Who are they?
The Coal Shed is a lovely little bistro style restaurant, nestled in an unassuming street off of Brighton's busy West Street. An independent outfit, they proclaim themselves specialists of grilled meat and fish and their menu reflects not only their specialities but also their location on the south coast, with lots of locally sourced seafood, steaks and ribs on offer. Their burger had received some notable local press coverage, so when I found myself in Brighton on work, I had a chance to see what all the fuss is about.
Arriving early on a mild November evening, the Coal Shed was pretty empty with just us and a few other couples dotted about the restaurant at least this gave us a chance to chat with staff who were all too keen help and provide suggestions.
The Coal Shed burger itself is a 250g prime steak burger in a bun with lettuce, onion, gherkin, tomatoes and a relish. As for extras, including cheese, bacon, fried egg and mushroom, these can be specified when ordering and the burger comes paired with their special beef dripping chips (more on the chips shortly). On the recommendation of the waiter, I went for a cheese and bacon burger, which would also make a good comparison to others I have tried. It duly arrived on a wooden platter; a hot tower of a meal with a huge wooden skewer keeping the whole thing together, with a bowl of the signature chips alongside.
The chips deserve an entire paragraph of their own; chunky, home made and have been fried well to leave them crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. But it is the effect of cooking them with beef dripping, which works quietly in the background with every bite, that makes the fries something special. It reminds me of the beef gravy you get with a Sunday roast but here it is not overpowering to either the potato or the burger and compliments the intense flavours of the burger itself.
Speaking of which, the burger had been cooked exactly as requested (medium rare), leaving the meat cooked on the outside and incredibly tender in the inside. The taste was slightly smokey with a hickory flavouring or something similar and melted in the mouth, with the crispy bacon and melted cheese a nice accompaniment to the meat. The bun was a crispy affair and its reinforced composition held the whole burger together nicely. There is no doubt that there's a decent bit of steak there and that it is well cooked, the only drawback being that the crumbly nature of the burger is a double edged sword. It melts in the mouth but doesn't make it easy to eat either with knife and fork or your hands.
The Coal Shed have a good set of skills for making burgers and their minute steaks, squid and look appetising enough to come back for as well. A rival for the great Byron burger? Perhaps not, but it's the closest I've been to it. A strong contender for the best burger I have had outside of London.
Where can I find them?
Just off of West Street in Central Brighton and a stone's throw from the promenade.