We went to Common Burger, Hatchery
’s burger pop-up, with heads full of longing for upmarket junk food and the kind of hunger that makes a weeknight grease-fest seem not only acceptable, but borderline necessary. 5LMeet, the co-working and lifestyle space where this second incarnation of the culinary incubator has taken nest, still feels a bit of an incongruous place to plonk a restaurant, but the Hatchery space is bright and roomy.
After sipping on a couple of tins of Brewdog beer (40RMB) we take the plunge into the grease-and-griddle party that is Common Burger’s menu. Going straight for unashamed decadence, we plump for the Stout and Bacon Cheeseburger (75RMB), which is the definition of moreish not only because of the more-is-more approach of the toppings but because of the interplay between its different elements. We’d thought the whole 'dude food' movement of a few years back had robbed us of the desire to chow down on meat on-meat calorie bombs, but the incorporation of a rounded syrup made with Jing A
stout tied everything together nicely.
The Mowgli (50RMB), a spicy potato number, lives up – unlike so many meat-free monstrosities offered as consolation prizes to vegetarians – to its titling as a burger, and its herbed yoghurt proves to be one of the most flavourpacked sauces of the meal. We had expected the Yeah Nah, Bro (75RMB), a venison burger with feta and beetroot, to be a nice change from the beefy dominance running roughshod through the rest of the menu, but it fails to fully live up to its initial promise, being rather dry: slightly more generous portions of cheese and relish would have served to counteract the leanness of the meat.
Of the side dishes, the Brussel sprouts (40RMB) are the stealth hit of the evening. Plump and firm, pan-fried and glossy, and deliciously caramelised, they go down a treat. Mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes with truffle aioli (35RMB) are less of a success; it’s a novel idea to whack a load of pasta in a cheese stick, but at the end of the day the high-carb approach results in spongy, slightly under-seasoned bites that lack the appealing sleaziness of a conventional mozzarella version.
Coconut and sesame chicken strips (40RMB) also go largely ignored, tasting less like the pan- Asian inspired morsels promised and more like the kind of frozen nugget you dig out of the freezer in times of emergency. They’re cut too thin to stand up to the frying process, with all the unami flavour and tender mouthfeel we crave from fried chicken being lost.
Despite these occasional shortcomings, Common Burger represents a buoyant take on the burger trend currently sweeping Beijing, and its versatile menu and casual charm make it easy to fall in love with. Okay, not everything blew us away and we might have expected a little bit more considering just how inventive some of Hatchery’s previous concepts have been, but there’s definitely enough here to keep us coming back. We recommend taking advantage of the regular deals, and ordering those brilliant Brussels.
By Robyn Strachan