Saturday, August 26, 2006

My (Long) Review of the Burger Hub

Note: This review is extremely outdated. To read my updated review of the Burger Hub (29 August 2007), with major improvements from this old review, click here.

P and I went to the Burger Hub in Kuwait City tonight for dinner. We'd heard that they were one of the best burger joints in town, so we decided to see for ourselves. Overall, disappointing. Before I get into it, let me say that I'm not trying to be overly critical here. I understand that this is a small Kuwaiti business and it's a very good start, but let me give my honest assessment first and then get into that at the end.

Our first impression when we approached it from the parking lot and when we first walked in was: "Wow. Nice." It's quite small but in a nice way - cute and cozy. They were quite crowded and didn't have a table for two available so we sat at the bar. Once we settled into our seats, we started to look around and take it all in. The first thing I noticed was that every single customer in there was Kuwaiti. Not that it really meant anything to me - it's just something I noticed right off the bat. (Lots of girls dressed to the nines just to eat a burger. Maybe they were trying to impress the cow.)

As I sat at the bar, one of the first things I thought was that they could have used the space better. P noticed it too - he immediately said they could have added a small upstairs seating area (I think there's an office or storage room up in that block you see in the picture). Also, the bar was way too big, and is totally unnecessary. Let's face it, we're in Kuwait. Unless you're serving alcohol, why have a bar/counter that big when you're short on space? Remove it altogether, and just add tables.

It was five minutes before we got menus and another ten minutes before someone took our order (both times I had to call the attention of the waiter). Anyway, the burger selection was quite interesting and diverse, which is always a plus. But when it comes to burgers, unless it's Lindy's Red Lion in DC, I'm going for a regular old gourmet cheeseburger. When I asked what else came in the bun, the waiter told me ketchup and mayonnaise. So I asked him to add lettuce and chopped onions. So he said, "Caramelized onions." And I said, "No, regular onions, chopped." "Ah yes, OK." Then, as he was writing down my order, he mumbled out loud, "Add lettuce and tomato." I said, "No, no tomato. Lettuce, and c-h-o-p-p-e-d o-n-i-o-n-s." "Ah yes, OK, lettuce and tom-, uh, and chopped onion." Then he took down P's order, which was called "La Rosee" (don't ask why) and had mushrooms, caramelized onions, and swiss cheese. One plate of fries to share. We were told that our burgers would take 20 minutes, but that we would get our drinks and fries first. That's fine.

As we sat waiting for our food, we began our critique. P and I are both design freaks - we love and appreciate good design and unique styles, and so we notice everything. I mean everything, even things that most people wouldn't. And we always end up having the exact same comments. For example, the first thing we both said should go was the set of superfluous four panels up on the wall (in the picture above). In general, the interior design was quite nice - I liked certain bits of it. But the overall product was...well...a bit of a clusterfuck, to be honest. You had the whole copper industrial part, which I liked - industrial is always a good look (although it's been done better in Kuwait). Then you had the whole stained glass part, which was also nice, and actually meshed well with the copper. But then you had some walls (not the ones carrying on the copper industrial theme but like the one behind the four panels) that were really tacky. I'm not sure what that design technique is called, but it's where the paint is really textured and rough - but it wasn't done well at all. And it just didn't go with the rest of the place at all. It ruined it.

Then there's the other design aspect - their logo, branding, etc. First of all, their logo is not even worth talking about - I'm pretty sure the person who designed it has absolutely no background in design or anything remotely creative. Then, the colour scheme is totally off. On the logo on the sign outside, they use a bright red and yellow. These same colours are used on their takeaway boxes. However, their menus are maroon and more of a brownish-mustard yellow. Then their placemats are something different altogether - kind of a light brown (for red) and cream (for yellow). The menus themselves were done very cheaply - they were just very bland and felt like laminated paper...kind of like what you'd expect from share3 alma6a3em. The placemats were paper and the design was brown and cream stripes - they just didn't go with anything at all.

Also, and this is a big one, if you're going to put a paragraph of text in the menu (a sort of message from the owner, talking about the history of the hamburger and the reason Burger Hub was created and all that) then at least have someone edit it for you before going to print. I don't expect everyone to have perfect English skills - not at all - but before printing something like a menu for your own restaurant, just let someone who speaks fluent English look it over for you. It wouldn't take more than 10 minutes to edit. One example: "mince-meat" was spelled "mints meat". For a place that specializes in burgers, I found that hilarious. The whole menu was full of little grammatical, spelling, and typographical mistakes. Again, something you'd expect from share3 alma6a3em, but not from the type of place this is trying to be.

By that point, every little thing I found wrong just got to me. For example, they had a little specials menu on each table (by then we had moved to a regular table), which was typed out on red construction paper, laminated. Fine. But, if you're going to have a list of special burgers with special names, you have to at least provide the list of ingredients that comes on each! How the hell am I supposed to know what a "[insert stupid meaningless name here] burger" is? Then, I'm going to have to ask the waiter to tell me what's in each, and all that's going to do is slow down what is already extremely slow and inept service.

Speaking of inept service, guess what my burger came with? That's right - lettuce and tomato, no onions. At that point I decided not to say anything and just eat it. So I ate it. And here's the most important part of this review...the burger. To both me and P, the burger was less than average. I get more pleasure from a McDonald's double-cheeseburger than I did from this. First of all, the meat had too many offensive spices in it. Not the usual good mix of spices - ones that just threw the taste right off. And it just wasn't good quality meat. Then, the bread was...bad. Dry and bland. The overall thing itself just didn't have much taste (other than those damn spices). I asked for mustard hoping it would give it a kick, but even the mustard was bad. The fries were boring and not great. Oh, and we didn't get the fries first like we were told, but with our burgers, and we didn't get our drinks until about two minutes before that (and I was first given a Coke instead of the Diet Coke which I ordered).

Anyway, the final clincher was that the music was way too loud. The music was actually OK. I was just glad they weren't playing trashy R'n'B like most places play, nor did the place have a plasma screen showing J.Lo or Shakira in concert like other small places in Kuwait like to do (think Maki and Fusion). They were playing chillout house - mostly Buddha Bar stuff which I find very cliché and annoying under normal circumstances but which was a relief here, knowing what could have been thoroughly ruining my dining experience. But it was just way too loud for such a small place.

Now, I know most of you are probably thinking, "Damn, they just ripped that place to shreds." And I know that sounds like a mean and unfair thing to do to a small, local business that is trying something new. But let me say why we were so critical. First of all, I think what this guy has done is great (at least I think it's just the one guy whose name was on the menu). OK, so maybe it's kind of copying Burger Boutique, but at least he's investing his money and time and energy into opening a good quality local establishment, trying to break the franchise obsession Kuwaitis have. And he's done a good job - the food concept is great, the interior design is modern and cool, the name is nice, and the place isn't expensive. Also, anyone who knows me knows how much I love, admire, and support small Kuwaiti businesses. But, at the same time, because I so want to see these places succeed, I am more critical of them than I am of places I don't really care about.

This place has tons of potential. They were on the right track - but somewhere along the way they fell short of being great. And what disappoints me is that the areas in which I find Burger Hub to be lacking make me think that their lack of perfection was a result of laziness and perhaps an attempt to cut costs. For example, the bathroom is really nice - dark wood and dull metals - carrying on the industrial theme from the restaurant. But then your eyes fall on the toilet seat itself: bright white porcelain. It's a major eyesore in an otherwise gorgeous bathroom. Why? Why not continue the thought and spend a bit more effort trying to find a toilet seat that matches well? OK, maybe I'm nitpicking here, but I just don't see the logic in it, other than the fact that someone got lazy. Also, the whole branding and printing thing is a disaster (the logo, takeout boxes, menu, placemats). That must have been the result of cost-cutting. But there were definitely areas in which he could have cut some unnecessary costs (like those four ugly panels) and put that money into hiring a freelance designer to do the logo and print materials. The way I see it is, if you're gonna do something, do it as absolutely perfectly as you can. It might take an extra day or week or month, and might cost an extra buck, but if this is your baby, your private business, your brainchild, just do it!

As P and I left we acknowledged the fact that most of the things we found wrong with the place, most people would probably not even notice. We are both perfectionists and are both overly in tune with our senses - sight, sound, and taste, in this case. We appreciate little things that most people overlook, and so we notice the details. And when we see the potential for perfection being obstructed by carelessness, laziness, cheapness, or whatever the case may be, it drives us both up the wall. I'm sure that most people who go to the Burger Hub walk out completely satisfied, visually and gastronomically. And I think that's a good thing - because I'd like to see this place succeed. I would love to see it fix some of its shortcomings, but I think the person/people who created it should be given props for going their own way and taking a risk.

Oh, and they tried to charge me .250 fils for the onions I didn't get.

And, for the record, while most of the service was below average, there was one guy - who I think is the host - who was great. He was very friendly and capable and did a great job. I didn't get his name but he was the only Indian man on staff - at least tonight.


  • I would also add that I felt a little-tiny-shway-un peu that they imitated the Burger Boutique's table papers and menu background with the dark yellow and mustard yellow horizontal lines in the layouts of those.

    I agree that it seems like most of those gaps are there because at some point, towards finalizing construction / printing / equipment issues they realized that they are going over the budget, so they started cutting the cost by installing normal bathroom seats, going cheap on printing materials and take away packages, outside signs and on table items like the salt and pepper stuff...

    They did a good job but they did not complete it - the place has potential but it needed more energy and will for perfection.

    Another thing is that they limited the size of their burgers with the bread - if the burger is small it's because the bread they get is small. If that's exactly how they want the size of the burger, then it's too expensive.

    The kitchen of the restaurant is just enough to deliver to the restaurant itself, not both restaurant and delivery/take-away. The delivery is making the service in the restaurant very slow (20 minutes for a burger)...

    I don't think I would go again. I might recommend it for friends just for them to try it out as a "new place" but I wouldn’t go, cos all I think of when I think of it is loud music and the annoying walls and bar.

    (Btw cerise, check what i linked to, its cool.)

    By Anonymous P, at 8/27/2006 1:22 pm  

  • (Awesome! I can't wait for it to come out. On youtube you can find films of the "explosion" from regular people in Glasgow who were watching. I'll keep checking the site for the launch.)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 8/28/2006 1:26 am  

  • Holy crap you ripped the place apart! Wow, now I wanna go there just to place your captions to the things you mentioned!

    You should do this as a side gig, critiquing (sp?) eateries and such. But if you do it in Kuwait, you'll finish all the places in one month or less

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 8/29/2006 6:40 am  

  • All I can say is "someones junk is someone elses treasure" I have been to many places around the world with good reviews and come out very dissapointed. Some of the great places are usually the ones that no one covered. I appreciate design and branding, because it is what attracts people initially, but it is the product that brings you back. A very good example is this shawarma place in Bneid Elgar called Bader Albdoor. Has the best meat shawarmas in town. One look at the place and you think you will be spending the night at the hospital. End of the day the place is packed! Branding and design can only help him attract new business when expanding or in the case of competition maintain market share.
    Like you said, credit must be given for being a completely locally owned joint, and maybe a constructive critisism can help in the long run.

    By Blogger Equalizer, at 9/01/2006 10:46 pm  

  • "I appreciate design and branding, because it is what attracts people initially, but it is the product that brings you back" --> you are so right. None of that stuff would have really mattered if the food was really good. I mean, in London the only places I go to are the small local spots that are not much to look at but have fantastic food (like the Italian Coffee Co. on Goodge Street - best pizza outside of Italy!). But places like that build their reputation on the quality of the food. But when it comes to a place like BH, where the food isn't really anything to write home about, then the atmosphere and all those other elements become more important. Especially when you consider the type of place this is trying to be. Obviously they are trying to enter the new gourmet burger market in Kuwait and compete with Burger Boutique and GBK. To compete in that market, "he" has to concentrate on both: food and design. But, if the idea behind the place was simply to produce a really good burger and not spend a lot of money on all that other stuff, then I would have actually prefered the place looking something like the inside of Lindy's in DC...just your average no-frills joint with checkered table-cloths and paper napkins. But when you can tell that he spent a hell of a lot of money on the place, you kind of wish he put a bit more effort into it.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment. I think a lot of people got scared away by the length of this post! Glad to see someone else read it. :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 9/02/2006 4:11 pm  

  • Well you have a point there. I think you should go to Hashis, you might get the same kind of opinion about it too. I wish I have the time to write a review, but at the end of the day, the best criteria for success is how much money it makes. A perfect example is TGIF, I could rip the place apart if I wrote a review about it. End of the day its making around KD 5000 a day in sales!Its all about value for money. when you go to Hashis and pay 15KD per head for dishes the size of peanuts that has mediocre quality, you know it wont last. A friend went there last night, they were the only people there, now thats an indicator!

    By Blogger Equalizer, at 9/02/2006 5:15 pm  

  • I actually loved Hashi. I went last week and I thought it was excellent. The food was good and the value for money is not at all what people have made it out to be. We were two people and had two large appetizers (lobster springrolls with six pieces and meat dumplings which came in four huge pieces), two main (meat) dishes to share and two cocktails, and it came out to KD10 each. We both left stuffed and satisfied. Plus the service was great, the atmosphere was very nice, the interior design was fantastic, and the music was excellent and fitting, and at a perfect volume.

    I never judge a place based on what other people in Kuwait think of it. The fact that a place like TGIF is a huge success is a case in point. I just don't trust the taste of the majority of people here. So when people were saying that the portions at Hashi were small, that the food wasn't good, and that it was too expensive, I decided to go see for myself. I thought the portions were perfectly normal. In fact, we were full before we could even finish what we ordered. But I guess people here are used to huge American portions. As for the taste, we both thought it was great. We ordered everything from the Chinese menu, so I can't judge what the Japanese cuisine is like. As for the price, I thought it was reasonable and worth it. Plus, the interior of the place was really well done and we enjoyed the atmosphere very much.

    I know that a lot of Kuwaitis won't like the place but for selfish reasons I'm glad for that - it'll keep the riff-raff out! I think Hashi will maintain a high caliber of clientele of people who don't mind dishing out an extra couple of dinars for good food and nice atmosphere. We went on a weeknight last week and it was quite full.

    I think that as far as home-grown restaurants in Kuwait go, Hashi is one of the only ones that got it right from all angles: food, design, price, and style. The only other place I put in the same category is Edo. Burger Boutique used to be in the same category but their food quality has gone down significantly since they first opened and that's a big no-no to me.

    Standard and success are two very different things to me. You can judge "success" based on a place's daily income, but if that's what you're looking for then McDonald's will probably be the most "successful" restaurant in Kuwait. But that says absolutely nothing about standard. Standard is something that can't be quantified - it's about quality, creativity, ingenuity, and service. That is the basis on which I rate true success - especially when it comes to local businesses. But obviously, in a country that gives its most prime commercial seafront real estate to places like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and TGIF - you know its going to be decades before the majority of people learn to appreciate real quality! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 9/02/2006 7:27 pm  

  • Well I guess people have different tastes. I just came back from Maki, or shall i call it Makinaise? I think it is a spoon of mayonaise reshaped into a maki. You might love it, but I don't and thats fine coz if everyone had the same taste it would be a boring life and you would have alot of people taking your Hashi away from you :p

    P.S. Hashi was done by a Dubai consultant called Thomas Klein, so its not homegrown.

    By Blogger Equalizer, at 9/03/2006 2:32 am  

  • Ugh - I can't stand Maki! Their sushi is terrible, and I don't like the crowd. I haven't been to the new branch but the old one is way too small and I can't stand anywhere that has a plasma screen playing cheap concert DVD's! :)

    On the one hand, I miss the old days in Kuwait when we only had like two or three places to go to and you'd see everyone you knew out and about - but in those days it was mainly the private school kids who actually "went out" so it was an extension of our own little world. But on the other hand, nowadays when the whole country is permanently out and about, I'm glad we have so many more choices of where to go. Because as you say, everyone has different tastes, so you usually end up seeing people "like you" in the places you end up going to regularly.

    By homegrown I mean that the owners are Kuwaiti and it's not a franchise. Thomas Klein was their consultancy group, but the place itself is a Kuwaiti one.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 9/03/2006 10:07 am  

  • للأسف أن الكويتيين ناس محطمين يموتون على التدقر

    أنا ما أقدر أعد المرات اللي رحت كليت فيها هناك بس و لا مره شفت هالأشياء بالديكور اللي تقولون عنها مو لأني ما افهم و لا لأن مو مهم عندي بس أنا رايحه لأني أبي استمتع بالبيرغر

    أنا قريت النقد على المطعم و لما وصلت لمقطع أن بيرغر ماكدونالدز ألذ خلاص بطلت قرائه لأن قاعدين تقارنون الثرا بالثريا بالنسبه لي

    الناس أذواق و للأسف ذوقكم ما يتناسب لا مع ذوقي و لا مع ذوق معجبين بيرغر هب

    By Blogger nanonano, at 9/04/2006 2:21 pm  

  • Personally I boycotted the place because of political reasons. Accordingly, I know nothing about the place or the food…

    I know the owner very well and I can guarantee you that he is an excellent cook that worked very hard to improve his skills and he was brave enough to make the move from a cushiony job to pursue his passion…

    I think your criticism is quit detailed and we appreciate that, and it will be stupid if the owner does not look into it. I also don’t think its fair that were comparing BH vs. BB, I would have preferred if you stuck to one restaurant at time

    By Blogger mosan mosan, at 9/04/2006 2:29 pm  

  • You make me puke...im sure there are many postive things; if you really cared why didnt you state your points to the manager or supervisor to let them improve if thats so??? you are nothing but loser who hates everyone.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/04/2006 2:50 pm  

  • Nanonano: My computer doesn't have Arabic text so I'm going to reply in English. When I mentioned the thing about McD's in my post I was making a point. I wasn't comparing the two - I was trying to show exactly to what extent I did not enjoy the BH burger. It is certainly obvious that we have different tastes, and what does that matter? Some people will like it, others won't. People have different standards, expectations, tastes, etc. As Equalizer said earlier here, one person's junk is someone else's treasure. I didn't like BH, you do. I liked Hashi, Equalizer didn't. No big deal. I'm glad you and many others enjoy it - I just have different standards than you.

    I wasn't trying to insult the place - not at all. I think it's quite clear that I really want this place to succeed as a local business, which is why I'm pointing out what I see are its faults. It has nothing to do with "Kuwaitis love to criticize". When I see a small Kuwaiti business that shows a lot of potential, I want it to be perfect because it makes me proud - because unfortunately the majority of people in this country don't want to take risks or be creative or do anything new. So when I see this guy doing something like this, it makes me happy. But at the same time, yes, I will express my opinions on the place, even the little details - not just to be mean or spiteful or anything of the sort, but out of appreciation for what it has the potential to be.

    Mosan Mosan: What political reasons?

    I certainly think he's very brave for not settling for some easy, low-effort government job or whatever, and for taking a risk and following his passion. We need more people like that in Kuwait - so much more!!

    As for the details in my post, I'm a perfectionist, so I notice every little thing. As is clear from the comment just above yours, most people won't notice the things I pointed out, so the owner probably doesn't even really need to heed any of my advice! But to cater to those of us with higher expectations, the criticism is there if he wants to look into it.

    The comparison with BB was simply for obvious reasons - two homegrown gourmet burger joints owned by young Kuwaitis. It's hard to resist a comparison. :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 9/04/2006 3:01 pm  

  • Anonymous: If you read properly you would see that I did highlight the positive things. But I was pointing out the negatives to show areas for improvement. Why would I point it out to the management? This was just my opinion. That's what a blog is for, to express opinions. If you don't like my opinions, nobody is forcing you to read them. That is the beauty of it. If you think I'm a "loser that hates everyone", that's fine. I really don't care much what people I don't know think of me. You're entitled to your opinions and I'm entitled to mine.

    Sheesh - people have so much anger in them. Try to present some constructive criticism and people interpret it as a hate crime instead of simply an opinion.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 9/04/2006 3:06 pm  

  • I thought your criticism was well-balanced and constructive. It was very clear from your post that you were happy that more Kuwaitis are trying to venture beyond the franchise! But you have a right to say what you really thought - This is YOUR PERSONAL BLOG.

    I think a difference has to be pointed out between criticising in the bitching and moaning ways that people seem to engage in here all the time and critiquing something for the purpose of improvement.

    I think people's reactions to your post are classic. It is the downfall of the Arabs - the way they can never take criticism at all. (I said "they" and not "we" because I believe I personally can take criticism.) It is always blame and pointing fingers... and to actually think about criticism and try to use it to their benefit??? Forget it. The attitude that all Arabs are perfect is the reason we are not advancing, but rather regressing!

    As for some anonymous person calling you a loser for stating your opinion... Well, you just know they do not come from an enlightened place.

    You are right - people are filled with rage... I think it stems from lack of stimulation and diverse ideas.

    Fortunately, people like erzulie, equlaizer, and mosan mosan can engage in dialogue even if and when they disagree without taking things to a personal and hysterical level, where logic and rational thinking do not exist.

    By Blogger Raine, at 9/04/2006 5:39 pm  

  • Dear Raine

    I was going to reply to you by writing... you made a big deal out of nothing making it sound like an international incident... And then I read your compliment and I changed my mind..... LoL

    By Blogger mosan mosan, at 9/04/2006 8:55 pm  

  • mosan mosan :p lol!

    I know my reaction may have seemed overdone, but so were other people's reactions to this critique, so I could not help but make the parallels that I did...

    By Blogger Raine, at 9/05/2006 10:47 am  

  • Wow what is going on here?! Do you know why Kuwait is lagging behind? Because they do not listen to constructive criticism. For example, "Dubai is better than Kuwait in terms of economic progress, city planning, liberalization of certain sectors, buidling up of secondary industries" the reply would be like "intaw mata7medoon rabkom 3alaa ilne3maa ilee intaw feehaa, oo ba3dain shoofaw ilda3ara ilee 3endohom!" That is typical Kuwaiti thinking. You have another view, great, you can debate point-by-point. To have people getting angry on a personal view is ridiculous. How do you improve if you don't accept constructive criticism?

    By Blogger Equalizer, at 9/07/2006 5:33 pm  

  • The Burger hub is the best burger shop in Kuwait; I really loved it.

    By Anonymous B Hub Fan, at 12/07/2006 12:40 pm  

  • The Burger Hub is the best shop to eat burger in Kuwait; i really loved it.

    By Anonymous ThebHubFan, at 12/07/2006 12:41 pm  

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