In a crowd of average burger joints, GBK stands head and shoulders above the rest, says Kate Ginn
The last time I went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, it was a rather sad experience all round. I was eating solo (not my favourite option), the restaurant was empty and the food was unmemorable and gave me a stomach ache.
Fast-forward 12 months and oh my, how things have changed. Founded by three New Zealanders in the UK, the chain has gone all trendy, relaunching and revitalising, with a new menu, new look and new feel. It hasn’t changed the name, but prefers the cooler-sounding acronym, GBK, over the full version.
GBK first opened in Oman back in the summer of 2009 and was ready for an overhaul.
I hadn’t ventured down that side of City Centre Muscat (near the escalator opposite Splash) since the revamp in October and was pleasantly surprised when my friend and I arrived.
The whole restaurant has been opened up to become an organic part of the mall, allowing you to drift in as an extension to your shopping. The dull interior is history. Instead, there is cream-coloured exposed brickwork, expensive-looking dark wood booths, fashionable metal chairs and tables, and an open kitchen (very in vogue in Muscat these days).
The sweeping changes continue with the menu. It looks stylish and glossy, fitting in with the new image, and has considerably more choice than I remembered.
Our very friendly waiter took our drinks order first, with both of us going for the lemon mint. It was clearly freshly made, sweet, but with a delicious tart aftertaste on the tongue.
The extensive menu has pages of tempting burgers, from the classic cheeseburger to rather more elaborate ones, along with other main meals, such as country-style chicken, for those who don’t fancy a burger. Though, quite frankly, I can’t see the point of going to a place called Gourmet Burger Kitchen, if you aren’t going to try the burgers.
There are also main meal salads for non-carnivores or anyone who would prefer something light.
My friend and I were in it for the burgers, though, and went for the Camemburger and Smokin’ Joe (both RO3.60 each), along with skinny fries, chilli fries and a shared side of blue cheese slaw (coleslaw).
One quibble was that the wonderful sweet potato fries were not available and nor was my second choice of fries with their skins on, which was slightly irritating but soon forgotten.
Others have evidently already caught on to the fact that GBK has changed because there was a steady flow of customers coming and going while we were there, from couples to a giggling group of Omani girls.
The wait staff were excellent, attentive without being annoying, and constantly on the move, looking for something to do or someone to help, creating a nice busy air.
Not everyone will be a fan of the open-house eating style, dining as shoppers wander past, but it works for me and means that even if the restaurant is quiet, it feels lively and happening, thanks to the noises of the mall.
As everything is cooked to order, our burgers didn’t hurry to the table and our appetite’s were getting nicely worked up in anticipation.
When the burgers arrived, we cut them in half so we could try each other’s. To be honest, I hated sharing my Camemburger, it was so good that I wanted a whole one all to myself. Gorgeously gooey Camembert cheese melted over the perfectly cooked burger, which was topped with a hash brown, truffle mayonnaise and onion jam on a toasted sesame bun. Even writing this is bringing back vivid drool-inducing memories.
Our second choice, a Smokin’ Joe, had a hard act to follow but did well, the smoked cheddar cheese and habanero jam (a variety of chilli pepper) combining in a mouthful of magnificent flavours.
If we could’ve had a third choice, it would’ve been The Don, with American and Gorgonzola cheese and smoked beef.
The fries were perfect, crunchy on the outside and soft inside, and the blue cheese slaw a perfect side dish.
We were almost too stuffed for dessert, but settled on the strawberry cheesecake regardless. That too was unavailable, which was another slight let down. Still, the manager did come up as we were paying the bill to apologise and said to return in a week when the full menu would be back.
I fully intend to return; only this time I’m having a Camemburger all to myself. No sharing!
Amazingly good burgers and sweet service
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Ground Floor, City Centre Muscat
Opening times: Sat-Wed: 11am-11pm, Thurs-Fri: 11am-12am
Tel: +968 2455 8065
Dinner and drinks for two: RO17