For despite it being in an enviable location – there are few cooler joints in the county that the subterranean burger bar in Shrewsbury town centre – it didn’t cut the mustard. Every self-respecting burger bar needs to serve a, um, burger that is filth in a bun. And back in the day, Lyons’ Den didn’t.
That’s all the more reason to praise the work that’s gone in since its inauspicious launch. For right now, Lyons’ Den is the best burger bar in Shropshire. And the owners and staff deserve all credit for taking criticism on the chin and answering in the best way possible – by putting a smile on their customers’ faces with excellent food and first rate service.
The food has gone up a notch, that’s not in question. But the service has also improved considerably since those early days. Staff are increasingly confident, more professional and have greater experience as they work to boost levels of customer satisfaction.
The menu remains stacked with crowd-pleasing dishes that will bring joy to carnivores and non-beef eaters alike. It’s a little bit like a greatest hits set, you know the sort of thing, a Coldplay concert that opens with The Scientist, Fix You, Yellow, In My Place and Paradise. With Viva La Vida for dessert. Or something.
So, there are half a dozen Shrewsbury favourites including the deliciously named Filthy Burger, The Big Texan, Smokin’ South and Baconater. My arteries are quivering at the prospect.
And for those determined to advance cases of late onset diabetes there are also giant burgers, including a triple Texan that features three patties – because us dumb First World burger fans don’t realise when we quite literally bite off more than we can chew.
But first, let’s go back to the start.
Adam and Kelly Lyons are the founders of Lyons’ Den. Adam really oughtn’t to be a burger joint owner. He’s far too slim and handsome – he has the profile picture of a man who spends time lifting weights rather than flipping burgers.
To steal liberally from their website, their love affair with food began as children. Adam went on to actually qualify as a chef in 1998 and worked in the restaurant at Hertfordshire’s Champneys Spa Hotel. Then, on a driving holiday across America with Kelly, he got to taste some of the best burgers in the world. Fresh, homemade, quality ingredients and brilliant sides – he knew where his future lay.
His favourite burger was the off-the-menu ‘Animal Style’ burger, which he ate in Las Vegas’s In-N-Out Burger, a family-owned chain. It was pretty simple and a little bit messy – just like a great burger should be.
Dreams can be a nightmare, of course, especially when you’re earning a wage as a police officer, rather than a chef. So, for 12 years, Adam stuck it out as the long arm of the law before deciding in 2014 to follow his dream and open up Shrewsbury’s first dedicated gourmet burger restaurant. He and Kelly have put their hearts and souls into creating a relaxed, yet truly memorable dining experience, by providing honest food that tastes amazing and uses the best produce that our lovely county offers.
Happily for them, the hard work is paying off. Rome wasn’t built in a day – nor was Adam’s favourite Animal Style burger – and after a few hiccups along the way, they’re finally getting it right. They’ve created a popular restaurant, a stable business and a source of immense self-fulfilment and pride.
And at the heart of that success is the simplest of things: great burgers. Using meat that’s of good provenance and chefs who know not to griddle the patties until they’re dryer than a House of Parliament speech, Lyons’ Den is hitting Peak Burger.
When I dined for an impromptu and unbooked solo dinner, the burgers were the star of the show. I started with a plate of chicken strips; thoroughly unhealthy, deep fried tender pieces of chicken that were coated in a deliciously piquant bbq sauce. They were served on a pointless bed of salad leaves – the leaves weren’t great, but I guess the chicken needed to sit on something. So far so tasty. I’ll go on a diet next week.
Next came The Lyons’ Burger, an all-singing, all-dancing, churning, burning hunk of funk. A 6oz burger was smothered in cheddar cheese – thank God for cheddar, why people use those plastic slices of American shizzle is beyond comprehension. Cured streaky bacon had been cooked until crisp, crispy onions were almost a meal in themselves – more of those, please.
Sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and burger sauce made the construction so large that I imagine a crane had been used to stack it all up. And – seven minutes, three hand wipes and a really messy face later – it was heaven in a bun. The bun was good too, incidentally. As was the service provided by a smiling, eager-to-please waitress.
The idea of dessert was clearly ridiculous – so that’s precisely what I did. Sticky, calorific, pointless and guaranteed to put a smile on my face, a creamy cheesecake smothered in ice cream was thoroughly pleasing.
Shrewsbury has more than its fair share of burger bars – and most of them aren’t worth the salt in the shaker. Lyons’ Den, however, has worked hard to improve and deserves recommendation. With good managers behind the operation, decent ingredients in the kitchen and a team of chefs and waitresses who have more than adequate skills, it’s starting to come of age. It’s heartening to see and shows where hard work can get you. Time for the Lyons to roar.
Lyons' Den, Water Lane, Shrewsbury SY1 2BX Tel: 01743 233225 lyonsdengourmetburger.co.uk