Ah gay Paris! Home of la Tour Eiffel, the Moulin Rouge and the best wine, cheese and, er, hamburgers? If the thought of Parisian style burgers doesn’t fill you with joie de vivre, then think again my friend, because as with most things, the French have taken this American staple, and added a certain je ne sais quoi.
I first discovered the Big Fernand when I was living in Paris, and had a craving for something filthy and French (and before you say it, no, not one of their men). While the food in Paris is incredible, excellent burger joints are rather thin on the ground, so finding the Big Fernand was a true godsend. Happily, they’ve crossed the channel to bring us lucky Londoners a taste of their authentically French hamburgés, setting up shop in Fitzrovia.
The restaurant itself is small and cosy with a quirky upstairs dining area, complete with chintzy wallpaper, armchairs and low tables, making it slightly reminiscent of a (very chic) grandma’s living room. We sat downstairs as I didn’t fancy hunching over a coffee table whilst I scarfed down my burger, risking getting even more food down me than usual, but kudos to those who manage it.
The menu is pretty straightforward, with six options, including a veggie burger, a lamb burger, a chicken burger, two beef burgers and (look away now animal rights activists) a veal burger. You can also opt to build your own burger, choosing your meat, cheese, vegetable, herbs and sauces to your own liking, making the Big Fernand suitable for even the fussiest of eaters.
Being a bit old school when it comes to burgers, we went for the two beef burgers, Le Big Fernand and Le Bartholomé, a side of fries each, a beer and one of the Big Fernand’s very own ‘elixirs’ in the flavour grenadine, mint and lemon. Our drinks arrived promptly, and the elixir was a fluorescent pink concoction that really, really shouldn’t have worked, but it did, tasting slightly like a very refreshing and drinkable mouthwash. Sounds weird, but just go with it. The beer was an organic French beer and the perfect accompaniment to a hearty burger.
Once our burgers arrived, the real fun began. I hate to brag, but my choice of Le Bartholomé was the real winner here, as it was served in all its glory, oozing Raclette cheese, homemade barbecue sauce, bacon and caramelised onions. I’m literally drooling now at the mere thought of it. I had asked for it to be served medium rare, and I wasn’t disappointed. The French know their meat, and the Big Fernand is no exception.
My burger was perfectly pink, tender and juicy, and even with the frankly indecent amount of toppings, the bun rose to the challenge, with no risk of disintegration. The buns are made by a local London boulanger to their own exclusive Big Fernand recipe, which I felt really added to the homemade feel of the burger. Le Big Fernand was a more puritan burger, with nutty Tomme de Savoie cheese, sundried tomatoes, parsley and homemade cocktail sauce working together to make the high quality meat shine through.
So often you order a burger which comes with a whole host of toppings, and you hardly end up tasting the meat itself, which sort of defeats the point of ordering a burger, but thankfully, at the Big Fernand, this isn’t the case.
The chips were a thing of beauty, as they came crispy and hot, coated in a wonderfully smoky and piquant spice mix (kind of like Five Guys fries). They were rustically shaped, which assured you that they had been cut fresh in the restaurant and not simply whacked straight out of the packet into the fryer.
The experience at the Big Fernand was wholly enjoyable, with excellent food, exciting new drink flavours and authentic (yet smiley) French service. Judging by the sheer number of French speakers I heard in the restaurant, it seems that the Big Fernand has hit the mark, successfully translating their French hamburgés from Paris to London. Bon appetit!
19 Percy St
Open every day