With trendy burger shacks and hip burger restaurants popping up all over Europe, Francesca Monticelli guides us through the best and trendiest burgers around Europe.

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Photo: Thomas Hawk (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I suppose writing an article on the best gourmet burgers in Europe when you’ve recently become a vegetarian is a bit cruel. Thinking of the mouth-watering meat cradled by a soft brioche bun is making me jealous of meat-eaters but what I’ve realised is that the veggie options in burger joints are actually as enjoyable.

I thought I should start this personal tour through European gourmet burger joints by giving you a little insight on how my love affair with gourmet burgers started. I was 17. Valentine’s Day. Single. My best friend decided to treat me to a burger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK). I spent the early hours of the evening devouring a GBK classic: a bacon cheeseburger. I didn’t really think much of it at that moment, sure yes it was better than McDonald’s but little did I know how much I’d grow to enjoy gourmet burgers and develop into a self proclaimed burger connoisseur.

GBK is actually a burger chain from New Zealand that breached UK markets first, but has undoubtedly been trampled by the likes of Patty & Bun, MEATliquor or Dirty Burger. What’s great about burger joints is that a scrumptious burger can be enjoyed in all kinds of ambiances. Or Dirty Burger’s unlikely location:  a shack in a car park. There is just one massive table parked in the middle of the shed with a couple of stools dotted around. So you’ll be munching on your burger with a stranger sat sitting very close to you. There’s something quite fun about enjoying a delicious burger in a dark dingy club-like atmosphere, with a DJ playing in the background.

There’s something quite fun about enjoying a delicious burger in a dark dingy club-like atmosphere, with a DJ playing in the background.

MEATMission the spin off from its parent brand MEATLiquor does just this. It’s the Dead Hippie burger and the chilli cheese fries, which really make the meal. A Henrietta Fizz cocktail on the side will help you get through the ludicrously large portions. It oozes cool more than any other burger place I’ve been to. Alternatively, Patty & Bun is really different from MEATMission. Firstly it’s much smaller and the experience is more ‘fast-food’ like. But they make undoubtedly the best bacon cheeseburger I have ever had. However, for the absolute best vegetarian burger in London has to be the Beets burger from Bird ,famous for its fried chicken, the deep-fried beetroot patty with house kewpie mayonnaise and chilli basil slaw really makes for a meat-free meal at a fried chicken shop worthwhile. Any good burger needs to be accompanied with some equally good fries. And usually I swear by skin on fries. But British Byron’s courgette fries are actually my ideal accompaniment to a delicious burger.

Luckily in my travels I discovered that the UK isn’t the only European country to have been infected by gourmet burger fever. Appropriately so, my first non-UK encounter with gourmet burgers was with the place where hamburgers originated. No not the USA. I’m talking about Hamburg. With a friend we went to Hans Im Glück; a burgergrill chain that can be found scattered across northern Germany. If it isn’t the smell of the delicious burgers that entices you to go in it will be the techno tunes coming from the restaurant that will convince you to walk in. Honestly, the place has a brilliant atmosphere. Its distinct décor assimilates that of a forest with fake trees pinned around the room and low lighting. I didn’t really have a favourite burger there but the sourdough bread rather than brioche bun makes the burger different and tastier. It’s the burger joint I’ve been to with the most choice. So many it’ll be hard to pick one and if you opt for the classic Hans Im Glück burger it’s infused with Italian flavours. If it’s not the odd Hans Im Glück that suits your fancy when you travel to Germany, then Schiller burger might be what you’re looking for. Its burgers are named after characters in Schiller’s play, which makes this ideal for when you pop to Berlin.  I’m no vegan but their vegan patty with potato spelt is not only something I’d never tried or seen before, but really makes being a vegan worthy.

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Photo: stu_spivack (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

It wouldn’t be fair to write an article about food trends without including Italy. Yes, mostly famous for its gorgeous pizza as an Italian myself it’s hard for me to betray Italian food traditions. But burgermania has, alas, reached Italy too. Knick Knack Yoda my friend back home described as “rozzo ma top” essentially bit scruffy but top-notch. It’s located really close to the Vatican and the Never Mind Burger is premium beef topped with mouth-watering truffle sauce encased in a fluffy floury bread. If that doesn’t tempt you to go to the Vatican then I’m not sure what will.

Heading north, Well Done in Bologna offers it’s own Italianised version of the classic burger. Blending the burger with staple Italian flavours like Parmesan, pine nuts and basil more of a ciabatta like doughy delight to accompany the burger at an affordable price really make this stand out from the other Italian burger chains. Well Done also does a mixed grain and mushroom patty or a pumpkin patty for the vegetarians – two patties I’d never heard of before. But the real Italian flavours to look out for are found in the burger with Mortadella, a famous Italian fatty ham, and Gorgonzola cheese.

Travelling east, Romania was hit by a wave of gourmet burgers as well. In the last couple of years the monopolising McDonald’s and Burger King have been trampled by homely burger flavours. Cluj the biggest city in Transylvania is swarmed with these new burgers. Firstly my friend’s brother claims that Burger Shop is a must, they have an open kitchen and its messy appearance makes it rather more authentic – the powerful smells emanating from the kitchen do not discourage people who queue for hours. Colin is another famous one, in Cluj, this time for its fries authentically sourced from a village nearby famous for it’s potatoes. At an average price of 25 leis (5 euros) these gourmet burgers are probably the cheapest in Europe.

This burger trend has taken Europe by storm and to be honest I’m really looking forward to the innovative gourmet burger recipes that will pop up in the next few years. Whenever I visit a European capital I now feel I can rely on at least one gourmet burger shack to try out.

Teaser photo: Andy (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • retro
    Francesca Monticelli

    Former Editor

    Francesca Monticelli did a Masters in Public Health at KCL. She graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL and worked in PR for a bit. She is interested in health policy, popular science and food. Francesca is Italian, from Rome and you can follow her on Twitter: @franmonticelli

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