To West Hampstead, in search of a decent burger

By ED THOMAS On a cold winter s night when you don t want to wait around for your food, you can t beat a good burger. I m not talking about some flimsy thing in a wrapper from McDonalds or Burger King which lasts 10 seconds, but a meaty, juicy, beefy burger – fast fo

On a cold winter's night when you don't want to wait around for your food, you can't beat a good burger.

I'm not talking about some flimsy thing in a wrapper from McDonalds or Burger King which lasts 10 seconds, but a meaty, juicy, beefy burger - fast food, done slow. Comfort food, which is robust and filling.

GBK doesn't take bookings, so it's an informal first-come-first-served style.

But the atmosphere is less fast food diner and more cosy restaurant.

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Invariable in the evenings there's a buzzing atmosphere, as young professionals pile in alongside families, big groups, couples and even singles.

Service is always quick, friendly and without the pretentiousness of haute cuisine.

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Obviously, the clue here is in the title: If you don't like burgers, don't come to GBK. But the menu is far from limited; diners can choose from classic beef, chicken vegetarian and special burgers, which include lamb, wild boar and buffalo.

Interesting taste combinations are also offered, such as chicken, Camembert and cranberry, or aubergine and goat's cheese.

And spicy extras on offer include a range of cheeses, avocado, bacon, Cajun relish and many other sauces.

Junior versions are also available - not just for kids, but for those who can't face a huge slab of meat laid within their freshly baked buns. Side salads, chunky chips, chicken pieces and 'homeslaw' from New Zealand - where GBK originated - broaden the options that little bit more.

GBK outlets are fully licensed and serve a range of beers and well-priced wines - a full-bodied Argentinian Malbec washes down the buffalo burger perfectly, and at £14 a bottle it's not going to break the bank this Christmas.

No desserts are on the menu, but you'd do well to cram in anything more after your main meal.

Although milkshakes (which come in flavours including lime and Oreo biscuit) and fresh hot coffee can finish things off nicely.

My only complaint was the slightly hard furnishings and a draft from the door continually swinging open. But I suppose this was only a sign of popularity, which is always a good thing when dining out.

GBK strikes a happy medium between fast food and real restaurant service and atmosphere. A takeaway service is also available, for those wanting the GBK experience at home.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, 331 West End Lane

West Hampstead

Telephone: 020-7794 5455

Food: Four star rating

Service: Four star rating

Open: Mon-Fri noon-11pm,

Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-10pm.

Cost: Burgers range from £5.95 to £9.95. Wine costs around £14 a bottle.

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