Restaurant reviews

Almost Famous: Almost brilliant… but not quite

If you are keen on a burger, indulgence, and live in Leeds, the chances are that you have either visited or at the very least heard of Almost Famous. Whilst it started out in life on the wrong side of the Pennines, this Lancashire institution has worked its way into the Leeds food scene, helping to set the agenda for burgers in Leeds.

We had read a lot about Almost Famous before we visited, not least about their controversial (read: idiotic) choice of decor in the women’s toilets when they opened – if you’re intrigued, just Google it. We did, however, want to let the food do the talking when we headed down earlier this month.

First of all, from the outside, Almost Famous doesn’t look like much. It’s once you get inside that the decor and surroundings start to come to life, with loud music playing in the background, an intimate booth-style interior, and the feel of a little bit of Americana to welcome you into this temple to burgers.

Priced at anywhere between £8 and £11, the burgers here aren’t exactly cheap, which of course means you expect more. Add to that the fact that they don’t come with fries (starting at £2 and going up to £5.50) and you know that this isn’t going to be your cheapest night out for a burger and chips.

We decided to go in hard from the start, with Charlotte deciding to go for the ‘Achocalypse Wow’ milkshake. This was basically her way of saying that she felt like having dessert for a starter(!). I opted for a famous cherryade mocktail. The mocktail was nice, reasonably priced, but not really that much more special than a regular (if such a thing exists nowadays) cherryade. The milkshake, on the other hand, was really indulgent. It’s always a good sign when you need to eat a milkshake with a fork!

Burger-wise we opted for two very different paths. Charlotte chose the chicken-themed buffalo beach club and I chose the Johnny Drama, served in a pretzel bun. We were advised by our waiter that one fries order between the two of us would suffice, so we were left with a tough decision, eventually picking Phoenix fries. For our little girl, we decided to get her one of the kids’ options (none of which were healthy, which may or may not surprise you!). We decided that the least horrific option was to go for the kids’ chicken burger (which came with sweet potato fries mixed in with normal fries).

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Fairly quickly, everything turned up and it truly was a sight to behold! The burgers were stacked taller than we could have imagined, the fries were even more obscene than we thought they could be, and frankly we were left a little bit in awe of the creations that had been put in front of us! Sadly, though, the actual eating didn’t live up to the appearance.

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While the fries were truly, truly sublime (is it wrong to want to go somewhere just to get milkshake and fries!?), the burgers didn’t hit the spot for either of us. My Johnny Drama was described as having flat iron steak, double juicy burgers and then a whole heap of other equally delicious-sounding ingredients. One of these happened to be peppercorn sauce. Sadly, while I love peppercorn sauce, I didn’t order a peppercorn sauce burger, which is what mine became, drowning out all the other flavours. I am certain that the rest would have come together nicely had there been a bit more restraint with the peppercorn sauce but of all the qualities Almost Famous possess, restraint is not one of them! It is also worth pointing out that the pretzel bun seemed a bit more of a novelty than a winner here.

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Charlotte found that the beef in her burger also got a little bit lost and the chicken was a touch on the dry side. It seemed to be very much a case of a feast for the eyes, but not so much for the taste buds. Rather than piling on a million ingredients that combine to overwhelm any actual flavour from what matters, Almost Famous would do well to get the basics right, and that first of all means getting the beef patty top notch. Sadly, this just wasn’t the case.

Our little girl’s meal wasn’t really ideal for tiny ones of her age but would have been a bit more of a hit with older kids, although again the chicken was a touch dry.

As mentioned earlier, the real winner here were the fries. Spicy, addictive, sweet (the JD maple really worked), we also loved the mix of skin on fries and sweet potato fries. These fries have stuck long in our minds since our evening at Almost Famous.

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We didn’t get the chance to try out a pudding because we were simply beaten by the amount of food (and milkshake!) we had eaten but we are curious to hear what people have made of the desserts here.

Perhaps it was high expectations, bad ordering, or a mixture of both, but Almost Famous didn’t quite work out for us, meaning we left full but unsatisfied. We may be back, though, even if just to try some more of those amazing fries!

Where it is: 23-25 Great George St, Leeds LS1 3AL

Reservations: 0113 397 1337

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