The whole restaurant is very much geared towards the all-American tradition of the bigger the better and many of the dishes are influenced by Bo, one of the company’s directors, who travels through the USA including the Down and Out (in Beverley Hills) burger inspired by dirty, hot dogs from a LA hot dog stand. Chef Steve had a real enthusiasm about the down and dirty nature of the dishes but his passion for quality products also shone through as he talked us through the changes to the menu: ‘For us it needs to be the best it can possibly be.. With our menu change we have also changed our suppliers. We now source all the meat for our patties from an amazing new butcher whose meat is from a fourth generation farming family. So we know the quality of the meat is going to be even higher’.
As we were slowly slurping through our welcome drinks of apple rum punch (think Apple Sours for grown ups) a huge array of chicken wings appeared before my eyes accompanied by some deep fried mac and cheese balls sides. The Blasts, buttermilk fried chicken wings, were coated with the slightly controversially named Suicide sauce which despite its un-PC nature was a massive hit as it had the perfect level of heat with a nice glow and wasn't too pokey. I was expecting the sauce to make my eyes water but it wasn't too much and was complimented both by the succulent chicken beneath it and the cooling blue cheese dip. The other wings on offer were controversial in a whole different way incorporating Marmite into both the batter and the sauce. The classic British staple which continues to divide the nation is featured in many of the dishes and the wings were a favourite of my companion (like me she is a massive Marmite fan anyway) owing to the subtle Marmite flavour and moist/crispy chicken combination. In conclusion these guys know how to do chicken on a whole different level. I was also very taken with the deep fried mac and cheese which had a crispy outer layer and a delicious sticky cheesy filling.
Matt, who heads up the marketing side of things at the restaurant, promised us that the hardest part of the night was going to be choosing our burgers and he wasn't wrong. If there is one thing you can guarantee you’ll never be short of decadent choices at Almost Famous. Some of the new bad ass burger offerings included the I'm Cracked Baby which promises it’s now ’77% more filled with crack (jalapeño mustard)’,the Buffalo Beach Club, the Down and Out in Beverley Hills and the Good Morning America - plus the new veggie option the Anna Nicole (think grilled cheese gone wild). The Good Morning America was particularly stand out in its eccentricity, taking the breakfast burger and pimping it to the max combining cheese, sausage patty, streaky bacon, JD maple, Wonderdust, Cheerios, poached eggs, bacon mayo and winning ketchup – oh, and don’t forget the strawberry Pop tart.
After some careful consideration the Buffalo Beach Club was chosen. I mean this burger isn't just dirty, it’s really dirty, I mean I’d go as far as to say its proper filthy. All the burgers come with two patties as standard and you could taste the quality of the meat from the first jaw stretching bite. The meat is well seasoned and tender but can also get a little bit lost in amongst the additional crispy buffalo chicken pieces, bacon, coleslaw, blue cheese, gherkins and everything else they managed to squeeze in. It all went well together in one huge bite but being the weird little foodie I am when faced with a burger I need to dislocate my jaw to fit in my mouth (and which slowly tends to disintegrate in my hand to a messy mush) I take to the knife and fork which allowed me both to save the embarrassment of being told I had sauce in my eyebrow but also dissect the different flavoursome elements of the burger. I realise this is an unpopular, almost blasphemous approach for seasoned burger eaters but I enjoyed it a lot more concentrating on the genius mix of meaty, salty, cheesy flavours rather than actually getting it in my mouth.
To accompany the burger we were treated with a myriad of loaded fries - the number of different fries and topping was literally quite stunning. New to team fries were the Phoenix Fries (bacon rain, frazzle dust, shoestring onions, JD maple syrup etc), Ballpark Fries (hot dog melt, French mustard, pickle relish) and Magic Waffle Fries (bacon rain, JD maple and popping candy). These all had more toppings than you could shake a fry at and the Magic Waffle Fries were up there - the sweet and salt wild card of the fries world. The classic LoveHate fries have definitely now made it on to my pay day treat list. I honestly haven’t stopped thinking about the mix of standard and sweet potato fries in a sticky Marmite rinse and then dunked in the Marmite butter - sad but if you’re a Marmite fanatic, taste them and you’ll understand.
With a ten pound food baby under my dress, our after dinner drink arrived - the Mallow Dip. I'm not sure if this was just the cocktail that broke the foodie’s belly but I found it a little bit too sweet.. but I guess that’s kinda the point. If you love all things sugar then this will be your new go to drink but I preferred the Famous Frickin’ Swizzle which came with our meal. This was a lot more refreshing and fruity and went well with the more heavy element of the dishes.
The whole concept of Almost Famous is playful and I would definitely put it in the class of ‘Experience Dining’ - dirty meets decadent with no hold backs. The new menu additions fit in well with the brand but also offer something a bit different, particularly with the sweet components of their savoury dishes. The kids’ menu allows the opportunity to make this a family affair with meals catered for smaller appetites and fussier taste buds. If you haven’t been tempted by the mad fusions already, the friendly service and laid back environment make Almost Famous a sure win for dirty burger fans - oh and the LoveHate fries!