Big Fernand is run by a charismatic local called Steve. He’s all fun, jokes and laughter (typical French humour according to my friend) but behind the bravado is a savvy businessman who knows what he’s doing in the burger department.
|Steve, owner of Big Fernand and in line entertainment|
Steve owns this little informal restaurant, 20 covers or so, but one of the best cheap eats in town. Although the cafe and the staff are ‘cool’ (check shirts and ‘taches, slate walls and bare bulbs) it’s not all Parisian hipsters here. Outside there’s three sliver foxes, legs crossed, reclining in the sunshine and enjoying a bottle of red wine while they wait for a messy burger that will inevitably splodge down their expensive suits.
The queue moves quickly and while you wait Mr Big Fernand (that’s Steve) will come out and keep the line flowing with a menu, explaining how it all works. There’s a simple selection process, a ‘bespoke burger’ if you like, where you pick and mix what you would like to go together (cheese, meat, sauce etc). I however had been eyeing up the pre-designed burgers, one of which is ‘Le Bartholome’. You can take your burgers to go, but the tunes were luring me into the informal, 80s loving eatery. Burgers are wrapped up in grease proof paper served on trays or in paper bags. Fuss free.
|Parcel of joy|
After days of lusting over ‘Le Bartholome’ burger on Big Fernand’s online menu, I’m relieved it doesn’t disappoint me. These are burgers with a French twist, a certain “je ne sais quoi” – a change in the texture of the meat, bread and cheese to what I’ve become accustomed to in the UK.
Forget the brioche buns that are saturating the burger-sphere in London, the owner of Big Fernand also owns his own bakery, producing soft white doughy burger buns every day. They are dense, covered in seeds, heavy but not stodgily filling, and both sides are lightly toasted in some sort of on the wall contraption (an on the wall toaster I suppose).
Even when doused in condiments and cheese, they don’t sag or begin to fall apart under the saucy pressure. The coarsely ground beef patty doesn’t hold it together so well, but the quality shines through (Big Fernand uses Blonde d’Aquitaine and Charolaine beef) and when paired with the home made BBQ sauce, tomato confit, strips of bacon and raclette cheese (YES raclette cheese) it works. Le Bartholome burger is oozy, messy, slightly sweet and the raclette cheese is a revelation.
I do normally prefer my bacon crispier, and I realise the burger looks like a hot mess, but the taste sensation is there. Even the parsley, which I normally consider to be the devil of all herbs, tastes good in this burger.
Before I go to order another I am encouraged to move on to something even more spectacular – ‘Le Victor’. A very bold statement from Big Fernand’s owner and a serious look in his eyes “you must try this burger”. Veal wouldn’t be my first choice for a burger, but when I saw it came with blue cheese I was sold. I had vowed to eat as much cheese as possible in Paris.
The track switches to Billy Idol’s ‘Flesh For Fantasy’ and I start on burger number two.
How can it be, this burger is even better than the first. It wouldn’t win a beauty pageant. Also if you are seeking out crunch in a burger, this isn’t it. But the gooey mixture of delicate tender veal, sweet caremlised onion, creamy salty blue cheese and the doughy bread is a moorish rich burger combination. It’s comforting, balanced and not at all greasy. Even the coriander tastes pleasant.
|Blue cheese and veal heaven|
|Pausing for a photo was hard work|
This place is definitely not good for my health or my bank balance. I need to get back to Paris to continue my love affair with these burgers. It’s no rumour, Paris really is a city of romance.
Oh and how could I forget? The owner of Big Fernand is a Springsteen fan!
Springsteen lovers will know that Bruce and the band play in Paris on almost every tour. If you are seeing him there this year on 29th June, THIS is the burger you need to try. Make sure you have one for me.
Big Fernand, 55 Rue du Faubourg Poisonniere, 75009 Paris