Two lines on a test on Saturday morning showed that my severe cold was actually Covid. The government website states that there are currently no Covid restrictions in place, although “you should try to stay at home”, so I started looking for takeaway options.
In lockdown in 2020, ordering good food felt like taking drugs. You were given a specific time to call and place your order. You will then receive detailed instructions for your pickup.
At the appointed hour you drove through deserted streets and parked outside the back door of a pub where other shady people were hanging around, waiting for a man who was ready to make a move at a moment’s notice.
Suddenly the back door of the car opened, an invisible person threw a package into the back seat and – once without an audible word, as if he was holding his breath – slammed the door shut. We set off.
By 2023, there will be an explosion in delivery people who will relieve you of the drudgery of picking up your own food – some of whom may even eat it on your behalf.
However, the ordering websites are middlemen who take a large share of the restaurants’ profits. That’s why many are developing their own ways to get their online take-out orders.
Salt, on Grange Road in Darlington, has a separate Tapp Takeaway website where you can select a time for collection and sends messages directly to the kitchen for confirmation.
Salt is known to be a trendy street food spot. The website is bright pink and yellow and the logo is written in an overlapping font reminiscent of 1970s goodies – it’s so hip and hip that it can afford to be a little retro.
There are gourmet burgers. No, burgers are a thing of the past. They’re smashed patties: balls of meatloaf thrown onto the stovetop to increase surface area and trigger a “Maillard reaction,” named after a French chemist who discovered in 1912 how amino acids and sugars become delicious when heated or browned react. together – as every hipster burger flipper knows.
Each burger is given a name that an old jealous person like me can’t possibly understand – why a “My Dad’s Bald” burger? – and it’s adorned with all sorts of caloric additives from all over the world. American, Lebanese, Korean, Argentinian and Japanese words – katsu, panko, birria, rendang – collide on the menu and make for exciting and imaginative reading.
I sent Petra, my wife, who had passed the test, into the busy restaurant – which is so poorly lit it’s hard to see – to collect the money while I put my feet up before Strictly.
Salt is located next to a bathroom shop on Grange Road
Salt missed our pickup time by about seven minutes, but had wrapped each burger in aluminum foil and attached a small sticker indicating what it was.
Theo, our son, had opted for a ‘The First Time’ burger: two smashed patties with cheddar cheese, pickles, mayonnaise, onions, ketchup, tomatoes and lettuce and a slice of smoky streaky bacon (£14.50).
Petra, who wouldn’t normally think of eating a burger, chose what we thought was the only vegetarian dish on the menu: “The GOAT”. It was described as a “large, thick owl slice of baked goat cheese, crispy sweet potato shoestring fries and caramelized onion chutney” (£14.50).
And I went for Mike Bage is a Grass, which had chimichurri aioli, barbacoa beef and cheddar on my smashed patties (£15.50).
While writing this article, I discovered a lot about Louis Camille Maillard (above), the French physiologist whose “Maillard coefficient” is as useful for diagnosing kidney disease as his reaction to browning burgers, but I couldn’t say for sure who Mr. Bage is or whether he’s a little loose-lipped. Let’s hope this burger isn’t offensive in any way.
But my Mike Bage (above) was outstanding: so smooth it took no effort to eat it.
Chimichurri is a South American sauce made with herbs, garlic and maybe a little chili. It was as if a delicious dollop of herb butter had been added to the burger, pairing well with the melted cheese but still somehow leaving enough room for the flavor of the pulled beef to clearly shine through. The stability of the bread roll was affected, but everything tasted great.
Theo demolished his “The First Time”. (above) agreeing, every single piece of it, even the tomato and cucumber he usually picks up at McDonalds.
And Petra really enjoyed her GOAT (above). It was a good, thick slice of goat cheese that went well with the sweetness of the onion chutney. The “Crispy Sweet Potato Shoe Strip Fries,” shoelace-sized pieces, were crunchy and really interesting – a sprinkle over my super-smooth burger would have given it an extra dimension, too.
Each burger came with a box of fries with various toppings. Theo had the cheese and chive crumbles and I chose Gran Padano shavings, an Italian cheese, with toasted rosemary.
For a few quid more you can upgrade to fully loaded chips, so I figured these toppings would only be superficial, but my bits of cheese and rosemary covered the whole box and tasted really good with a few rocks of salt.
A small pot full of trendy fortified ketchup would have completed the excellent takeaway meal.
There aren’t many compensations for contracting Covid, but discovering a decent, carefully prepared gourmet burger is definitely compensation.
20, Grange Road, Darlington, DL1 5NG
Takeaway orders: salt-darlington.tapptakeaway.co.uk/
Food quality: 8
Value for money: 8