a birthday – at SOUL, which is a bio restaurant (and promised no cream or butter – be still my heart!!!!!!) – and we had so much fun, that the concept was “re-born”.

This time – we all clapped our hands in glee to try out the well-known “Mushroom” restaurant called Cafe Des Spores!

Situated in Saint-Gilles near the beautiful commune building (and very near the Lombardie stop for tram 81 users – like me :)) – it falls into the “easy to access” category for me (an Ixelles dweller).

A small, cosy feel inside with a direct line of sight into the kitchen, (and trust me when I tell you that I love being able to see into a Kitchen…) it also offers more intimate dining space upstairs (mezzanine balcony space that overlooks the centre of the restaurant) – but we sat at a table of 6 directly opposite the open-kitchen.

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Amazingly friendly staff – really…..

The concept is pretty simple – there are 4 courses (Entrée; Main/Plat; Cheese/Fromage & Dessert) and depending on the combination you choose, determines the price

  • Entrée & Main or Entrée & Dessert = 25€
  • Main & Cheese = 27€
  • Entrée, Main & Dessert = 30€
  • Entrée, Main & Cheese = 32€
  • All 4 = 37€

Now, thankfully you don’t need to decide straight away how many courses you plan to eat… as they come around between each course to see how many people are ordering the next offering…. (obviously entrée & main courses are placed at the start). Another important note to remember is that the menu changes based on seasonality, etc… and what was seen on their website did not reflect the menu on the actual night.

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Once the drinks have been ordered (without trying to sound negative – I do want to point out that their drinks list is on the expensive side – with the most reasonably priced decent red wine costing 44€ a bottle) & our entrée/main courses documented… we were served a little amuse bouche (taster)… DELICIOUS (but was also served without any information about it…. so I am unable to explain the contents… other than mushrooms :) with a creamy type froth)

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Entrée choices included “Pieds de moutons, gnocchi & brocoli” or “Chanterelles, oeuf, salsifis et huile de truffe blanche” – I opted for the first choice – which uses “Pieds de moutons” mushrooms or “muttons foot” / “hedgehog mushroom” served with gnocchi & a broccoli purée… YUM!

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Main/Plat choices included “Pleurotes, saumon, céleri et cresson” or “Shiitake, coucou de Maline, créme de butternut” or “Poêlée de champignons, lentilles vertes, petits légumes” – I went for the 3rd option – Green lentils with mini veggies & stir fried mix of mushrooms…. which was the really & truly AMAZING!

my lentils....
my lentils….
Salmon main...
Salmon main…

Cheese/Fromage only had 1 choice: “Pecorino sarde á la truffe noire, pruneaux au thé fumé” – and let’s be honest… they had me at the word “truffe” (truffle)…. this was probably the highlight dish around the table – as the black truffle strong flavour in the pecorino cheese is softened but also enhanced by the prune jam… *sigh*

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Dessert choices were “Trompettes de la mort, clémentines & panna cota” or “Le cheesecépe”… at which point we were all pretty full…. we decided that we would only get 1 dessert and many spoons. The waitron informed us that the Cheesecépe is on the menu all year round but the clementine option was seasonal – so that sealed the deal & we went for the “limited” time only offer. Sadly – the flavours did not work for me at all – the panna cota was more cheesy than sweet & the “Trompettes de la mort” (black chanterelle) a bit bitter.

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Overall – a restaurant that I would really recommend & definitely return to! Menu pricing is very reasonable, portion sizes are perfect and the taste combinations are phenomenal!

Cafe des Spores

address: Chaussee d’Alsemberg 103, 1060, Saint-Gilles, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 534 13 03

http://www.cafedesspores.be

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tarts

Sometimes – a day in the kitchen is all I need for a bit of relaxation…

Seriously….

It sounds strange – but stirring, chopping and of course, tasting, are very therapeutic for me! Which is why after a very VERY busy November – the first Saturday in December was spent pottering around the kitchen working my way through a few new recipes (like Asparagus Risotto or Beetroot & Coriander Dip)

HIM has a sweet tooth… and a particularly fondness for Caramel (which I later discovered was for Caramel syrup that is normally served with Créme Caramel and not the thicker version that I had envisioned… but anyhoo…)

So I decided to make this recipe … adapted from Olive Magazine (December 2011 issue) – I replaced the Agave syrup with normal golden syrup – and used milk/white chocolate combination as opposed to the dark/milk combination that they recommended. I also decided to make these into individual tart(lets) instead of one big tart – but the choice is yours!

In terms of ease – this recipe is not difficult – it just requires a good amount of muscles in your “stirring” arm – as making the caramel took about 20-30min whereby continuous stirring was required to make sure that it didn’t burn! The other thing I would change is that I would make my own pastry next time (probably using the short crust pastry recipe from my aunts lemon meringue pie) – But I would make this dessert again… for folks who truly appreciate a sweet ending (as it really is SWEEEEETTT!) :)

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart

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375g pack of pastry
150g butter
150g sugar
2 tablespoons syrup
397g tin of condensed milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
150g milk chocolate
50g white chocolate

caramel tarts ingredients 2

  • Roll out pastry & line a greased tart tin
  • Trim edges, prick base lightly & chill in the fridge for 30min

caramel tarts bases

  • Line chilled pastry with parchment & baking beans/dried beans
  • Blind bake for 20min at 190C

caramel tarts blind bake

  • Remove the parchment paper & beans – and continue to bake for another 10-15min until lightly golden
  • Leave to cool
  • Gently heat butter, sugar, syrup & condensed milk in a medium saucepan until butter has melted

caramel tarts caramel

  • Increase heat, stirring continuously until mixture starts to boil
  • Reduce the heat, but still continue to stir while it bubbles for 8-10min – the mixture will get thicker & darker in colour (caramel colour J)
  • Stir in the salt
  • Cool slightly before pouring into your pastry case
  • Leave to set at room temperature for 1hr

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  • Melt both chocolates in separate bowls
  • Place over the top of your caramel and swirl …..
  • Chill for 30min (but not too long – otherwise it becomes to hard to slice!)

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Printable version

Asparagus Risotto

This dismal winter weather that is setting in, makes me crave comfort food!

And what better comfort food is there…than Italian!!! The cheese & carb combinations of this wonderful country make me smile :) From Pizza to Pasta to Risotto (to name a few) – this cuisine choice has flavour written all over it! Taking simple (but good) ingredients and turning them into a bowl of YUM!

I re-created (& adapted) Francesco Mazzei recipe that was in the Delicious Magazine – by replacing the prosecco with white wine (it was wine from Puglia that we had bought from Olivetus – so I knew it was still QUALITY!). And I used Arborio instead of carnaroli rice.

Arborio:  is the most widely available risotto rice, typically wider & longer, & not as starchy . But the downside is that it absorbs liquid a little less well.

Carnaroli: Variously hailed as the “king” or the “caviar” of all Italian rice. It’s said to produce the creamiest risotto, yet it’s more resistant to overcooking than arborio. Normally available in specialty shops.

Would I make it again? yes…  it is full of flavour – doesn’t require a lot of work & is ready in less than 30min. It does however require your full attention during this time – as stirring and slowly ladling in stock is essential!

Asparagus Risotto

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200g asparagus
350g Arborio Rice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
35g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
125ml white wine
800ml-1l stock (if you use chicken stock like I did – this is obviously no longer vegetarian)
Fresh nutmeg
30g parmesan – grated
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped

asparagus risotto 1

  • Trim the tips of the asparagus off & place to one side
  • finely slice the stems
  • Heat a large pan with the dry rice – until gently warm, stirring – do not let it brown
  • In a large pot, heat oil & 5g of butter – fry onion for 4-5min until soft
  • Add warm rice – stirring until translucent
  • Add white wine & boil to evaporate alcohol
  • Add stock – one ladle at a time – stirring continuously.
  • Only adding the next ladle of stock when the previous one has been absorbed
  • after 10min – add asparagus stems
  • In another pan, heat 5g butter & little olive oil & fry asparagus tips with a grating of nutmeg until tender
  • When rice is done, switch off the pot, place a lid on top & leave to rest for 5-10minutes
  • Add rest of the butter, parmesan & herbs & give one more stir
  • Serve topped with the asparagus and little bit more parmesan (because no one said no to a bit more cheese – right?)

asparagus risotto 2

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L’Hirondelle d’or in Brussels

For M’s birthday – we decided to try out a new Asian spot in our local hood – a place that has been there for ages but we have just yet to try.

L’hirondelle d’or is around the corner from the Chatelain market with a somewhat deceiving exterior – looking like a bit of a chinese take-away from the front window – but as you walk past the counter – you will see indoor dining and an enormous terrace hidden in the back (perfect for summer sunshine – not so perfect for this time of the year).

Interior dining area is small – with part of it hidden by 2 large fish tanks….. (none of which are harmed during the evening) – but it is warm and more than adequate.

There were 6 of us – and “sharing” was the order of the evening… starting off with Nems (one vegetarian & one shrimp)

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Plus – Chicken with Cashews, Beef with brocoli, Sweet & Sour Chicken (Fritter format), Cantonese Rice, Pad Thai, Peking Duck – so it was safe to say that we didn’t go hungry!!!!!!!!!!!!

and then finished it all off with fresh litchi’s

When we started to sing Happy Birthday – the staff also sent over some deep-fried beinets (litchi/pineapple combo) with Sake….

Cost wise – it worked out to 25euro/ person and included wine, beer and more than enough food!

Food was tasty – and now that I know that they do take-away – it will very easily become a regular stop-off point for the evenings when cooking/eating out is not an option!

L’Hirondelle d’or

Address: Rue du Bailli 34, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

Telephone: +32 02 644 3363

website

Beetroot Coriander Dip (Lays Starry Holiday)

I love surprises… particularly the edible kind… so I was gleefully excited when a box arrived on my desk in November… containing a bag of Lays Oven Stars and a booklet of inspiration called “A Guide To A Starry Holiday” made in collaboration with Why Not Monday.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I have a serious will power issue when it comes to crisps… I can literally inhale them…. a whole big bag… every single crumb…

So this PR surprise was exactly up my street! Particularly as the booklet contained recipes & encouraged recipients to make up their own recipes to be shared along with these oven stars… all with the chance to win a party! So a definite win-win, eh?

I managed to stave off devouring the crisps until I had made an accompaniment to go with them… and this past weekend saw me spending the day in the kitchen whipping a whole batch of new goodies….

This recipe was adapted from the Great British Food Magazine – where I left out the walnuts & red wine vinegar & added in some cream cheese. All in all – the dip was inhaled just as quickly as the Oven stars!!!

Beetroot & coriander dip

beetroot dip 3

250g cooked beetroot
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small bunch of coriander
1 small bunch of parsley
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100g cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste

beetroot dip ingredients

  • roughly chop the beetroot & herbs
  • Add to the food processor with the garlic
  • Pulse until you achieve a course paste
  • Add oil & cream cheese – blitz further
  • Add salt & pepper to taste
  • refrigerate for 1hr
  • Serve!

beetroot dip 1

Printer version

Indian Rice Salad with Chicken

As I start to work through the pile of magazine recipe cut-outs (7years worth), I am drawn to the fact that there is so many things that I want to make… and so little time!!!!!!

This particular recipe was from the BBC Good Food Magazine (issue August 2013) & is perfect for the holiday season – when there are leftovers to be used up!!!! I adapted it slightly based on what was in my fridge – using basil leaves instead of coriander, I added a tin of peach slices which I diced up, I used mayo instead of creating a dressing & I omitted the blackbeans & pomegranate seeds.

All in all – this is definitely a great idea for clearing out the fridge!!!

Indian Rice Salad with chicken

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2 cups of uncooked rice (even better if you have leftover cooked rice!)
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon of medium curry powder
100g cashew nuts
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1 chicken breast sliced (or whatever leftover fowl meat you might have!)
Fresh herbs – finely chopped
1 tin of peaches, chopped
2 Tablespoons of mayo

  • Cook rice with tumeric & curry powder
  • Rinse with cold water to cool down & drain well
  • Mix all ingredients together & serve

indian rice salad 1

Apparently this recipe can last 2-3days in the fridge … but it is so tasty, I would be surprised if it lasted that long!

Shake Shack (in Covent Gardens, London)

Once every few months, I want need to go to London… a little city trip to see a show, stock up on shopping (because I really do revel in shopping at M&S as well as Boots) and enjoy the sights, sounds & tastes of a proper pub.

This past weekend ticked all the boxes… we went to watch “The play that goes wrong” (to which I can confess to laughing so hard that the tears rolled down my cheeks… something of a “Fawlty Towers” kind of play); had the traditional bangers&mash at a pub & spent a good hour (or more) battling the crowds of Westfields so that I could get a few new items from aforementioned shops.

But the other highlight of the weekend was checking out Shake Shack in London (recommended to us by Michelle of Very Hungry Explorer) – an American success story that has gone from being a roadside-stand selling hotdogs in New York 2001 to becoming a brand name in cities ranging from Miami to Moscow….

Set in the delightful Covent Garden Market building (festively adorned) – it has been a popular spot since it opened in 2013.. and this particular festive Saturday was no different. But the difference is in the organisation… not sure if this is a British thing or a Shake Shack thing… but whatever it was – it works.

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The set up has a queue for ordering (simple enough) – with staff monitoring the number of folks allowed into the ordering station at a single time, while handing out menu’s to those in the outside queue & explaining/answering menu item questions in order to facilitate a quicker ordering process. Although there were loads of folks there – we only stood in the queue for about 5-10min and used this time to acquaint ourselves with our potential choices.

shake shack menu

After placing your order – you are given a “buzzer’ (no idea what to call it) – which is linked to your order – and will start to vibrate & flash lights when your order is ready (already seen in other fast-food type establishments).

When the buzzer starts doing it’s thing – it means going to the “collect order” counter (just next door to where you placed your order & therefore avoiding the task of having to fight the masses to actually get your food), handing over your buzzer & receiving your tray. (We saw about 15 people in the area with similar buzzers & assumed our wait would be long… but it wasn’t – another 5 or so minutes and we were finding our way to an available table.)

shake shack buzzer

Finding a table wasn’t too difficult either – as with fast food – people tend to eat & leave in a fair amount of time (or at least – this was our experience.)

shake shack tray

HIM ordered the Double SmokeShack™ – cheeseburger topped with British free range wiltshire cure smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper & ShackSauce – with the double indicating the number of meat patties – (10£)

looks big enough to me!
looks big enough to me!

I ordered the Single ShackBurger® - Cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato & ShackSauce (5£)… so good!

drooling just looking at it again
drooling just looking at it again

And we opted for a portion of crinkle cut potato fries (2.75£) & portion topped with cheddar cheese sauce (aka Cheese fries) – 3.75£ all washed down with some Thatchers Old Rascal cider.

and the verdict is.....
and the verdict is…..

Verdict?

When our buzzer started to do the Hokey-pokey… and we received our tray – HIM was worried that he would still be hungry after a double burger & portion of fries…. but he did admit that the burgers tasted great (something that I can fully attest to). At the time – HIM said that he probably could have eaten another burger – but within half of hour of eating burger, fries & washing it down with cider – he agreed that it was a sufficient portion (clearly requiring time for his stomach to let his brain know that it was now full).

I actually inhaled the burger it was so good – the meat was cooked well (not overdone nor was it pink/raw), the bun was soft and didn’t fall apart… and the sauce & toppings were fresh, flavoursome & Nom-Nom-Nom.

I think I prefer the normal fries to the cheesy ones… as the cheddar cheese sauce was more functional on some veggies (like cauliflower or broccoli) than on perfectly cooked potatoes…. and after a few mouthfuls felt very rich…

Would we return? Absolutely… and I would recommend that you try it out for yourself…..

Shake Shack Covent Gardens

address: Covent Garden, 24 Market Building, The Piazza, London, England WC2E 8RD

telephone: +44 1923 555 129

http://www.shakeshack.com

Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 11h00-23h00; Sun: 11h00-22h30

Blueberry Muffins

Remember me telling you about that pile of recipe cuttings that I have? Well, the pile seems to grow more each month than I actually get a chance to try out… Well – I am now trying to make a concerted effort to try at least one new recipe from the aforementioned pile per week…

This recipe has been in the pile for a while…and I can’t tell you how long – because the page doesn’t have issue details on it anywhere – but it comes from the Great British Food magazine – which is a beautifully printed piece of publication (and not just because I love paper & work in the industry!)…. but because the paper that they use is thick & glossy & the images really do “pop” off the pages… and of course, having 50 recipes per issue also helps!

The recipe originally called for Blackberries – but I used blueberries instead (as HIM recently told me that of all the bakes that I have done – my banana & blueberry muffins were his favourite…)  – and I am sure that you could use any mixture of berries (except maybe strawberries which don’t seem to stand up well to baking (in my opinion)). I also reduced the amount of sour cream to 200ml (instead of 250ml) & I used 2 punnets of blueberries (total of 200g) which was more than enough (recipe called for 300g berries).

In terms of recipes – this was super easy, quick & made for an excellent breakfast!

Blueberry muffins

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200g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
200ml sour cream
2 Tablespoons milk
150g caster sugar
120g butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g blueberries

blueberry ingredients

  • Sieve flour, baking powder & salt together
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, sour cream, milk, sugar, butter & vanilla essence together

blueberry mix

  • Add the wet mixture to the dry – as well as berries and gently stir a few times (don’t overmix)
  • Grease 12 muffin cases & place mixture evenly into each one
  • Bake at 180C for 25-30min (until cooked through)

blueberry muffins 3 blueberry muffins 2

"Want one?"
“Want one?”

Printable version

Belgian Beer Tours: Hops and Poppies

October saw HIM & I joining others on one of the Sunday Belgian Beer Tours – called “Trenches & Trappists” (you can read my review here).

While in November, HIM, M, Kat & I signing up for the Saturday tour – “Hops & Poppies” – a few days of Arnistice Day, so pretty fitting as far as we were concerned.

Jan (the owner & guru behind the concept) fetched us from the Ypres station (a mere 2hr train ride from Brussels) & whisked us off for a day of sombre remembrance followed by joyful beer tastings at 2 different breweries.

Our first stop was in Ploegsteert, where soldier left their trenches to play a bit of football for the 1914 Christmas Truce – we stopped at both the “field” and then onto the memorial site in the area to watch a video & absorb the surroundings.

 

While in the area – we also stopped at the Irish memorial

and walked along a wooden path towards the NZ memorial site (a few hundred metres away) which afforded us with gorgeous views of the area.

Sadly – the weather was seriously miz (aka “miserable”)… cold, wet and entirely appropriate for war site visits…. and due to this – plus a traffic jam (an agriculture vehicle had stopped in the narrow road for a few minutes) – we ran out of time to visit the Pool of Peace (which is normally where a picnic lunch is served) & instead we headed to a farmhouse of one of Jan’s friends to settle down for a warm & tasty lunch … cleverly served in military mess tins. (Washed down with local beer & wine)

lunch 3 lunch 4

And the final war related stop (after lunch) was Lijssenthoek, which is just outside Poperinge, and was the site of a very large field hospital. (HIM even spotted that there was ONE unnamed South African soldier buried there).

lijssenthoek lijssenthoek 2

And then it was time for beer!!

De Plukker is a small brewery run by Belgium’s only organic hop farmers – 2 guys using their spare time (and resources) to bring 100% organic Craft beer to their customers! They also informed us that all beers are brewed with their own hops & are brewed/bottled on site.

de plukker 2 de plukker 3 de plukker blonde de plukker

HIM is not a big beer fan – but he walked out having purchased beers to bring home!! (That is a compliment if I have ever seen one from him)

And we finished off the day at Struise Brouwers, a story of Belgian guys who flew over (in a plane) an army of ostriches… thinking it would be the next BIG thing… and finally turned themselves over to being craft brewers instead. The ostriches are gone – but the name remains. Housed in an old school – with one class room dedicated to the on-site “brewery”, another to an office and the 3rd (and final) focused on being a tasting room – we settled down to drink & nibble on bread with their home-made beer paté.

struis rio says beer struis brewery pate

The cost for the day (excluding train tickets) was 50€ and includes full day tour in an mini-bus (collection/return to Ypres Station); Entrance to the Ploegsteert Memorial; lunch; beer at De Plukker & Struise Brouwers.

We took the 08h36 train to be there at 10h30 & returned on the 18h39 train which got us back to Brussels at 20h30. The day is long – but full & fun at the same time!

We have also heard rumours that Jan will be adding a few more other foodie tours to his agenda – so keep a firm eye on his website for more details!

Ellis Burger

The search for the perfect (yet humble) burger has not been easy… and the road is still long…

But I can honestly say that in Belgium (Brussels & surrounds) – I have a firm favourite… and that is Ellis Burger!

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And I am no stranger to the local Burger offerings – most of which have been pretty good (but none of them mind blowing – except maybe L’Amour Fou… which on a 2nd visit did not live up to the 1st visits experience) – and these include Hard Rock Brussels, Les Super Filles du Tram, Burger Republic, Boston Steakhouse, Les Canailles du Chatelain, The Loft & Cool Bun.

The thing with Ellis (and I have 2 visits under my belt to use as reference) is consistency & efficiency! The first visit was with Michelle from Very Hungry Explorer, HIM and moi.. while the 2nd visit was for Brussels Food Friends 3rd Event (#BxlFF3) where they managed to serve 30people perfectly cooked hamburgers at the same time… as well as starters, drinks, sides, etc…

On arrival at the Maasmechelen Village store – you will notice that there is a queue … and there is always a queue… BUT it moves really quickly and within 10-15minutes you will be seated & placing your orders! Then you can sit back and enjoy the funky ambiance…

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Our first visit had Michelle drinking a gorgeous looking milkshake (yes – people – I am also salivating just looking at the picture) – plus a veggie burger (mushrooms & chevre). While HIM kept it simple with a cheeseburger & I enjoyed their Chicken burger (which was so soft that it actually melted in my mouth!)

 

While our 2nd visit had us nibbling on a “food shot” – shrimp cocktail before chowing down on a delicious bacon & cheese burgers… with coleslaw, salad & frites as sides.

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The thing that I love about their burgers is that they don’t fall apart in your hands, the bun is the perfect mixture of soft & firm and the meat is cooked to perfection… slightly pink without being raw (an experience I seem to be getting on a more regular occasion) – and the salad garnish is fresh & crisp (and does not make the bottom of the bun soggy!)… yes, people … a sign of a decent burger!

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if you haven’t been to one of their many stores – we recommend it => http://www.ellisgourmetburger.com/en