Sunday 22 July 2018

Review - BuJo: It's commitment to sourcing responsibly and locally is good to see

BuJo, Sandymount Green, Sandymount, Dublin 4; bujo.ie

BuJo restaurant in Sandymount. Photo: Gerry Mooney
BuJo restaurant in Sandymount. Photo: Gerry Mooney

It's just before seven o'clock on a chilly November Wednesday and we've made it in to BuJo, a new burger joint (BuJo - geddit?) on Sandymount Green just in the nick of time.

There are five of us and the welcome from front-of-house person Kate de Courcy - a friendly and familiar face from Pichet and elsewhere - is warm, and we're in. Not in time for one of the booths at the back, sadly, but a table at the front gives us an opportunity to watch the comings and goings - of which there are many - as we wait for the buzzer on our table to summon us to collect our food. ("It's all very Shake Shack," says daughter No. 2, who clearly thinks this is a good thing.) But I'm getting ahead of myself. The shtick at BuJo is that you order at the counter, find somewhere to sit while your food is cooked to order, and wait for the buzzer to buzz, at which point you go up to the counter to retrieve your order. The system appears to work smoothly.

I have a sense that the arrival of BuJo is a godsend for the harassed parents of the neighbourhood, because there's a steady stream of them in business attire queuing up at the till with offspring still in school uniforms, some of them mud-spattered from the sports field (it tends to be rugby and hockey in these parts); all of them salivating as they see the burgers being cooked in front of them. The parents are also clearly delighted that they can partake of a bottle of Wicklow Wolf or a glass of sparkling Lambrusco at the tail end of a long day, while their children are cock-a-hoop at the prospect of bottomless fizzy drinks from the soda fountain.

The staff are working hard and so are the extractors, but everything seems to be coming together nicely, which is impressive for a restaurant that's only been open a few weeks.

BuJo is the brainchild of businessman Michael Sheary, who's hoping that it's going to be the start of a chain to rival the homegrown Bunsen and Wowburger, as well as imports such as Five Guys. He's on the floor the night that we visit, clearing tables, making sure the customers are happy, minding his baby.

Sheary has hired chef Grainne O'Keefe as his culinary director, and she has spent the past year and a half working on all aspects of the food offering. O'Keefe is the head chef at Clanbrassil House, reviewed on this page a few weeks back, and is a young chef on the up, who previously worked at Pichet and Bastible.

The question of what makes the perfect burger is a vexed one, something that burger nerds could talk about all day long. Good-quality meat is obviously the most important aspect - but what cut to use and the ratio of lean to fat are key questions. At BuJo, they use only whole cuts sourced from specific farmers, rather than adding trimmings of fat to lean meat to achieve the desired ratio, but they're not telling what those cuts are, nor the ratio that they are using. (It's generally accepted that a good burger should have somewhere between 70-80pc lean to 20-30pc fat. The fat is needed for flavour and mouthfeel - without it, a burger is going to be a dull thing indeed.)

The standard BuJo burger has two patties of beef in a sweetish branded bun, which a sign on the wall tells us comes from Coghlan's Bakery in Newbridge, Co Kildare. There's onion, tomato, and pickle as well as BuJo sauce and a slice of American- style but Irish-made cheese. For an extra €1.50, you can have a circular piece of smoked bacon from Bogue's rare-breed Hampshire pigs raised in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, and really you should include this, as the bacon is delicious.

The burgers are tasty and manageable to pick up (unlike, say, those at JoBurger) although I find them a little dry compared to the ones that you get at Bunsen, which is the burger benchmark for Dublin as far as I'm concerned. My family doesn't agree, though, not being fans of the meat-juices-trickling-down-the-wrists syndrome that can be an unwelcome side effect of eating at Bunsen. Horses for courses.

House fries are good but not exceptional, but the spicy version is too salty and we can't discern much in the way of spice. The panko pickles, on the other hand, are fabulous, served with a sriracha mayo that has a fine kick to it. Do not miss them.

Nobody is willing to take one for the team and order the vegan burger as their first choice, so we get an extra one to taste, and it's a sorry thing - I have no idea what's in it but, really, I don't think that vegans have any place expecting burger restaurants to look after them, so it's hardly a surprise.

For the hell of it, we order one of the shakes - salted caramel apple crumble - which is tooth-achingly sweet and quite delectable, if you like that kind of thing. One chocolate ice-cream sandwich between five of us is plenty: the cookies used to sandwich the ice-cream are pretty good, with a little coconut in them, if I'm not mistaken.

Our meal for five, including that extra vegan burger, soft drinks and two glasses of a drinkable organic Malbec came to €110. Despite being open only a few weeks, BuJo has already received a top rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and its commitment to sourcing responsibly and locally is good to see.

The rating

8/10 food

8/10 ambience

8/10 value for money

24/30

ON A BUDGET

A baconless BuJo burger costs €8 (but it would be a pity not to include it for an extra €1.50).

ON A BLOW-OUT

If you had BuJo burgers with bacon, panko pickles and fries, followed by an ice-cream sandwich and a glass of fizzy Lambrusco each, dinner for two would cost €54.

THE HIGH POINT

A genuinely good burger and a demonstrable commitment to sustainability.

THE LOW POINT

The vegan burger. I'm going to stick my neck out and recommend that vegans eat elsewhere.

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