Counter Culture…

17th February 2010
Pól Ó Conghaile










They’ve been serving up the gourmet burgers thick and fast in Dublin.

A fast food scene once dominated by batter and spice burgers has expanded to embrace Real Gourmet Burger, Jo’Burger, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and The Counter, all serving up burgers that look and feel like… well, burgers.

Cows, you see. They need TLC.

The Counter is best of the bunch. Established in California in 2003, the franchise has settled into Dublin in the Pembroke Quarter of Dundrum Shopping Centre. The perfect patch, in other words, if you’re in need of a bite after a movie, or struck down by a case of shopping glaze.

As with all the best concepts, it’s devilishly simple. 1) You sit down. 2) You get a clipboard, tick-box menu and a pencil. 3) You choose your burger, cheese, dips and toppings (apparently there are 300,000+ possible combinations). 4) You eat.

A basic 1/3lb burger costs €9.95 (you can step up in size). I garnished mine with lettuce, gruyere and dill pickles, with an aioli dip.

For all the fanciness, of course, a successful burger remains a simple proposition. It should be moist and nicely seasoned. It should glisten. It should be seared on the outside, and juicy on the inside, with the core colour just touching a pale pink.  

Simple, but difficult to pull off (so many burgers are served up like shoe leather). This one hit just the right spot, and had a nice crispy bun to accompany it (you get your pick of those, too). If you don’t like beef, there are chicken and veggie alternatives.

The Counter looks cool too. I’m  suspicous of franchises (they tend to homogenise, standardise, de-individualise), but this one works. 

I’m a big fan of the light-blue-and-brown colour scheme; the staff have been fast and friendly on each of several visits; the portions are generous; the drinks large, and the chips (€3.95) stringy and zingy – there’s also a healthier, sweet-potato version.

We ate with kids, and the mini-burgers worked a treat (we split one portion between two). But it’s far from a family joint – look around you’ll spot couples, groups, teens, even singles propping up the bar stools with their newspapers.

Downsides? Each time we’ve visited, it’s a little too chilly for comfort. We mentioned this to a waitress the other week, and she braced herself and shivered in sympathy. Jury’s out on the TVs too – yeah, they suit the feel of the place, but can your conversation really compete with The Simpsons?

Simple food done well. More, please.