There’s a new kid on the block and it’s bringing burgers with an original flavour to the Southsea scene.
Umami Street Food, in Elm Grove, opened earlier this month and it made its mark by giving away a 1,000 free burgers. But how good is it now it’s had a few weeks to settle in?
We headed there on a rainy weekday night, expecting it be quiet like the streets outside. How wrong could we be? The place was packed, with people even queueing for takeaways.
After initial hesitation among my group of five about how long we’d have to wait, a friendly waitress said it would be about 10 minutes. The food looked good and the customers already sat down looked satisfied, so we waited. This gave us time to check out (and decipher) the menu, which is a cross between a Nando’s and a trendy burger place with some traditional Lebanese fare thrown on the side.
There’s a choice between wraps or burgers, with a plethora of sides including sweetcorn, fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, hummus and falafel. It follows the traditional Nando’s feel with bottomless soft drinks and no alcohol in sight.
Once we’d squeezed into the first booth that became free (the relatively small restaurant has a mix of booths and a large table at the front) we decided on our burgers, then placed our orders at the till (it’s one of those type of places). But that wasn’t bad as we all paid and ordered separately (we were one of those types of annoying groups that usually has the waitress running back and forth with a calculator and card machine at the end of the meal).
A short wait, in which you can reassuringly see your food being cooked in the open-plan kitchen, and everything bar some chips came out, almost all at the same time.
The place has been named Umami, which translates from Japanese loosely as a ‘pleasant savoury taste’. Umami is meant to be one of the five basic tastes, together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness.
The restaurant’s headline burger is an umami burger, featuring this taste in a secret sauce with a 6oz patty, lettuce, tomato, sautéed onion and pickle. It’d be rude not to chose it, so I combined it with some sweetcorn and some sweet potato fries on the side.
The food was delicious. Sweet potato fries are one of my faves as they never seem to cook right at home. These were crisp and tasty, as was the sweetcorn which came drizzled with butter.
The burger was big and succulent, properly cooked all the way through. The whole meal was not that expensive – a meal deal is £8.49, with extra sides at £2.49 or £2.99 – especially when you compare it to some of the hipster burger places that have sprung up across the country.
Also, unlike these hipster burger joints, the seating and atmosphere was relatively cool, but not uncomfortable. There were no hard, wooden, wonky school-style chairs in sight and the restaurant shied away from the cold bare-brick trend, opting for somewhere in between stylish and comfortable.
Pleasant waitresses worked hard, smartly dressed in an umami uniform with no beards or drainpipe jeans, and no nonchalant eye-rolling took place. Instead they smiled cheerily.
An even happier owner – Habib Rahman – checked with us as we left whether we had enjoyed our meal and, unaware that we had a food spy in our midst, encouraged us to share our thoughts on social media.
The whole experience was pleasant and ideal for an easy night out with a group of friends. Afterwards we headed to the One Eyed Dog to carry on our night out with a couple of beers.
My only regret was that I’d filled up so much with a burger, two sides and three fizzy drink refills that I had no room for one of the freak shakes.
(ratings out of 5)