It was a couple of years ago that I first went to a Byron restaurant. We had just had our little fella and it was our anniversary. The first night out after a new baby is always fraught but we were optimistic. We intended to go for a burger and then the cinema, nothing too flash, but our little man had different ideas and played merry hell with his Grandma. So much so that we had to hot foot it back home after less than 2 hours out.
Good job therefore that BYRON is so called “fast food”. The speed does not diminish the quality, however. We bolted our delicious burger and cold beer down, had our first conversation in yonks, and left.
Luckily this was more than enough time for me to clock the fantastic “building site chic” decor and quality food. We vowed we would go back when the munchkin was able to behave with a babysitter, or join us.
Plenty of foodie blogs have rightly endorsed Tom Byng’s chain of restaurants which claims “to serve proper hamburgers the way they should be”. They appear to have won over critics and punters alike which is no mean feat.
All good, but as much as I like burgers, it is the fit out that gets my juices going. They are just achingly cool spaces. The corporate colours of black and white feature heavily in the interiors schemes but they manage to avoid looking too austere by using texture to great advantage: from exposed brickwork and refectory chairs in the Islington branch; reclaimed warehouse light fittings in Westfield (ps if you like the salvaged look try www.trainspotters.uk.com or www.baileyshomeandgarden.com). The long tables and enormous chandelier in the Cheapside branch are fantastic too but you are unlikely to get a nosey (or some lunch) unless you arrive at breakfast time, by midday the famished city workers are queuing round the block for their burger fix.
I like that the Kitchens tend to be open too. It is great to see the chefs in action but also to see the industrial look workspace and metro tiles. You see I have a thing for them (tiles, not chefs) and as you can see they grace Percy Pendle’s kitchen (see archived post). And yes, yes I know they are a bit done now but I think have achieved classic status. They just work. Slick but stylish and perfect for a restaurant in my book. Incidentally, my favourite way to do metro is no bevel and dark grey grout but each to their own. Best value for the simple metro tile has to be www.toppstiles.co.uk but www.firedearth.co.uk have some nice crackle glazed examples if you do not like to look too London Underground.
The other encouraging thing is that each restaurant does have its own identity whilst still looking and feeling like a Byron. Earls Court has the zingy citrus accents which look fresh and summery.
Most of the restaurants also have a cow somewhere (other than in the burger) be it in the art or a full size papier mache version. I am noting a Cow trend generally come to think of it (note to self for future blogpost).
Now, I have not been in enough of the restaurants to be give you the low down on each one but I have a plan to get along to the new Haymarket branch soon. That looks to have the signature black and white theme too. It has fantastic architectural features, huge arched windows and a modern twist with a neon light feature in the shape of the tube map. Colporter heaven!
The Canary Wharf branch above reminds me of www.deananddeluca.com, a lovely US chain of delis which also ensures its interiors are to the same high standard as the food. The restaurants which have opened more recently are a bit more edgy, or as a friend commented “snazzy”. I am not sure that was the interior designer’s vision but I think it sums up the look. Candy colours, and less warehousey (boo). The Charing Cross fascia sign below is quite a departure from the monochrome livery too. Not so sure about this but maybe rather fun in the flesh?
The candy colours on the interior are also a bit different but luckily still use the faithful metro tile (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) and industrial fittings.
Ideally for the full experience you do need the burger and onion rings in front of you (my mouth is watering) but this may have whet your appetite. If there is not one locally then you will probably only have to wait a year or so before there is. Byron has big plans and like its older siblings Pizza Express and ASK expect this brand to be rolled out to the ‘burbs soon!