Comptoir Gascon recently was featured as having an excellent burger that’s a bit off the beaten (publicity) track. As a rustic French restaurant, CG is indeed excellent with a superb cassoulet and delicious garlicky snails – just what you want when you fancy a culinary trip across the Channel without actually getting on the Eurostar. However, as a burger joint I think CG has a long way to go to unseat the current ruling grillmasters. It’s a different burger, to be far, with CG’s being made from duck as opposed to the traditional beef, but still falls short on common elements. And it’s not cheap either.
Food: ★★★☆☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★★☆ Value: ★★☆☆☆ Overall: ★★★☆☆
There is little to no space to loiter in the restaurant so you are best served meeting up elsewhere. Smiths of Smithfields is literally next door and is a fairly easy crowd favourite. It’s a popular after work spot, so keep that in mind if going towards the end of the week.
For something different (or if the weather is warm and sunny), check out Bird of Smithfields which is just on the opposite side of the market directly across from CG. It’s a bit of a climb, but the roof top terrace benefits from the sun in the afternoons and evenings and is a great place to chat while you work your way through the tasty cocktail and wine list.
What about this burger?
It’s not bad, but it’s not that good either. Let’s take it by its component parts: bun, patty, toppings, and sides.
Bun: It looked like it may have had a bit of the brioche in it, but after being toasted to within an inch of its life the bun was too dry to really work. While it wasn’t quite bad enough to crumble away (ahem, Automat!), it sucks out what little moisture is there in the burger.
Patty: Made of minced duck, it’s reasonably sized and nicely seared. However, I’ve always found the joy of duck being in the thin layer of fat and crispy skin you’d usually get in a roast duck – something obviously missing here. The end result is a patty that’s decent on its own but without sufficient juiciness to cater to the rest of the burger.
Toppings: A salad of mixed greens constituted the topping with a spoonful of red onion chutney added a touch of acidity. On its own, I’d be keen on the salad and chutney but it wasn’t enough on its own. The burger really needed some cheese or a sauce or really anything to tie it all together. If you go for the Deluxe, you also get a thick slab of foie gras which definitely up the ante. Up to you if you think it’s worth the extra £5 though – they do make a mean foie gras here.
Sides: Nothing comes with the burger but a large bowl of chips with “crazy salt” can be yours for around £4. The portions are massive and the chips on the whole are good although could be a bit crispier. The crazy salt is a light chilli seasoning which gives then a little kick.
Overall, I found the burger decent but nothing to write home about (yes, the irony hasn’t escaped me). I also tried the signature “burger” which is in essence a truffle and foie gras slider (the foie gras is the patty) which was rich and decadent and a pretty good way to spoil yourself. That’s worth a punt even if it throws the training diet all out of whack.
Given that it has direct competition from The Frenchie who does a truly excellent confit duck sandwich and indirectly from the burger greats (P&B, Bleecker, Mother Flipper etc), I wouldn’t bother going to Comptoir Gascon for the burger.
That being said, the cassoulet was spectacular and something I’d eagerly go back to have again. Indeed, the rest of the menu is spot on with our chicory, blue cheese, and walnut salad being demolished rapidly and the snails giving rise to a mad scramble. The “piggy treats” starter is a selection of all things pork and definitely worth getting although you’ll also want to order some bread which unfortunately does not come free.
After all that, I need a drink!
Here you are in luck. The wine list is extensive (as one would expect) but surprisingly has options for less that £20. And even more surprising, those options are quite tasty with our chosen bubbles and bottle of red clocking in at around £18 each.
Worth the dosh?
For everything but the burger, yep it definitely is worth visiting Comptoir Gascon. The atmosphere and staff will transport you effortlessly across the Channel and the food is very much like visiting a French family. Just give the burger a miss unless you are very curious. But really, stick with the cassoulet and you can’t go wrong.
Find Comptoir Gascon here
63 Charterhouse Street, London, EC1M 6HJ
020 7608 0851