THERE’S no denying that once you’ve tried Fat Hippo, no other burger will do.
A year on since discovering what all the fuss was about when I tasted my first Hippo pattie of joy, I’ve been under-awed by any others.
But I was getting a bit tired of the hustle and bustle of Newcastle’s Fat Hippo Underground. Choose the wrong time to go in and it’s a bit like school dinners at Hogwarts, with the sheer number of customers and the acoustics which make it hard to hear, and coupled with those metal chairs scraping on the floor it can get a bit too much.
Which was how I came to find myself venturing out of town to the place where it all started back in 2010, Fat Hippo Jesmond, which is a world away from the city centre branch.
Perched on the corner of St George’s Terrace in West Jesmond, it’s a much smaller and a far more relaxing place to eat. Exposed brick, a big feature wall painted with a big Fat Hippo branding and cool décor makes it a really cosy and chilled-out spot.
The food menu is the same as that at city centre, although there isn’t such a large choice of drinks, thanks to the fact that the bar area is small. There is still a huge selection of beers, ciders, naughty shakes and soft drinks.
For starters, my accomplice and I opted for the old trusty favourites Mac ‘n’ Cheese Balls, four decent-sized balls of macaroni cheese joy served with Alabama White BBQ sauce priced at £4.50.
As far as mac ‘n’ cheese balls go, these are probably the best around. The Fat Hippo chefs have certainly found the perfect balance of deep frying without sucking all of the life from the inside.
Instead they were soft and velvety inside, with just the perfect consistency of pasta to cheese and they seem to have decent cheese content.
I have to be honest, I could take or leave the sauce. I don’t really get what it’s trying to be. It doesn’t add any value to the dish and who wants to spoil the taste of the cheese anyway?
Almost full from the balls alone – if you haven’t got a large appetite, I’d opt to share a starter if you’re having one, otherwise you’ll end up struggling when the main event turns up – it was time for burgers.
A creature of habit, I went for the American. Priced at £8.50, this features two 4oz burgers with cheese, gherkins, ketchup and American mustard. Simple and safe, but oh-so tasty.
If it wasn’t for Fat Hippo, I’d still be a naysayer when it comes to the use of brioche in savoury, but you just can’t argue with how good it tastes.
I’m also a fan of the way the burgers come out slightly pink as there’s nothing worse than overdone meat. The burger comes with hand cut chips with the option to swap to skinny fries or upgrade to sweet potato (£1) or dirty fries (£1.50).
I’d forgotten I normally swap for the skinny fries, and I have to admit the chips were a bit disappointing. They tasted nice enough but were a bit limp and floppy. It wasn’t too much of an issue though, as I had enough on my plate with the burger.
My accomplice chose the Texas (£9.90), which again has two 4oz burgers, streaky bacon, cheese, onion rings and BBQ sauce. It was bigger than the American but really looked the part, and by all accounts tasted as good as it looked.
It’s always worth pointing out the cheese. Fat Hippo always delivers perfectly melted cheese which covers burger like a piece of art and never looks burnt or bubbly.
Neither of us could finish and the waitress offered to bag our burgers up to take home for supper. Always a good touch, even if you don’t end up eating it.
Aside from the floppy chips, Fat Hippo Jesmond is certainly worth a visit, and for people like me, who enjoy a more chilled feed, is a winner over its city centre counterpart.