In Newcastle, we’re pretty blessed when it comes to the good old burger. With the likes of Five Guys and Byron opening on our high streets, it’s fair to say there’s plenty of choice. But, if you ask us (and many others, no doubt!) there’s only one that rules them all: Fat Hippo Underground.
I’ve been a fan of The Fat Hippo restaurants since day one, to be honest, from my first visit to the Jesmond restaurant god knows how long ago (maybe about 5 years?) to frequent visits to the more conveniently placed Fat Hippo Underground, on Shakespeare Street, Newcastle city centre.
I’m also a lover of their street food, and you can catch them at spots like Jesmond Food Market, The Toffee Factory, Rainton Bridge and Hoults Yard, serving up delicious burgers en masse.
But, this one’s about Fat Hippo Underground, so let’s get stuck in, shall we?
I’ve visited around 15 times perhaps, with every time being just as good as the last, if not better. On this particular visit, we decided a Friday night burger fix was in order, and since I’m all about promoting independent North East venues primarily, there was no way we were going for the likes of Byron et al – it had to be the Hippo. Their interiors vibe is all exposed brick, custom neon signs and reclaimed lighting etc. which gives it a very fitting “underground” feel.
It was a particularly busy Friday (we got there for 8pm) and we were seated in the main dining area (they’ve extended the venue to provide seating to the right of the entrance), which was pretty rammed full with happy diners. Service was quick, albeit a little bit lacking personality, but fine.
We opted for the Mac & Cheese Balls and the Freddie’s Fingers to start, and I also went for a large glass of a lovely, crisp Sauv Blanc at £6 for a large glass. My boyf had a pint of their Fat Hippo IPA (brewed at Allendale Brewery, Hexham) which was £4.20.
After about a 10 minute wait, our delicious starters arrived. The Mac & Cheese balls (£4), which I’ve had before on many occasion at street food events, are some of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Ever. Amazingly, they are even better served piping hot in the restaurant itself.
Deep fried balls of macaroni and cheese? Whoever came up with the idea needs a knighthood, frankly.
You get 4 decent sized balls, served with an Alabama white BBQ sauce, and if I can give you one piece of advice, it’s this: order more. I found myself grudgingly watching my boyfriend as he ate his two after I’d scoffed mine. Sorry babe.
Alongside these were another old fave of mine, the Freddie’s Fingers (£5). These little babies are Southern-fried Chicken strips, served on a bed of rocket and accompanied by the most obscenely delicious and addictive buffalo sauce I’ve ever eaten. It’s their own concoction, and I’m gonna need a copy of the recipe, because it’s so bloody good!
The chicken was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, and it’s a decent helping, with 4 strips that are quite on the large side. Served on a bed of peppery rocket, which is a welcome addition amongst all that hot sauce, it has and always will be one of my favourite starters at Fat Hippo Underground.
Both starters between two are decent to get you primed for your burger, although like I say, I personally would have some of those Mac & Cheese balls of joy to myself. I’m not even ashamed about it.
Next up was our burgers, and I’d decided to break my habit of going for their classic American and opted for the Stinky Pete (£10.50), for a change. This is basically two 4oz signature beef patties piled with stinky blue cheese, onion jam and jalepenos, all stacked up in a brioche bun. All of their patties are ground by them on-site at Fat Hippo Underground, and exclusively used only by them! They’re also entirely gluten free!
If you’re a cheese lover, you’ll love it, but if I’m honest, I missed the simple perfection of my favourite, the American (£8.50), with its zingy pickles, layers of cheese, American mustard and ketchup. It’s just so flipping good and such good value for money. I’m also told the PB&J is a winner, so perhaps that’ll be my next option when I’m feeling adventurous.
Nonetheless, it was still super tasty, with absolutely loads of blue cheese, a smattering of jalepenos to spice things up a little, and some tasty, rich onion jam to give a bit of sweetness to the whole arrangement. I went for the classic cut chips, but you can upgrade to sweet potato fries or dirty fries (smothered in Fat Hippo sauce and bacon!) for a bit of extra cash.
My boyfriend went for the signature Fat Hippo burger, which is a TOTAL monster. We’re talking double patty, streaky bacon, chorizo, onion rings, cheese on cheese on cheese, and their gorgeous Fat Hippo sauce. I’m gonna be needing that recipe, too. The patties were pink and well seasoned, and I’m told it was all “really, really good”, which was difficult to get out of him with a burger that size to tackle!
Look at it man, it’s huge!
At this point, I was fit to burst and there was sadly no way that desserts were on the cards for us (I personally prefer to keep the stomach space for the starters, especially when they’re that good!), but here are some of the things that had us contemplating it: a triple chocolate brownie, belgian waffles and their pecan pie and vanilla ice cream, all priced around the £5 mark. Not bad, considering the size of portions we’d seen on neighbouring tables.
After another pint and another glass of wine throughout the meal, we decided it was time to hit the road and see if we could walk off the burger sweats a little bit (to confirm, you can’t – you just need to lie down and accept your gluttony!).
It took a bit of a while to track somebody down to get our bill, it was that busy, but given it was a Friday night, the staff handled the floor well and every table was well catered for. There was also a massive group in there when we arrived, and there was no problem getting food out at the same time for all of those people, which isn’t easy.
That said, I always find service is a little on the frosty side at Fat Hippo Underground. Maybe it’s because they’re so busy, or maybe they’re just not the cheeriest of people, who knows? That said, it’s a burger joint and the turnaround is quite quick, so if you’re getting food as great as their burgers etc., then you can’t ask for much more. It’s not the kinda place that the staff will have banter with you, put it that way, but they do a good job at everything else.
Some other words of advice: if you’re planning on visiting Fat Hippo Underground on an evening, you need to book. You can chance it with a walk-in, but as it’s just around the corner from The Theatre Royal and Newcastle’s main shopping destination, it does get busy. It’s better than Byron and Five Guys and any other burger I’ve had in Newcastle, and it’s definitely worth a visit. Just think ahead and you’ll be fine.
If you don’t fancy a city centre burger haul, then head to the original restaurant on St George’s Terrace in good old Jesmond, or their newest spot, Fat Hippo Durham. I’ve gotta say, it’s great that the Fat Hippo restaurants have been so well-received, because as a completely independent venture, they totally deserve the success. They’re grafters, they’re unique and they actually give a shit about what goes into their burgers.
And it shows. They’re just as good as MeatLiquor in London, where people queue literally around the block for burgers and the like, so to have three of these restaurants in our region (with no doubt more to come!) is a real blessing. If I could make one suggestion, it would be that they add buffalo wings with blue cheese dip to their menu, because if they did, I might as well just move in.
So get there, get your fingers messy and dive in to a Fat Hippo Underground burger. They can cater for gluten free customers, vegetarians have plenty of choice and the value for money is quite astounding. They also do takeaway, but please note it’s collection only and you can only order off their lunch menu, which can be disappointing when you’re a bit hungover and really need some Mac & Cheese balls. Maybe that’s just me…
Fat Hippo Underground – please, never change!
Fat Hippo Underground, 2-6 Shakespeare Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6AQ. You can view menus and book online over on their website, plus you should check out their social media feeds for competitions and the like!