Baluga Kitchen, Preston

On St Georges Day after an afternoon visiting Lancaster Castle we struggled to find somewhere to eat with a friend and her young daughter. Most places were fully booked so we decided to return back to base in Preston.

Our original plan was to return to Burgers n Bibs, there was a hot dog with my name on it, however a birthday party had taken precedence and they were unable to accommodate us.

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I then remembered that Baluga had recently launched a menu which should do the trick. With a focus on street food (that didn’t really sing street food to me), we chose to eat from the burger side of the menu.

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We started with cocktails, a caipirinha for myself which was sharp and refreshing, an excellent example of a cocktail. In a trendy copper cup Sara had an Amaretto Sour. I’m no fan of almonds but I had a taste. It was definitely sour but wasn’t too bad at all, just not my kinda thing.

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As for the food, they arrived in a wooden tray, pet hate #1 and the frankly delicious sweet potato fries arrived in a little metal bucket, pet hate #2.

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The burgers all looked similar on arrival so I’ve only photographed mine. Our friend Bex had the Notorious P.I.G. She said that all the flavours merged into one, and that the overriding flavour was that of the burger. More on the burgers later.

Sara went for the classic Baluga burger, which seemed like their spin on a Big Mac with all the classic burger toppings. Unfortunately the advertised burger sauce was not present and the promised pickles turned out only in their singular form, atop the old school undressed side salad of iceberg lettuce, a slice of cucumber and tomato

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I had the “Sloppy Joe” burger which firstly was nothing like what I expected. I expected a ground meat topping on top of the burger, like a classic Sloppy Joe filling.

What arrived was a burger with what seemed like sliced roast beef (the stuff you get from the deli counter of Morrisons, or the slightly higher end sliced roast beef in the packaging) with a slight amount of creamy pepper sauce.

This disappointment was doubled with the taste and texture of the burger. I spoke with management who assured me that the burgers are made locally by a butcher to a specific recipe and size, and whilst I have absolutely no reason to doubt that, what the burger reminded both myself and Bex of, was supermarket economy quarter pounders.

The taste was primarily of grease, and the texture was pasty, the sort of texture I would expect from mechanically reclaimed meat.

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Onto puddings, we all ordered Oreo Sundaes. We were shortly presented with a bowl with a single scoop of economy vanilla ice cream, with what equates to one crumbled up Oreo and a squirt of spray cream and some toffee sauce. Whilst those ingredients can never be unpleasant, it still wasn’t great. The economy, bright yellow vanilla ice cream had ice crystals, a classic indication of having been allowed to thaw slightly and refreeze.

When the bill was presented I did raise my concerns regarding the burger and they assured me they would take our comments on board. The manager also came over to our table and told me about the providence of their burgers and assured me they would sort this out on the bill. This however wasn’t done, which does add a sour note to a situation that was on it’s way to being remedied.

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I would like to finish the blog on a high note, however. The margarita we finished on was sublime. The cocktails here are not rushed, and made properly and it shows. Please Baluga, funnel some of that attention to detail into your food. You’ve only been open for food for a short while so I’m happy to give you the benefit of doubt. A focus on actual street food would be a great start. Very few of the dishes available are what I would consider to be actual street food. Tacos, burritos, dosa, pani puri, fritti, beignets, wraps, basically hand held food that can be eaten whilst walking down the street. That’s what I would like to see more of.

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I would like to add that I wasn’t looking for a freebie or a discount, and that I was happy to pay the full price (pictured is only half the bill), usually my poker face is better but today the disappointment was hard to mask, so the very charming and professional front of house team knew something wasn’t right. 

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