Having taken up residence at Aire Bar at the start of this month Twisted Burger Company are the new kids on the Leeds Burger Block, but they’ve slanging burgers from the kitchen of Sheffield’s The Harley since January 2011 – which is like a decade in Burger-years. For context, that predates the opening of Leeds’ first dedicated burger joint Johnny Fontaine’s by over a WHOLE YEAR.
Despite their OG status, I’ve only had two encounters with them. The first came last week when I was invited to a press launch, but due to my poor timekeeping I only got there in time to try a quarter of an anonymous burger. Not enough basis to form an opinion on; just enough to whet my appetite for more. In fact, that was the reason I ended up going to and reviewing The Pit – but I can’t hold that against them.
Arriving for the second time, we got shown to a table outside with a full view of the river. I’m gonna go ahead and award it the accolade of “Most scenic location to eat a burger in Leeds”; Getting a Patty Smiths and sitting on the roof of Belgrave comes close, but the appeal of visible ducks means that Aire Bar just pips it. This place is going to make a killing in the Summer.
There’s no shortage of hometown pride on display, if you didn’t know they were from Sheffield before, then it wouldn’t take you long to realise. Each table is equipped with a bottle of Henderson’s Relish (being – as I am – from Worcester, I can tell you that Henderson’s is without a doubt the second best sauce with an orange label OF ALL TIME.) and the menu – by Sheffield designer Tom J Newell with all the gnarly, dripping charm of a 90s hardcore zine – contains dishes referencing Pulp classics, and a vegetarian burger put together by loveable scamp/entrepreneur/demon-possessed throat Oli Sykes.
There’s also an impressive dedication to puns on the menu, which is always good to see. Fortunately, unlike some of my ill-fated feature ideas which start with the pun and work backwards (Such as Graze Anatomy, where I would review the contents I received in a my Graze box each week) the content each pun relates to is well considered, rather than shoehorned in.
Based on what I’ve seen on my Instagram feed, Pig Daddy Kane (£7.95) seems to be Twisted’s de facto signature, so it was a no brainer. I usually avoid Pulled Pork at all costs since it became the new buzzword in trendy food and it started getting churned out by everybody from Boots to Wetherspoons to your old Mum, and most of them (Not my Mum though, of course) were getting it terribly wrong, producing something that resembled wet, stringy tuna saturated with cheap BBQ sauce.
Not this though. Twisted’s pulled pork is tender without having to rely on a BBQ bath for moisture, and when they do sauce it up, they use a homemade blend infused with Kraken rum. As well as making a great burger, they were a welcome addition on the Pig Pimpin’ Fries (£5.5) which had a pretty generous portion of both on top, as well as a smoked cheese sauce.
I also went for Return of the Mac (£6.95) from the more esoteric end of the menu, with two bacon patties, Mac & Cheese and pesto crammed into the brioche.
I didn’t actually realise before it arrived that it came with bacon patties as standard rather than beef, but it worked really well – especially with the thoughtful addition of pesto so combat all of the richness going on. This burger alone is a testament to Twisted’s MO, doing things assuringly familiar, but with just enough of a difference to give you a pleasant surprise. The Mac & Cheese is also available on its own as a side, and I thoroughly recommend trying it.
There was a This Is Hardcore (£7.95) on the table – with its deep-fried pieces of N’duja sausage lending itself to the greatest pun on the whole menu – which I didn’t get a chance to try, but I did help myself to plenty of the Jalapeno Business Fries (£4.75) which were covered in Salsa, Guac and Sour Cream, and but impressively seasoned all the way through, so you have something to look forward to after finishing the top layer.
There’s an offer on until April 20th which gives you half price burgers if you ask your waiter nicely, so the bill – including four burgers, two gluttonous fries and a few drinks each – came to only £35. Without the offer, that’d probably mound up to just shy of £50 for the 3 of us, which is still decent value.
Technically, this isn’t the best burger available in Leeds at the minute – Twisted obviously isn’t targeting purists – but what is does do, it does better than anybody else. It’s easy to see why they’ve stood the test of time in their hometown, and I hope they repeat that success here as well. Just bring your own Worcester Sauce if you want something decent to soak your chips in.