REVIEW: Fat Hippo, Saddler Street, Durham City

Fat Hippo, Saddler Street
Fat Hippo, Saddler Street
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When a restaurant’s artwork warns “loosen your belt buckle” you know you’re in for a serious calorie hit.

But if ever there’s ever a place to leave your diet at the door, it’s at Fat Hippo, a restaurant which wallows in glorious gluttony.

Inside Fat Hippo, Durham

Inside Fat Hippo, Durham

There are healthier options at this new addition to Saddler Street, such as grilled chicken breast with no bread, but burgers are what Fat Hippo does best and you’ll soon forget the scales once you feast your eyes on the burger section.

Gourmet burger brands - where the focus is on chunky, prime beef rather than flaccid patties - have been all the rage in London’s hipster hangouts for quite some time, but Fat Hippo was one of the first to help the trend take off here with branches in Jesmond and Newcastle city centre.

This is the meaty mammal’s first venture onto Wearside and it’s a great addition to Saddler Street’s range of quirky eateries and boutiques which meander their way up the cobbled bank.

Formerly Saddlers Cafe and Bistro, this is a Grade II-listed building and its transformation into a burger bar spanning two floors has been sympathetic to the character of the building.

The Texas burger with sweet potato chips

The Texas burger with sweet potato chips

It’s fortuitous that winding wooden staircases, beams and exposed brickwork are de rigueur in the decor world as it works perfectly with this brand’s trendy outlook. Even the toilets looked like something from the pages of an interiors ‘inspo’ magazine with their period windows overlooking Elvet Bridge.

Meanwhile neon-lit signs and hippos add a New York nightclub edge to the proceedings.

It gels together well to create an informal atmosphere. If there was a dress code, it would be trainers and an elasticated waistband.

As the artwork foretold, you’re going to need it for the food.

Mac and Cheese balls

Mac and Cheese balls

The menu’s focus is those burgers - as well as a handful of veggie and kids’ options - which range from a classic American-style option (£8.50 with all chips and trimmings) to the monstrous-sounding 4X4, which consists of four 4oz patties topped with bacon, cheese and Fat Hippo sauce (£14), as well as signature burger, the PB&J, which comes with peanut butter, cheese and bacon jam. Yes, peanut butter.

I chose the safer option of the Texas (£9.50), which is smothered with bacon, cheese, onion rings and BBQ sauce. I’d asked for no rings, so our waitress offered to give me extra of one of the other ingredients. She hadn’t finished the sentence before I said cheese.

Well done burgers are a pet hate of mine, they should be left to BBQs when you’ve had too many beers to care. Despite, the various accoutrements here, the focus is very much on the meat, with the beef ground daily.

The result is a beautifully-tender burger, with a slight crunch on the outside, which retains its juices in its pink centre. Burgers may be a fast food, but getting them just right is still a kitchen craft.

The bun is brioche and the serving style is metal tray. I’m not a particular fan of the latter platter, it takes me back to the school canteen, but the burgers are so good here all was forgiven.

So good, in fact, I almost forgot my starter of Mac and cheese balls - four plump mounds of gooey pasta and cheese.

They were perfectly satisfying, but nothing beats those burgers.