Searching for Hampshire’s best burger at: Chalk Valley, Southampton [review]

Although I’ve enjoyed a few locally-sourced burgers made so far on my quest for Hampshire’s best burger, I haven’t visited anywhere so committed to serving local produce than Chalk Valley in Southampton.

This restaurant highlights everything on the menu that’s travelled less than 50 miles to land on your plate. Which isn’t too much of a challenge seeing as the beef for the burgers comes from Chalk Valley’s own herd of cattle near Stockbridge.

What’s more, the restaurant’s cattle ready themselves for your bun by eating only grass on chemical-free pastures. Not only is this good for the animals themselves, but it also improves the taste of the meat compared to that of cattle are brought up on cereal feed. It’s good for the environment too.

I’ve been meaning to check out Chalk Valley for a while. I finally got the chance on an overdue evening visit to Southampton city centre.

About this burger

  • Date visited: 3 December 2016
  • Name on menu: “100% grassfed buffalo single patty” (plus optional cheddar, bacon and fries)
  • Price: £10.50 (£6 for the burger, £1 for the cheddar cheese, £1.50 for the bacon and £2 for the fries)

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How this burger scored

Patty – 7/10

Juicy, fluffy, succulent buffalo from Hampshire’s Broughton Buffalo – cooked medium rare. Rich taste and nicely seasoned.

This would have been a perfect 10, but it lukewarm at best!

Chips – 5/10

Like the patty, the fries were also a bit cold on arrival.

A pity as they were great otherwise – hand cut, skin-on and fresh tasting thanks to being cooked in rice bran oil.

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They’re made from organic potatoes, too.

Bun – 9/10

There’s a choice of bun styles at Chalk Valley. I went for a brioche.

This came lightly toasted with sesame seeds. It tasted good and held my burger and toppings together throughout.

Like most other things on the menu, Chalk Valley source their buns from local producers. They’re baked fresh every day.

Toppings – 9/10

Good-quality melted cheddar cheese and tasty thick-cut bacon.

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The bacon at Chalk Valley is nitrate-free. Which is just as well, as nitrates in cured meat can increase the risk of cancer.

In the burger, there’s also a little shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato and the restaurant’s Secret Sauce.

(I also ordered onion rings as a topping but ate them separately – they were rather nice too.)

Ambiance – 8/10

Chalk Valley is split into two halves: One side is set out as a casual restaurant while the other is more of a bar. You can eat in both. If you fancy a pint, you can drink in the bar.

We chose some comfy sofa-style seats in the bar, by the windows.

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The restaurant as whole feels modern, airy and roomy. It’s decked out with reused and recycled furniture and fittings and complements the ethos behind the food nicely.

Drinks selection and quality – 10/10

The focus on the drinks at Chalk Valley is on local real ale, craft beer and cider from cask and keg. There’s also wine and cocktails.

I had a half of Andwells Pilsner (4.8%) on keg. There were around 10 draught beers and ales available tonight. Excellent stuff.

Condiments – 3/5

There are chilli and barbecue sauces on the tables.

Some Heinz Ketchup wouldn’t have gone amiss although to be fair I didn’t ask if there was any!

Presentation – 5/5

Your food arrives on and in greaseproof paper on a metal tray. The burger comes unwrapped, so it doesn’t sweat and make the bun soggy unlike at Five Guys.

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The presentation is perfect for the style of the restaurant.

Service – 3/5

Our waitress was friendly, attentive and helpful.

My only qualm is that she didn’t know anything about the beers on offer, which I would have expected from somewhere blessed with such an outstanding selection.

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Value for money – 5/5

A shade over a tenner for a delicious burger with locally-sourced ingredients. Ace.

Penalties – minus 1

Unfortunately, the word “artisan” appears on the menu. That’s a one point penalty according to the rules I set at the beginning of my search.

Total: 63/80

Despite my lukewarm patty and fries, which I’m sure was a rare blip, this was an excellent burger and a lovely restaurant.

It’s worth a visit alone for the craft beer and real ale selection. Go.

Info: Chalk Valley is at 37 London Rd, Southampton, SO15 2AD. Phone 02380 517114.

Tom's rating: