Plastic trays, communal and counter seating, and a queue out the door to order from the till don’t necessarily conjure up images of a must-visit restaurant but Cambridge‘s latest, Steak & Honour, is greater than the sum of its parts.
A short menu above the equally bijou open kitchen on the ground floor of Steak & Honour displays this three-storey restaurant’s specialty for all to see: burgers. It was designed by chef-owners Leo Riethoff and David Underwood, who met while working at Michelin-starred Alimentum in the city before joining forces in Steak & Honour mark I, a vintage Citroën van. Another van, and several years and burgers later, and this time the duo have laid roots on Wheeler Street in the city centre.
Three regulars from the van days – the classic, cheeseburger and ’shroom burger – are now also joined by rotating specials. And, there’s a short drinks list (due to minimal fridge space) – the beers (from Bacchanalia, also in the city centre) are from Hackney and Huddersfield, and a good match with the menu.
If you’re expecting plates and cutlery you’re in the wrong place – the street food mentality hasn’t been lost, there’s now just somewhere warm to perch while you tuck in. Food is served in (biodegradable) containers and the drink cans are recycled, too.
The ‘classic’ proves that a well-made burger is hard to beat. A soft and not-too-sweet brioche bun from local Dovecote Bakery hugs a simple patty of ground beef (nothing else) from Riverside Beef, whose cows graze on pastures and water meadows of Cambridgeshire and the surrounding counties. It’s served pink, is the kind of juicy that will risk dribbles down the chin with every bite, and is exceptionally well-seasoned. We add in a slice of American cheese (just because it makes everything better) but the layers of crisp iceberg lettuce, sliced red onion, gherkins, French’s mustard and Heinz tomato ketchup are all it needs.
New to the menu for this new permanent site is the ‘check the pulse’ veggie burger. The bean patty had great texture and deliciously punchy spice and even ‘bled’ into the bun thanks to a layer of beetroot pickle. Served with onion, American cheese and an umami-packed seaweed mayo it gave the classic a serious run for its money. Whether you prefer meat or not, this is a must-order. Make like us greedy pair, and order one of each and split them down the middle.
Don’t skip the sides, either – they are yet another reminder that there’s a supremely talented pair of chefs behind the grill. Three-cheese mac & cheese is good enough to fight over – tender pasta, slicked with a sauce rich with American cheese, cheddar and emmental and spicy with mustard powder, is then sliced and grilled (grilled cheese klaxon!) and served with yet more sauce and sour cream. Travel here just for this, I implore you. ’Slaw with white and red cabbage was refreshing, light and well seasoned.
Fast food with no frills or gimmicks, just great-quality ingredients and skilled (and quietly sustainable and mindful) chefs behind the pass. An honourable addition to Cambridge’s eating out scene.
4 Wheeler Street, Cambridge, CB2 3QB
Words by Laura Rowe
Image credit: Mike Sim