Restaurant review: a tale of two Purley burgers

By - Wednesday 16th September, 2015

Now Purley’s burghers have a choice of burgers, says Paddy Blewer

In the thirteen years I’ve lived in Croydon, I’ve always been surprised that despite the significant wealth within walking distance of Purley town centre, eating and drinking options there were limited.

This began to change a few years ago. Now there are good options for steak at Buenos Aires, an excellent Turkish/Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, and a few others that I’m sure someone more qualified than this author will review in the future.

Purley also now has two excellent burger restaurants, which are so different to each other as to almost negate direct competition and instead qualify for a compare-and-contrast article. (Says the author, justifying his editorial suggestion). So this is a double review: two burgers for the time it takes to read one article.

Blacks Burgers, 920 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 9NL
Time from East Croydon:  50 minutes /  20 minutes 466 

Photo by Blacks Burgers, used with permission.

Blacks Burgers was originally born out of a restaurant that used to be based in Wallington but which moved and decided that it wanted to be a burger joint. (There’s also a branch in Epsom) It’s a big space on the High Street. Airy and light, there’s very much a family-friendly fast food vibe going on. Comfortable chairs, tables for two, four or six and plenty of high chairs for young kids, colouring pencils and so on, with a warm and genuinely friendly welcome from the staff. It’s what Wimpy could have been if it’d managed to make it into the twenty-first century and had the enthusiasm and charm of the Blacks front-of-house team. Fundamentally, this is a place with a British ethos and atmosphere, serving American fast food.

The classic British fast food environment is mixed with a menu and aspiration of a regular watcher of US TV food shows: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives or Man v. Food. The menu is the sort of thing you’re more likely to see in the US than this side of the pond, witht all sorts of additions to the basic burger, some of which you’d never think of if you were doing your own burgers at home. They also have a GIANT burger called ‘the beast’ which has to be pre-ordered and -paid and to my cynical eyes has all the hallmarks of a PR stunt.

Blacks’ burgers have a lovely juicy bite and the buns are great too

The thing is that under the funky toppings, Blacks does serve a tasty burger. Beefy, salty goodness, with a lower fat/grease content than is currently fashionable in Central London’s market leaders such as Meat Liquor or Dirty Burger. It’s also a pretty hefty patty, or you can order bigger for not much extra. I’m not saying that it’s healthy, and if you order medium rare there’s a lovely juicy bite, but as a bearded chap I’m delighted to find a burger that doesn’t require me to shower afterwards. The buns are great too, as they hold the juices of the burger without falling apart or being ever-so-trendy brioche. Top stuff.

The sides are also great: really crispy, fluffy fries and dry, crunchy onion rings. There’s a perfectly-sized kids’ portion and, possibly best of all, a great range of freshly made-up ice cream milkshakes, with traditional flavours and funky mixes like Oreo or Nutella.

I’ve been five times with my kids and we’ve always had a great time. In and out in forty-five minutes, well looked after by the front-of-house team and well fed from the kitchen. It’s a great addition to the area’s eating options.

Dexter Burger, 10 High Street, Purley CR2 2AA
Time from East Croydon:  50 minutes /  20 minutes 466 

Photo by Dexter Burger, used with permission.

Dexter Burger is different. It’s straight outta Shoreditch, somewhere I know well after six years working on Folgate Street, E1. A small shopfront has about space for twenty or so and there’s a bar with four stools. Exposed brick and wood beams abound. The light fittings and furniture look like recycled industrial. It feels trendy, an impression continued by great local Cronx craft beer, including its outstanding single hop series. Further Shoreditch points are scored by the frozen margaritas.

There’s a much shorter menu here as the focus is on the beef itself – the name of the restaurant is shared with a rare breed beef cow that makes great steaks. Grass-fed, rare breed etc…. the burgers are great, very much on-trend with a high fat content and served medium rare, on the rare side, so that you really taste the beef.

My Dexter burger touched a memory of steak frites with bearnaise sauce. Yum

Sides and condiments were outstanding and showed talent in the kitchen. Truffled Parmesan chips were properly tasty; the funky taste of truffle really did go with the deep beef flavour of the burger. What also worked was the bearnaise sauce on the burger. It was proper stuff as well, with a tang of acid and tarragon. The sauce did a funny thing. It made a mouthful taste less of ‘burger’ and more ‘steak’, the bearnaise touching my tastebuds and memory of steak frites with bearnaise. Yum.

If I’m honest, I wanted a bigger burger. It was really tasty, and the fries were great, but I’m a greedy six-foot-one, fourteen-and-a-half-stone bloke. My wife also had a hot dog special the size of my forearm that took her twice as long to eat as my burger. The sausage and bun were outstanding, the barbecue sauce was well-flavoured but too sweet for me – although I should point out that it tasted as the chef wanted it to. It’s meant to be sweet, a well known style in the US.

My son couldn’t stop drinking his strawberry milkshake

Just like Blacks, the service is friendly and personal and you’re in and out in less than an hour. The milkshakes are also awesome. My boy couldn’t stop drinking his strawberry shake, to the point he had to have it taken off him.

Purley is lucky to have two great burger joints. I use both for different reasons. If I was just with Mrs B, we’d go to Dexter, drink cocktails and craft beer and enjoy great burgers in a slightly trendy atmosphere. If our kids are with us, or we’re meeting mates and their kids, it’s Blacks every time for equally great burgers in a more relaxed comfortable setting.

This isn’t to say that Blacks is full of kids all the time, or that Dexter wasn’t really great with our kids. It’s just the way that we’ve worked it out. You might do the opposite, but whichever place you go, you’ll have a great burger.

Paddy Blewer

Paddy has lived in the Croydon / Sutton area since 1983 and in Waddon from 2001- 2015. A communications advisor in the City, he loves the variety of Croydon, particularly its options for eating and drinking and its great parks for the kids. A sports nut, supporting Munster, London Irish, Surrey CCC and Spurs, he has a sneaking regard for Palace, despite having a Millwall fan for a dad.

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent review. Glad you enjoyed it, though I will never eat burgers.

    • Paddy Blewer

      Thanks Anne, that’s kind. They’re good examples of what they’re trying to do, but it’s a bit like taking a vegetarian to a steak restaurant – not for everyone

  • CroydonSurrey

    Hope these places stay open

  • Mike

    Good reviews. I agree. Both are great places and just what Purley needs. Personally I won’t go to Blacks any more until they replace the manky old 5 year old plastic ketchup bottles. I’ve asked the manager to let me know when they do. Still waiting for his call!