Free State Kitchen//22NDAPRIL|2019

Searching north for the perfect burger…

After an extended period of gainful employment (trust me, I was a surprised as you are…) I’m so glad to be returning to the world of food, restaurants and criticism.

One of the things that I learnt from working ‘a normal job’ for near enough a year was how little time and energy I had for going out to eat. The 9-6 trudge was deplorable, it sapped every fibre of enthusiasm I had for food from my body and I was soon shovelling ready-meal pasta pots down my neck every lunch time, whilst staring lifelessly at my flickering monitor. My sense of taste had quite literally gone to shit and soon I was slurping down instant coffee and enjoying it. 

Thankfully, my contract came to an end and I was once more free to remind myself what real food actually tastes like. So for my first foodie adventure in over a year I decided to hop on a train once more and return to Liverpool. My last trip to this merry northern city was a delightful one, proving that you don’t need to be in a London postcode to find deliciously hip food. But I wasn’t travelling north this time for fancy food, no sir. This time I was travelling to seek a Holy Grail for every 21st Century foodie: the perfect burger.

The all-American burger is a fast food one-two punch that is hard pass up (unless you’re a vegan), but it can so easily be done wrong. I don’t have the figures to hand, but I’d estimate that 8 in 10 burgers served in the UK are shambolic messes, whereas 1 in 10 are simply serviceable. I’d heard tell that the burgers at Free State Kitchen on Maryland St. served burgers that belonged to the elusive 10% of exceptional burgers, so I took a train to Liverpool to see what all the fuss was about.

There are few Americanism that are yet to be absorbed by British society in the 21st century. Blockbuster movies, power grid equipment and of course food. Free State Kitchen was established during the great rising of gourmet burger kitchens in the late noughties, but unlike its doomed cohorts, it was able to thrive and ride out the trend. It’s now one of the most respected eateries in the city, despite being a little out of the way from the commercial centre.

The restaurant is a compact affair with an open kitchen and a tidy, attractive restaurant area. I’m quickly seated in a corner near the kitchen where I’m given a decent view of the action, as well as the rest of the diners. There’s a diverse group of people here, including students, office workers and families – the ambience is pleasant and I’m happy to look through simple menu at what’s on offer.

Whenever I visit a new burger place I look for two things: their bog-standard burger and their top of the range burger. FSK offer 8 burgers (including a Vegan alternative) with the American Cheeseburger and Classic Burger being the most affordable meat options at £9.25. At the top of the stack is the Double French Onion Burger which comes at £12.75: quite the price to pay for a bun and two patties. I opt for the slightly cheaper Double Deluxe Burger, simply because I don’t like the idea of stinking out the train home with my onion breath. To FSK’s credit there are options for those who’d rather not grab a burger, but I’d heard rumours about this place and I wanted to see if they were right…

I was barely given a chance to sample my local beer (Love Lane Pale Ale by the Liverpool Craft Beer Co. £4.50) before the burger arrived, a decent sized stack which came pink in the middle and oozing with sauce and juices. The mouthfeel was spot on, a toasted bun combining with a soft slightly bloody patty that was well seasoned. Would I say that this was the perfect burger?

I’d like to think that I’ll always be searching for perfection, but this certainly came close.

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