ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
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Monday, September 30, 2013

Cheeseburger pizza crust - greater than the sum of shit parts?

Sometimes you can whack two indifferent things together and produce something that's pretty good - better, indeed, than its constituent parts.

And sometimes when you fuse desirable components, from the collision emerges a whole that is truly fucking awesome - as happened at the Titanic brewery on the day they decided to combine dark stout, chocolate and vanilla to create the amazing 'Velvet Curtain', one of the silkiest, smoothest, lusciousest dark beers of all time.

But a lot of the time, when the inspiration is less than divine, putting one and one together simply results in a mangled hybrid, like when you go to the toilet and do both at the same time, or, as I call it, a number three.

And so I expected it to be with Pizza Hut's latest base-fad: the cheeseburger crust.

That's right. Cheeseburgers in a pizza crust. According to the promotional wank it's 'a fun sharing pizza with 10 succulent 100% British Beef burgers baked in the crust, smothered with melted mozzarella. Hurry! Limited time.'

Hmm. Sounds really fun. And succulent. And Limited time...

You know I love great burgers and I love great pizzas, but this is an experiment that was never going to end well. Still, the proof of the pizza is in the eating, so I felt I ought to give it a go...


Why, oh why?


Now, I'm no great fan of the ubiquitous Hut or any of their competitors, and it can't be denied that they have a bit of previous in this department.

Nasty pizza; Nasty burgers
Over the past couple of decades they've introduced such revolutionary pizza base variants as the 'Stuffed Crust', 'Cheesy Bites' and the 'Edge' (the selling point of which was, ironically, that it didn't really have one).

Not to be outdone, Domino's gave us the 'Double Decadence' which was, if I remember correctly, a base of two layers glued together with a sickly cheese sauce, followed by the 'Dominator' which seemed to be almost exactly the same thing. More recently they've been putting bits of hot dog in their crust, which is, presumably what provoked the cheeseburgery response from the Hut.

It's Crust Wars II, I tells ya.

But all of this only serves to disguise the simple truth that none of these pizza chains have a cunt's clue about how to make a genuine Italian-style base and bake it properly in a stone pizza oven. Yes, Pizza Hut have one called 'The Italian' but that means fuck all. Less gimmicky? Yes, but that's not hard, really. Authentic? Of course not!

They're trying to out-crust one another and I don't think it will be long before we see a crust that's a full-blown meat cannelloni that goes the whole way round. Or possibly a 'reverse' pizza with the toppings around the rim and a huge swathe of pure crust in the middle?

Twats would buy it.

So, what's it like then, this cheeseburger crust?


Well, the first thing I noticed is that the area set aside to house the ring of cheeseburgers severely eats into the available space for toppings, so although you're ordering a large pizza, you actually get a medium one with a lot of untopped crust around the outside.

The burgers are overprocessed and overcooked, as one would expect and with a fair quantity of spice to hide the poor quality of the beef (or indeed any other meat products that might have found their way in). The taste is more like a meatball or a kebab than a burger.

Each one has a small dollop of cheese on the top, as if a pizza wasn't a cheesy enough meal in the first place.


The crust itself, like most pizza bases from these places, is chewy and tasteless, and the mini burgers have a tendency to fall out anyway.

If you were served a full-size one of these bastards at a burger joint, you wouldn't go back even if your Great Aunt Gladys was paying. And planning to discuss your vast inheritance over the meal.

Does it do anything to improve a pizza that's already nothing to write home about? No, if anything it makes it slightly worse.

Why do so many people fall for the persistent gimmickry? Why are places like Pizza Hut and their ilk still so popular?

The really frustrating thing is that it doesn't cost much more than a Pizza Hut takeway to go out to a lovely Italian-run pizzeria and eat something that actually tastes like a real pizza.

And there wouldn't be any manky, miniature burgers anywhere near the crust.

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