We tried Aycliffe’s Moreburger and Newcastle’s Five Guys

The Northern Echo: Berriman's chip van at night, by Norman Cornish. Picture by kind pemission of the Estate of Norman CornishBerriman’s chip van at night, by Norman Cornish. Picture by kind pemission of the Estate of Norman Cornish

And so it was when the Moreburger van smash burger van came to Hurworth Grange a couple of weekends ago.

A gentle rain fell on the surprisingly large group of people who were standing in the car park eagerly awaiting, just like the small boy Cornish painted standing on tippy-toes eager to see the magic that was going on inside to create that intoxicating aroma.

In Moreburger’s case it is the hotplate onto which the balls of minced steak – the board outside says they are made from “50 day, dry aged, grass fed, hand reared, Longhorn beef” – are smashed to increase their surface area and encourage a “maillard reaction”, which is named after the French chemist, Louis Camille Maillard, who discovered in 1912 how amino acids and sugars react tastily when seared together.

The Northern Echo: Moreburger van by night at Hurworth Grange

Then the Moreburger van emitted a vapour-cloud of silvery steam that was caught in the arc lights, and illuminated the hopeful, hungry faces just like Cornish picked out the features of the small boy as he opened his wrapper to reveal something as simple yet as tasty as a few bits of potato and a piece of fish.

Can it be worth standing in the rain for something as mundane as burger and chips?

The Northern Echo: The Moreburger van at Hurworth GrangeWaiting for a Moreburger at Hurworth Grange

For the last few weeks, we’ve had a strange man living in our house, installing a new bathroom after a imperceptibly slow but catastrophic leak last year destroyed a wall and rotted the floor.

We’ve developed a remarkably intimate relationship in a short space of time: he has come to know our bladder habits, as he has to down tools every time we need to use the toilet, and we have come to know all his dietary requirements.

He likes his tea strong and he is partial to homemade flapjack, but he lives for Moreburgers. In fact, his weekend revolves around tracking down where the mysterious Moreburger van is going to be.

The Northern Echo: The burgers being assembled in the Moreburger vanThe burgers being assembled in the Moreburger van

The only way to find out is to listen to the jungle drums, or consult the Moreburger Facebook page.

The van largely stations itself in Newton Aycliffe and Aycliffe Village but also ventures out to Hartlepool, Witton-le-Wear, Catterick and Hurworth Grange.

Its menu is limited. A So Fussy burger comes with cheese; a West Coast comes with cheese, lettuce, onions and relishes, while the signature Moreburger comes with everything plus streaky bacon and house sauce.

A basic single patty So Fussy is £6; a top-of-the-range double patty Moreburger is £11. Fries are an additional £2, either skin on or Cajun.

And it works.

The Northern Echo: A Moreburger with chips

The burger was fresh, juicy and melty, and noticeably beefy.

With some burgers, the ketchups, mustards and cheeses mask how bland its grilled taste is, but here they augmented its flavour. The bacon didn’t shout about its saltiness, but instead complemented the burger by providing a welcome crispiness to the proceedings.

It could have done with more lettuce, but the bread bun itself held together well so that, with excellent chips, this was a really good burger.

How good I only realised when I found myself in Newcastle for a concert a few evenings later and visited Five Guys, a rapidly expanding American chain of genuine burgers with three outlets on Tyneside and one, at Thornaby, on Teesside. A Five Guys bacon cheeseburger is £10.95 and a small portion of fries for £3.95, plus £4.25 for a bottomless soft drink – so that’s nearly £20 for burger and fries.

You get to choose 15 free toppings, and I ended up with the same as the Moreburger plus a few mushrooms.

It was perfectly pleasant, with great chips, but it really didn’t have that beefy smashed taste of a Moreburger, and the bread bun lacked structural integrity so that it fell to pieces, scattering mushrooms and bits of lettuce all over the place.

And waiting in the rain at Hurworth Grange is a much more pleasant experience than standing for 15 minutes beside the fizzy drinks machine by the burger collection counter in Newcastle city centre in the evening.

My son Theo and I had ordered our Moreburgers in advance over Facebook; most people seemed to be happy to order and wait. As the van is often parked near a pub – the Turbinia in Newton Aycliffe and the Royal Telegraph in Aycliffe Village – there is usually time for a swift one.

Moreburger, Hurworth Grange, near Darlington, and elsewhere

See Facebook.com/moreburgeruk

Food quality: 8; Service: 8; Ambience in the rain: 8; Value for money: 8

Five Guys, Northumberland Street, Newcastle

Web: fiveguys.co.uk/northeast

Food quality: 7; Service: 7; Ambience: 4; Value for money: 6

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