Severn Social, Shrewsbury - food review
There are some awful burger bars in Shrewsbury. Severn Social isn’t one of them.
In a town whose beef patties ranging from the mediocre to the downright atrocious, Severn Social stands out like a beacon. It has exceptional buns – stop laughing at the back – great burgers and killer sides. Staff go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction and the venue itself is all contemporary American stylings, pool tables and mood lights. In short, there’s not much more it can do. It smashes the opposition like a steam roller on tarmac. I’m not sure why anyone would choose to eat a burger elsewhere.
But let’s rewind and trace the genesis of Severn Social. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we’ll begin.
Once upon a time, there was a restaurateur called Doug Blackmore who opened a not-at-all-bad restaurant with rooms called The Silverton. It ran at Frankwell for a couple of years until Doug moved on and the restaurant went downhill. His initial work, however, was germane. For the boutique chairs that he’d commissioned carpenters to make stayed in place, as did a capacious bar that offered cheeky cocktails as well as the usual range of beers and spirits.
The Silverton eventually closed and was replaced by a diner called Biggies. And though that was OK, the stars hadn’t quite aligned. There was something not quite right, not quite perfect and after a little while the joint was rebranded. And so began the life of Severn Social.
A bar that caters perfectly for the town’s hipsters and millennials, it is located just around the corner from the River Severn in a small corner of town that’s ever-interesting. It’s home to Shrewsbury’s exceptional Theatres – Theatre Severn and the Walker Theatre – as well as a decent range of curry houses, a Turkish restaurant run by a charming family, curry houses, a Mediterranean tapas venue and a number of decent bars. In short Frankwell gives town dwellers a reason to cross the Welsh Bridge to enjoy decent food and drink.
Severn Social is the best of the lot. It offers parking – hurrah, so few restaurants in Shrewsbury do – for those who need to drive and the staff are well-trained and offer enthusiastic and engaging service. Service is such an important element of the dining experience and is an industry that tends to be dominated by the young. With the right training, there’s no reason why the youthful shouldn’t offer high levels of skill and engagement. And that’s precisely what happens at Severn Social.
My friend and I met for a midweek burger and were delighted with the warm welcome and hospitable hosting from two young, energetic and charming waiters. Good men.
The menu has been stripped right back and Severn Social focuses on doing one thing – actually, two – really well. There are burgers. There are wings. And then there are sides. And that’s it. Don’t go there looking for dogs, griddled corn, Tex-Mex platters, pulled muntjac shoulder or whatever else is in fashion this week. It’s burgers. It’s wings. And nowt else.
There’s a lot to be said for restaurants that keep things simple and seek perfection in what they do. Rather than the nightmare of trying to keep all the people happy all the time by offering a 1-117 menu that’s mired in mediocrity and represents a logistical nightmare, they focus on a single thing. Like PhD students who narrow the focus of their research into the minutiae of their chosen topic, such restaurants can refine and refine and refine until they get it right.
In the case of Severn Social, that means from the brilliant but prohibitively expensive, why-charge-Chelsea-prices-when-you’re-based-in-Shrewsbury bakery that is The Bakehouse 2.0. The Bakehouse is truly exceptional and a daily fresh consignment are light and buttery. The burgers are made by the region’s best butcher, Aubrey Allen, who is based in Leamington Spa and usually deals with Michelin star restaurants rather than burger joints. The patties comprise 80 per cent meat to 20 per cent fat, meaning they’re packed with flavour and deliciously moist.
Cheeses melt like an ice cream on a hot day – Severn Social uses gouda – while pickles are acidulated to just the right degree, lettuce is crisp, tomatoes are of the heritage beef variety and sauces are of a good standard.
There are the usual whistles and bells – cheese fest fries featured gouda and Monterrey jack, frickles featured battered pickled gherkins with sea salt and onion rings are served by the inch, rather than circle.
My friend and I convened for a Tuesday evening catch-up and the venue was half full, representing decent trade for a start-to-the-week. There were tables of girls making rude jokes about wine bottles, lads catching up for a beer and a burger and couples who were too lazy to cook and wanted to hang out somewhere cool.
We had a pointless pot of popcorn to begin before the clock struck Burger Time. He ate a Blue Moon, a 31-day dry aged beef patty with Shropshire blue mayo, beer-caramelised onions, smoked streaky bacon and his Bakehouse 2.0 poppy and hemp seed brioche bun. It was storming. I viewed it enviously, wondering whether I might kick his shins or create some other diversion so that he’d have to leave the table and the Blue Moon would be all mine. The bacon was a wonder of salty, sweet, smokey flavour; the cheese mayo wonderfully rich and the patty truly magnificent. It had been cooked rare, so that inside was obscenely pink. In terms of quality, it was as though we’d asked Sergio Aguero to play as a ringer in our works five-a-side, or Usain Bolt to feature in the school sports day.
My classic burger was equally wonderful. The same pink, moist, flavoursome – God, I still want to eat it now – burger with gouda, tomato, lettuce and more. Yes. Yes. Yeessssssss.
We shared a tray of cheese fest fries – and even then failed to polish them off between the two of us. The fries were hand cut and double cooked then loaded with melted cheese. When food tastes that good, the calories don’t matter. Bring it on, Elvis Boy, and fetch another plate.
Few restaurants really nail a concept with precision and skill. Chris Burt did at Momo No Ki, introducing Japanese ramen to Shrewsbury. Clive Davies did at the Green Café, in Ludlow. And CSons have done so with their informal eating bistro in Shrewsbury. Severn Social has got it spot on. In a town loaded with dodgy burger bars offering various shades of unappetising, Severn Social is a cut above.
Great food, great service, decent drinks and a nice environment put it head and shoulders above the rest.