You may be surprised to see me revisiting Byron Burger after my notoriously bad experience there last year. I must admit I was hesitantly curious when I saw that they launched a brand new vegan burger and an overhaul of their veggie and vegan options a couple of weeks ago. When one of the managers of the Oxford branch got in touch and invited me to come and try it out, I was honest about the fact that I wasn’t a big fan of the burger chain, but was open-minded enough to see whether they’d really made a change with this new menu.
My main order just had to be the new Beetnik burger, a juicy beetroot and falafel patty. I can see why people might be underwhelmed by the sound of it, when falafel has been the only thing vegans can eat on many menus for a long time, until the recent explosion of mock meats and dairy products like cheese and mayo, so in a way Byron is rather behind the curve. That said, when my burger came, it ticked all the boxes when it comes to what you want from a burger. It was huge, properly filling, and there was no polite way to eat it. I probably would be full up without even needing a side of fries (and indeed, I ended up taking most of mine home in a box).
The patty was crispy on the outside, rather soft in the centre but still with a bit of texture to it. Thanks to the beetroot the burger is quite sweet, which is counter balanced by some vinegary pickled onion, and a crunch fresh cabbage and carrot slaw which is brought together with a squeeze of lime. The burger is topped with creamy avo, and kale, which to be honest I could take or leave as I didn’t feel it added a lot, but it went down perfectly well. Served with a gherkin on the side, which I actually for once ate thanks to the right level of pickling, the burger was a beautiful thing.
I ordered the veggie stacked fries to go along with my burger (minus the sour cream). The large plate smelled incredible when it arrived at my table. The crispy sweet potato fries were well-cooked and smothered in a heavy, sweet barbecue sauce. Cutting through the sweetness were those tangy pickled onions again, and with a handful of coriander to freshen it up, this was a nice well balanced side. Apparently this isn’t labelled on the menu as vegan-friendly because the BBQ sauce used to contain honey, but it no longer does, so the dish is safe (and delicious).
My eyes are certainly bigger than my stomach because I also ordered a nacho salad on the side, which I felt would’ve been a bit lacking on its own as a main course but for two people to share alongside their burgers I think it’s a nice addition to the meal. The baby leaf and rocket salad was fresh and zingy, with a scattering of warming coriander on top, and the variety of textures was pretty satisfying. There was a crunch from the nacho crisps, soft avocado and tomato salsa, and a bit of bite from the rainbow slaw. The salad came scattered with jalapenos, and I was brave enough to try one big slice of it. The chilli wasn’t tooo hot but I avoided the rest – it was enjoyable enough without the heat for me. Compared to the salad I tried last time (which is still on the menu and I’d still recommend avoiding at all costs if my previous experience was anything to go by) this was miles better.
The wonderful Sarah made sure I was looked after and I felt like the service was so much better than last time. Sarah seemed to know the new menu back to front and could even advise which things were marked as vegetarian on the menu but could be adapted to vegan on request. She shared with me the allergen menu which has a page listing all of the vegan items in one place (as well as for all manner of diets including gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, etc). Sadly there are no dessert options at all to speak of but Sarah mentioned Byron refresh their menu every few months and vegan ice cream is something they are looking into. I guess we’ll believe it when we see it! But the food came out quickly, which may be partly due to the fact that I was eating alone, but everything is cooked fresh and served hot. All the food I tried was much better on quality and flavour than what I’ve eaten at Byron previously, and I have even said to my Byron-loving friends that I’ve lifted the ban and I’ll be happy to eat there with them in future.