Home of Britain’s best burger offer category in the National Pub Food Challenge 2013, this bar and grill was well ahead of the metropolitan Burger Johnny Come Latelys, having been serving excellent gourmet versions for the last few years. When Giles Coren claimed that nowhere outside of London served a decent burger, he was running off at the mouth with a load of ill informed nonsense.
One of those places that is adaptable in its appeal , Bensons is full of families, couples. friends having lunch and groups of newly emancipated teenagers in the day and early evening. We saw a slip of a thing demolish a burger bigger than her head.
The menu lists the usual favourites- burgers with cheese, burgers stuffed with ribbons of Suffolk black bacon, chicken, tuna and veggie patties and a rotating selection of burgers best described as whimsical, often inspired by news events. Today’s was the Big Ben Burger, created to commemorate the month in which Big Ben was actually cast (April) and presumably riffing off the towering structure it is housed in. Teetering in a rather more dangerous fashion than its namesake with beef brisket, tangy Oggleshield cheese and bacon jam, garnished by a vinegar hit of dill pickle, lettuce and salad all stacked in a bun made by the Gastrono-me Deli over the road, it was drenched with Russian dressing and tempered by the sweet heat of chiles in the meat, counteracting the often overly sweet dressing.
You could of course choose a pulled pork sandwich with sweet apple barbecue sauce or a beef brisket sandwich with sweet potato fries; both of these predate the current London fashion for these Southern and Texan specialities. Bensons were ahead of the game. Their meat comes from Edis of Ely who have their store opposite and is hand ground to their specifications.
The menu mines the great easy eating foods of the World: po boys from New Orleans made not with oysters but faithfully served inside split crusty bread and French style pate with spiced red onion chutney, the recipe a close guarded secret. Served with a decent portion of bread, this inexpensive starter of less than a fiver is more than enough and is prepared behind the bar, ensuring easy availability throughout the day. There are flat breads and falafels, salads and tuna burgers served with enough coleslaw to swim in plus those gorgeous sweet potato fries or the more usual potato ones.
We have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love the sweet potato fries- skin on, soft in the middle sweet-salty fingers. The pimped up onion rings aren’t rejected either. They appear to have been soaked in a rimey buttermilk before being dipped in batter and fried, keeping the onion sweet and juicy with none of the bitterness that can result from over enthusiastic frying or stale oil. Seating varies from slouchy leather sofas and banquettes with low tables through booths to individual tables. It gets crowded at weekends and on some evenings although we often walk in on a Saturday and always manage to be seated immediately and at busy times, service can get a little sketchy. Booking is recommended for evenings and for larger groups. By night Bensons serves great cocktails, real ales including many from the local area and has a good wine list too. http://www.bensonblakes.co.uk/