Chin dripping with a big dollop of ketchup, fingers messy with yellow mustard – eating a 7Bone hot dog is not an elegant experience.
But it is a satisfying one.
7Bone Burger Co is the latest restaurant to open its doors in Reading (you’ll find it along St Mary’s Butts), and on Friday Ben & I went along to the preview night to, well, basically stuff our faces. We’d been to the Camberley 7Bone about 2 weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so we were looking forward to returning and trying some more of the menu.
Tip number one for 7Bone is don’t wear anything with a restricted waistband – this is big eating at its best. It’s all the fried/saucy/meaty goodness you could possible want – this isn’t the place you come for a salad (although there is a token one on the menu).
So what makes 7Bone different from every other American style burger joint? Well, in some ways not a huge amount. The main element of the menu is burgers, hot dogs, and fries – team that with one of the American beers and you’re good to go.
But there are a few twists that make 7Bone that bit more interesting. The portswood poutine for example was a meaty puddle of deliciousness – fries, slow braised beef, a ‘deep’ gravy (it had such a hit of meatiness in its flavour, despite being quite thin) and cheese curds.
Then there are the frickles – which we had at Camberley and I wish we’d had again at Reading. Frickles – aka fried pickles – are a super naughty piece of fried goodness. Crispy, crunchy and delicious dipped in the blue cheese sauce. And plentiful in their portion size too.
Instead of frickles we had onion straws on the Reading preview night. Again – total, utter naughty food. There’s basically nothing healthy about a whole basket of Friday onion, but well, it’s Friday night, the beers are flowing, who’s really thinking about the gym?
The burgers and hot dogs are goooood. So good it needs to be said in a long, drawn out way with lots of oooooos. Plenty of sauce, and again, something a bit different on the menu. At Camberley we had the Peter Green (Texan all steak chilli, cheese, American mustard and jalapenos) and One Big Chicken (buttermilk fried chicken, hash brown, cheese, chipotle ketchup, HP sauce and mayo). Both were chock-full of filling, the chicken one especially had such a huge meaty piece of fried chicken in that you couldn’t really eat it without deconstructing it on your plate. And a really good layer of sauces in there too which really pack the flavour in.
At Reading we had two sliders (Ronald’s revenage – double cheese, onions, ketchup, mustard and pickles – and the dreadlock Rasta – chicken burger with hot sauce, shredded iceberg and dirty spread) and a Caravan Park hot dog (pork dog, fried onions, dirty spread, ketchup, mustard and pickles). Again totally stuffed with fillings and really thick tasty patties on the sliders.
I have no idea what ‘dirty sauce’ and ‘dirty spread’ are actually made of (I’m guessing some kind of mayo/ketchup combo) but I don’t really care – the whole flavour bundle was delicious. 7Bone has fun with its menu – things like dirty spread are the character it’s creating – a place where you can stuff a burger into your face, make a mess, clink a beer with your companion and carry on. It’s lively, it’s fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Of course, that kind of frivolity isn’t necessarily going to be to everyone’s taste and the person next to us at the preview night was having a proper moan to the manager. The menu was ‘confusing’ (it’s burgers and hot dogs, how confusing can it be?), the frickles were ‘like marmite’ and they were firmly in the hate camp, and ‘what ACTUALLY is in dirty sauce?’. I guess you can’t please everyone… Maybe a rant like that comes with a preview night where you’re asking for opinions, and everyone is quite rightly entitled to be 100% honest, but it was a bit off putting when we just want to chill and enjoy our food.
I got the feeling maybe they just didn’t ‘get’ 7Bone? For us, it was chilled and fun, the kind of place we’ll go before the cinema or just because we fancy popping out for some food on a Friday night. The venues are a bit hipster in decor – neon lights and exposed pipes, you know the drill – but they look cool and they work with the laid back vibe.
The staff were friendly at both locations and our service was quick at both. The beers were good in Camberley (try the Kona Big Wave) and the cocktails were delicious in Reading (the French Bone is a sweet, fruity little number and the Endgame is a thick, fruity, rum-soaked hit).
The prices are reasonable – you’re looking at about £8 for a burger/hot dog/melt and around £4ish for a side – and in the scale of burger restaurants where McDonalds is one end, Five Guys is the middle and the Handmade Burger Co is the other, it sits somewhere between Five Guys and Handmade Burger Co.
Without a doubt we’ll be visiting both venues again. They’re a really welcome addition to Camberley and Reading and there’s absolutely no question that next time we go, frickles will definitely be on our table.