From some of the interesting things I heard about this place last year, I knew I was going to make a visit to The Hobgoblin at some point. However, knowing that this place specialised in serving large American styled burgers, it had seemed a bit too overwhelming with the hearty marathon of festive foods I had over the Christmas holidays. Even by the first fortnight of January seemed a little too soon to start with any excessive food indulgence whilst most of us are still mentally recovering from the Christmas onslaught. However, with the recent cold winter quickly setting in, there was simply no better timing to dig into some heart-warming comfort food.
I could still remembered from a couple of years back when the Hobgoblin was just an average local pub on Gloucester Road but over the past year or so, it has emerged to become a busy bar and restaurant pulling in the crowds from mid-week to weekend. So it was a Saturday lunch time when we made our visit and it was very busy when we got there. Seating was limited and there might have been around 25 tables or so. Once we found a table and decided what we wanted to have, I approached the bar to order and the first thing the staff member said was that there was a staggering 45 minutes wait on food orders.
At that point, I was slightly tempted to walk away and find another eatery elsewhere but I resisted and decided to approach the situation with a bit of patience. After all, it could all be worth the wait. I fund that when you are visiting new eating places with friends who have specific dietary requirements is usually when how you can test how good staff service really is. A smile and asking how your food is almost too standard for a greeting nowadays but in our case this time when one of group members had a dairy free diet requirement was when true service standards are put to the test. I was informed that all the burger buns had dairy ingredients and there was no alternative available. Even the option of skipping the bun and replacing with additional fries had not occurred to the staff member as a solution and I couldn’t help but think they simply did not want to be working there on a busy weekend afternoon.
We ordered the Squealer Burger which was a beef burger with house smoked pulled pork, cheese & bacon (£11.95). Regardless of anywhere you could go and have a burger, this would easily qualify a truly large burger and the price reflects this as I suspect this might be one of the most expensive burgers in town. The burger was average as it was cooked a bit too well done for my liking and for the price, I was surprised I was not asked how well cooked I liked it when I ordered. The pulled pork that was served with the burger was very good; being the meat was moist with a fantastic barbeque sauce. Occasionally, I have had pulled pork at other places which the meat turned out to be very dry and stringy and by over drenching the meat with barbeque sauce did not make any difference. Along with the not crispy and slightly brittle bacon served, the Squealer burger experience was somewhat average as there was no chemistry between the ingredients with the taste of the pulled pork standing out far beyond the rest of the burger.
The second burger we ordered was called Wrong Burger and perhaps I choose this purely out of curiosity as to what it might taste like. The Wrong Burger was a beef burger served with smoked bacon & crunchy peanut butter (£7.95). I have heard that in some southern states in America that sandwiches served with peanut butter and bacon and other ingredients of unusual combinations are all the rage. Although I have never tried putting these two ingredients together at home, that is because the both the variety and quality of bacon and peanut butter you get here compared with and what you get in America differs greatly. Now with this combination of burger available here, I could not miss giving it a try. Similar to the bacon in the previous burger, it was too thick to qualify as crispy bacon and it tasted quite dry and brittle. Along with the all too well cooked beef patty and the plain tasting peanut butter, the Wrong Burger was not just morally wrong in calories but it was really nothing special in terms of taste as I had hoped. My hopes for an all tasting with zero regards for health concerns burger will have to continue elsewhere.
As there was no dairy free diet option available from the burgers, we ordered a serving of chicken wings with hot sauce (£6.95). This was a fine example of chicken wings done well. The wings were deep fried and consistent throughout and the hot sauce was genuinely so and strong as oppose to just menu hype as you find in some restaurants claiming they do hot and spicy.
Although I knew the portions were going to be large, I just could not resist ordering a sharing portion of Dirty Fries which was the main attraction of the food here according to the loyal fans. The Dirty Fries was exceptionally large probably consisting of more than six average portions of seasoned fries and tucked within the fries and also on top was the full combination of almost everything available including BBQ pulled pork, salsa and coleslaw with melted Swiss cheese (£9.95). It is not without good reason why this was the highlight of the meal and similar to a large bag of mixed sweets for kids, every part contained a different ingredient to go with the fries. I could only imagine if it was a group of 4 hungry men sharing a plate of this over a few beers, the entire portion would be done within 5 minutes which is probably appropriate for it serving. Unfortunately in our case where we had burgers as well, we could not finish the Dirty Fries and the trick is the longer you take to finish; the fries becomes harder to break apart as the cheese cools to harden. This was an enjoyable sharing dish and likely the main reason to come back again.
As this is really a restaurant serving the majority of their food that is probably eaten with hands, you would think the toilet and washroom facilities would be of high standard but sadly no. The state of both the gents and ladies was poor. The gents were temporary portable cubicles much like the ones you can imagine from outdoor music festivals which are not cleaned regularly. Likewise, the ladies toilets were not much better I terms of cleanliness which now makes me appreciate the overall hygiene standards which are kept by the fast food chains everywhere. Maybe this was a temporary issue but now when I go to a new place to eat food where I might end up using my hands, I will certainly check the state of the toilets before ordering and eating even if some of the dishes available are must try dishes.
69-71 Gloucester Road
Tel. 07830 188054