Big Fernand, l’atelier du Hamburger á Paris, has traversed the English Channel to open it’s first location on Percy Street in the heart of Fitzrovia. With nine locations in France and one in Hong Kong, London is the latest addition to this French mini-empire.
Being just down the street from my office, some colleagues and I succumbed to the early hype and queued up on a Friday lunch hour to get an early peak at how the French were tackling the British burger-lovers. The French burger workshop had better bring their A-game to the crowded Brit-burger space!
“We are all travellers and thought it would be interesting to come to the UK as a lot of what we do in France is inspired by the UK… Gourmet burgers are very big in the UK with great concepts like Byron, and it was time for us to take on another challenge and try a more mature market where customers expect a lot from their burger joint,” said UK brand rep Mathieu Durand.
Unfortunately, I feel that Big Fernand falls short in two really major categories: value and beefy goodness. First off, the burger patty doesn’t actually fill the homemade bun! Here is exhibit A – my order of Le Bartholomé. The beef was completely lost both physically and in taste. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves that a beef patty can’t be made to fit the bun properly.
Can you spot the beef?
Le Bartholomé comes topped with Raclette cheese, bacon, caramelised onions, chives and a homemade BBQ sauce called Bébé Fernand. The burger alone sets your back £9 – add fries and a drink and you’ll be at the £15 mark. For such a shrimpy piece of meat, I just was underwhelmed and disappointed at that price tag.
Have you spotted the beef yet??
Another strange thing I found is that the beef (and their other meats like chicken and lamb) are not sourced from France. They use UK suppliers for their meats which again makes me question the price tag if there is no boating or chunneling involved. Not that UK meat is in any way bad, but if you frame your heritage and French cuisine as a selling point, why not deliver us something truly French that sets itself apart in taste of the beef, not just the toppings.
“We thought there was no point getting our meat from France when you can get really good quality meat in the UK, so we decided to put identity in the cheese, bread and sauces,” said Durand.
To be fair, the cheeses and sauces are great and you can definitely tell that they are unique and sourced from France. The homemade bread overwhelms the whole thing though, engulfs it to the point that you get overly bready-bites throughout your meal. The bread is soft and fresh – baked in-house – but it’s just that either Fernand needs to cut back on the bread and cost or up their beef game!!
Other offerings on their menu include Le Philibert, a chicken burger with Tomme de Savoir cheese, grilled peppers, tarragon and a homemade sweet mayo called Tonton Fernand. Le Victor is a veal burger topped with Fourme d’Ambert, caramelised onions, coriander and Tonton sauce. With both at £9, I just don’t see how they can continue competing on a value-for-money proposition. L’Alphonse is a lamb burger with the Tomme de Savoie cheese, grilled aubergine, coriander and the Tonton sauce will set you back £10. At these prices, the queues outside at lunch hour died out quickly.
The drinks start from £2 for a can of Coke and go up to £2.80 for special lemon or grapefruit sodas. They only offer two sides, the french fries for £3 and young spinach leaves for £2. I don’t know if they are trying to pay off the location renovations within their first six months, or are paying their staff a very generous wage, but it just seems like someone hasn’t quite done their homework on the competition.
The Big Fernand constitution is 100% agreeable, but nowhere does it address the fact that they are overpriced and under-supplied in the meat department. So much so that I really want to tick them in the upscale burger category.
The décor of the interior is quite nice, new-age rustic with lots of unstained wood and a nice wrought iron spiral staircase taking one up to the first floor. It’s a nice, light environment and you won’t be inundated with people bumping into your back and shuffling for elbow room.
Outside of that, I can’t really shower much praise on anything else bar the cheese! But still, at £1.50 per ‘cheese’, I just don’t see a sustainable pricing model in play. I won’t be returning to try other menu items unless the highway robbery stops! Zut Alors!!
Big Fernand – 29/50
Beef (3): Such a small patty that you wonder where it is!
Bun (8): Homemade, but swallows the patty like a beef black-hole
Toppings (9): Unique, imported French toppings, but just so out of balance with the meat.
Value (1): There is no justification for the amount you pay.
Ambiance (8): Very nice interior with some cool design touches, not enough to overcome your disappointment.
You can visit Big Fernand at 19 Percy Street, W1T 1DY or find their website here.