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    There Was A Competition To Find The Best Burger In Newcastle


    Newcastle's first Battle of the Burger was held at The Tyne Bar this weekend.

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    The Battle of the Burger pitted six of the city's bars and restaurants against each other in a celebration of all things beefy (and a little bit porky, too).

    "We expected to sell 2,500 burgers across the whole weekend," said Danny Hughes, organiser of the Battle of the Burger. "But on Friday alone we did 1,500."

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    "We thought it'd be great if we had a cool event where we pitch all these burgers against each other in a really friendly competition," he told BuzzFeed Life. "There's going to be no losers here."

    The voting process was simple.

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    "A token's a vote," Hughes said, and each token costs Β£3 and pays for your burger. "But we wanted something to separate that from being all about footfall, so we've asked three judges to come in, and they wield 10 votes themselves. That gives people a bit of nose room to pip it at the post."

    And competition was high.

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    "They've all come at it wanting to win; they've all put some time into thinking about how they're going to do it," Hughes said.

    There was only one option for complete fairness: I had to head along to the battle and try each burger.

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    Quayside cafΓ© Quay Ingredient, comedy club The Stand, restaurant Longhorns, and bars Jam Jar, Lola Jeans, and the Tyne Bar all put forward burgers for the competition.

    12:30pm – Burger 1: Quay Ingredient

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    Quay Ingredient's Brunch Burger seemed like the logical place to start. A pork and leek patty topped with brie, bacon, and white truffle oil and served on a stottie (a local speciality bread), this was essentially a delicious sausage sandwich full of flavour.

    Get down to @thetynebar today for one of these beaut Pork & Leek Burgers from @QuayIngredient! #battleoftheburgers

    The burger, by Quay Ingredient's Simon Snowball, was unique in that his meat wasn't beef.

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    "I did a few different samples," he said. "I started off with beef, but I thought, everyone's doing beef, and I thought, it's a marriage with brie and truffle oil."

    Snowball was enjoying the camaraderie. "The banter's good," he noted. "There's no animosity – we're just getting on with everyone."

    I wolfed down the burger and felt good: Eating six burgers seemed eminently achievable.

    12:45pm – Burger 2: Lola Jeans

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    The Little California came stacked high with smoked Cairngorn salt beef, smoked applewood cheddar, red onion marmalade, bone marrow ranch dressing, and crispy pickle chips on top of its beef patty.

    Its taste brought out approving nods and a grin from Michael, the friendly photographer, who claimed once to have eaten so much tapas it literally filled up his oesophagus (kids, don't try this at home!). What Michael likes, I like.

    Matt Stephenson and the rest of the team at Lola Jeans bellowed out each order at the top of their voice to psyche out their opponents.

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    "We can stand anywhere in a place and be miserable and have a barbecue," he joked. "We're here to have fun."

    The burger – which bombarded the tastebuds and had many people coming back for seconds, thirds, and I shit you not, fifths over the course of the day – is a smaller version of one sold in the city centre branch of the bar. "We want to give people a real taste of what we offer," Stephenson said.

    1:10pm – Burger 3: The Tyne Bar

    The Tyne Bar

    The hosts of the competition put foward their own breakfast burger, with chestnut mushrooms mixed into the patty and topped with a fried egg. This was like the best burger van burger ever: the rich and fatty meat mixing with the yolk to create a soggy mess.

    1:40pm – Burger 4: Longhorns

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    The queue for Longhorns was consistently the largest, perhaps because it's one of the newest arrivals on the Newcastle restaurant scene. The burgers – pork and beef – were cooked over a huge charcoal grill and served with fries (for an extra token, which could perhaps sway the contest).

    Longhorns staff member Mickey said the burgers had been specially developed for the competition.

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    And the Longhorns team weren't competitive in the slightest. "If I start shouting '36 burgers out'," Mickey said, "people would think something. I've been dying to shout it out: 36 burgers!"

    "We're doing double patties," he added. "Originally today we brought around 600, but we've got another 400-600 patties coming."

    So here's where I made the error.

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    Reader, I ate the fries. I ate the fries, and that – combined with the fact I'd eaten close to a pound of meat already, and bread on top – meant that the wall was approaching. But anyway: back to the burgers.

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    2pm – Burger 5: The Stand

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    Though I could feel the wall coming, I ploughed on regardless. Burger nor beast was going to beat me. The Stand's banh mi burger had all the right ingredients to pep me up in the face of adversity. Its pickled carrot and daikon with pea shoots, mint, and coriander were a fresh flavour that helped.

    But the bun. The mini baguette bun was a struggle, its denser texture filling me up and bringing the wall closer. The end product tasted delicious: I just struggled to swallow it. Finishing the final bite, I was in trouble. Whereas I once said "burger", now I simply said "buh". I needed to regather.

    3:05pm – Burger 6: Jam Jar

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    My reaction to this issue – the imminent food coma – was typically British. I sat there, thought jolly hard about the world and the situation I found myself in, and waited a little bit. I kept calm, then carried on.

    I thought of Roger Bannister, of four-minute mile fame, and of two world wars. It took an hour, but I found my second wind.

    Jam Jar do really good burgers. Luckily, the one you see above was cut in half in exchange for a single token, which was a relief. Had this been my first burger, I'd probably have savoured it and enjoyed it more.

    But there could only be one winner.

    Michael Baister/BuzzFeed

    For me, and for most of the people I spoke to as I ingested more meat than any human should in an afternoon, the clear winner was Lola Jeans. Quay Ingredient ran them a close second, while the other burgers were tasty, too, and on a par with each other.

    As for the actual results, Lola Jeans came out on top, while Longhorns and Jam Jar came second and third.

    The fun doesn't stop there, though.

    Michael Baister/BuzzFeed

    Round two of the Battle of the Burger will take place at the end of July, Danny Hughes revealed to BuzzFeed Life, and will be followed by a final. Then the battle could go nationwide.

    "We're already in touch with people in Leeds and London," he said. "I'd like to see it go to the Canal Mills, a venue in Leeds a bit like the Boiler Shop [Steamer]. If we can get a London leg, that starts to paint the picture for a national Battle of the Burger, and I'd love to host it in Newcastle."

    So what did I learn from my burger odyssey?

    Michael Baister/BuzzFeed

    For one thing, that burgers are hard to do well, and when done so, they should be applauded.

    I also learned that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, a message of hope and inspiration for us all.

    But mostly, I learned that eating that much food in a short amount of time is inadvisable. On my way home, I realised I was unable to walk and talk simultaneously because of my meat intake. I sweated afterwards. Pick your burger wisely, and stick to it.

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