39 Thurloe Place, London, SW7 2HP www.bigfernand.com
All across London, the hospitality world is slowly trying to get back on its feet to begin serving Londoners again in the restaurants themselves as opposed to via delivery or takeout only.
It’s certainly not been an easy road Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and there seems to be new challenges thrown at restauranteurs every day. One that has re-opened in recent weeks is Big Fernand, the big, bold and unashamedly French burger restaurant.
Big Fernand was established in 1993 and given life in the middle of a small Parisian street as a neighborhood restaurant. The neighborhood vibe has definitely continued in its South Kensington location, and the team at Big Fernand continue to cook quality burgers topped with incredibly fresh cheeses.
As you arrive at Big Fernand on a damp evening like we did, you can’t miss the queue of delivery drivers waiting outside to whisk orders off to locals. It’s clearly a popular choice, and after eating there I can understand why.
Stepping inside is reminiscent of a Parisian back-street restaurant, with deep blue subway tiles on the wall, a long mirror running the length of the restaurant, and exposed brickwork hiding behind purposely peeling paint.
Look up and you’ll see a spectacular ceiling Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a neon outline of France is accompanied by retro-style Parisian prints and’franglais’ phrases. If nothing else, it’s certainly something to look at while you’re eagerly waiting for your burger to be made.
The menu is small but you’ll still struggle to choose between all of the wonderful-sounding options. At Big Fernand, they’ve stayed true to their roots and use both British and French artisanal produce to ensure every layer of the burger is the best it can be.
While all of the ingredients are good, it’s clear their passion is cheese, using a different carefully chosen one on every burger, from strong Fourme d’Ambert (blue cheese) to Tomme de Savoie, a mild cheese made in the French Alps.
We tried Le Raclette which, as the name suggests, is made with Raclette cheese which has certainly been embraced by the UK in recent years.
Le Raclette is a wonderful creation layered with the cheese which oozes out the sides of the bun, bacon, caramelised onion, and Big Fernand BBQ sauce as well as, of course, a burger patty made from responsibly and locally sourced premium British beef from independent butcher, HG Walter. This is where the restaurant sources all of their meat from.
What makes the Big Fernand burgers special is the herbs; the chefs here don’t just throw on some parsley for decoration, but each burger has a different herb which has been specially chosen and perfectly paired to add to the flavour experience. For Le Raclette, it’s chives.
Le Veau was next. Rather than beef, for Le Veau the chefs use premium veal Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a meat which still to some remains controversial, but to those who have embraced the sustainably produced variety is a lighter-tasty option to beef.
The veal patty is paired with punchy Fourme d’Ambert cheese which somehow doesn’t overpower the veal flavour, caramelised onions, coriander and Big Fernand mayo.
Again, they didn’t mess around with the quantity of cheese and it was dripping down our hands. It’s certainly not a burger to try if you don’t want to make a mess (and eating it with cutlery almost seems wrong).
At Big Fernand, there wasn’t a soggy lettuce leaf in sight on any of the burgers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as we found out, it is the ultimate disgrace from a true Frenchman’s point of view. Instead, at Big Fernand, they only use freshly cut grilled vegetables so every single bit is packed full of flavour.
If you’re a vegetarian, or thinking of going with a vegetarian, you better hope they like mushrooms. Here, you won’t find a’Beyond Meat’ or bean patty in sight but a slightly old-school but still tasty portobello mushroom’patty’ instead.
Still, of course, topped with Tomme de Savoie cheese and other delicious toppings.
The frites at Big Fernand are perfectly French Ã¢â‚¬â€œ thin and very crisp, just how you want them. You can have them’nature’, or as we did with a garlic and paprika seasoning.
My only complaint was you couldn’t really taste the paprika in the seasoning mix. I even asked for extra and still missed that smoky, slightly fiery kick. If you haven’t had quite enough cheese from the burgers, there is a Frites Raclette option with the fries smothered in Raclette cheese sauce.
The’Les Desserts’ menu is even more paired-back than the rest, offering just two choices: Raspberry Godet and La Mousse au Chocolat. While the godet, with layers of mascarpone cheese, raspberry coulis and speculos, did sound good, the chocolate mousse was calling to me. It absolutely didn’t disappoint.
Having spent a lot of time in France as a child, I’ve eaten my fair share of French chocolate mousse and Big Fernand’s take on this classic took me right back. Rich, chocolatey, lightÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ and over too soon. I think I’d stop by just for that mousse alone.
As you’re sitting in Big Fernand, looking over the open-plan kitchen where every burger is freshly prepared and cooked, you can’t help but admire how hard the team work to create a top-level burger experience for every customer, whether that’s dine in or eat out. And they seem to achieve it too.
When you leave Big Fernand for the first time, you’ll be left wondering’Is there any food the French can’t cook exceptionally?’.
Personally, it’s probably a good thing that I don’t live a little bit close, or I would be too tempted to get a Big Fernand burger almost weekly. But, I look forward to visiting again soon for a French comfort food treat.