Davey Brett goes for a burger next to The Cube
For some reason whenever I think of The Butcher restaurant in the Arndale, I think of the 2006 dance pop anthem ‘From Paris to Berlin’ by Danish group Infernal.
You know the one. I wish there was an intellectual reason for this link but there isn’t. It’s solely down to The Butcher having restaurants in Amsterdam, Ibiza and, you guessed it, Berlin. That’s regrettably how my mind works. That said, walking into Urban Playground, the complex that houses The Butcher, is a bit like walking into that music video. All flashing lights and Tron vibes.
It comes with the territory but eating at The Butcher is like eating dinner inside a fruit machine
For the uninitiated, The Butcher is a burger restaurant that is part of the Urban Playground complex in the Arndale. Inside there’s Putters “tech-infused mini golf” and most importantly, The Cube Live, a playable version of the namesake TV show which costs £64.99 for two people to play.
When you walk into the place for the first time, it’s slightly confusing as to where you should sit, so it’s helpful when a member of Urban Playground's staff hilariously mugs us off and says something like, "there’s menus over there". We womble around for a bit, gawping at people putting balls in boxes, and soon realise that it’s QR code ordering and there’s seating next to the kitchen.
There’s certainly choice. Nineteen options await on the burger menu, with extra toppings and a decent variety of sides. Whilst a breakfast burger called The Morning Glory offers bacon, egg, hash browns, and a chicken burger called The Butcher’s Wife’s Favourite (really, lads?) are intriguing, we’re here for the butcher’s beef.
We order The Butcher (£8.45) and The Daddy (£11.45) from the burger menu. We order butcher fries (£3.45), popcorn chicken (£4.90) and a quinoa, avocado and feta salad (£8.05) as well. We also order a cookies and cream milkshake (£5.25). I’ve listed them like this to illustrate the lifeless experience of ordering on a QR code. Boo hiss.
There’s nowhere to hide at The Butcher if you’re working in the kitchen. Diners have front-row seats. Tonight no less than three corporate groups are in and two people in the kitchen are frantically putting together a huge selection of burgers and Iceland-style buffet platters of fried beige. Twenty odd dressed buns sit awaiting their patties whilst platters of wings and onion rings sit at the collection point.
To their credit, the kitchen staff, our only real human connection to The Butcher, keep us briefed throughout. They explain what’s going on and apologise for the delay. They’re friendly, positive and deserve credit. When the food’s done, instead of leaving it at the collection point, they hand it over from their positions in the kitchen.
It comes with the territory but eating at The Butcher is like eating dinner inside a fruit machine. Sound ricochets around all corners of the room whilst lights flash in and out. But who cares, these are world-conquering burgers, right? If they’ve come from Europe’s great hedonistic capitals, they must be killer?
Reader, the burgers were not killer.
First up The Butcher burger. So good they put their name on it. To their credit, the burgers come out looking good. Bite into it though and the results are mediocre.
The patty, a double puck of Aberdeen Angus beef is unremarkable, with the cheese and feted Butcher sauce unnoticeable. I expected more. I ask for a little swatch of Butcher sauce at the end to see what it actually tastes like and spoiler alert: it’s Mary Rose sauce. The bun thankfully keeps its own and the salad internals are fresh enough to add moisture and a bit of texture, but the only thing that stands out flavour-wise is the gherkin.
Not to worry, (the) Daddy will make it better. (The) Daddy does not make it better. Burnt to a backyard barbecue crisp on the bottom, any flavour from the patty and burger as a whole is suffocated by burnt crust. Don’t get me wrong, a bit of crispiness on a smashed patty, divine. But this is the most expensive burger on the menu. Barbecue sauce drips out with each bite and the bacon’s managed to dodge cremation but overall it’s not worth getting your hands dirty for.
The Butcher fries and popcorn chicken are very welcome to burgerspoons. Standard issue frozen fodder. If there’s one thing I will be eternally grateful to The Butcher for though, it’s basil mayo. What a sauce. Inspirational stuff and great for lifting a dour chip. Revelatory dipping.
The salad is welcome respite. Whipped feta gives the whole thing a satisfying creaminess, whilst crunchy zig-zag iceberg, a smattering of quinoa and slices of avocado are all able to be ticked off visually, but also evidenced in your mouth. Texture and taste. It’s a red flag however that the most enjoyable parts of a meal at a place called The Butcher are herby mayo and a salad.
When I go out to eat, and it’s a bit meh, my mind immediately rushes to the thought of ordering. Did I order the right thing? Should I have got a chicken burger? Maybe we should’ve got the halloumi fries instead? I feel a bit guilty. Especially when reviewing.
But here’s the pinch. In a cost of living crisis, there’s no second chances. Five Guys is around the corner, Honest down the road. Burgerism has just won a notable award. That Burger Place, fresh from competing at the national burger awards has recently moved into Seven Brothers in Ancoats. Slap & Pickle slaps and Kong’s has got the chicken game covered.
You come into their house and you ask to do burger?
There’s too many great burgers in Manchester to pretend that The Butcher is anything other than average. If you find yourself there by sheer fun and you’re peckish, dip some chips in some basil mayo. As far as the burgers go, it’s a cut below the rest.
The Butcher, Manchester Arndale, Manchester M4 3AD
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
The Butcher 5, The Daddy 4, fries 5, popcorn chicken 5, salad 6
Dynamic under pressure, kept us up to date, troopers