I’m writing this review an hour after getting home from our trip to Atomic Burger – Bristol’s newest burger joint – and I still have a massive grin on my face. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had as much fun going out for dinner as I did tonight so it goes without saying that I recommend you all book a table as soon as possible!
Before they quietly opened on July 23rd, there had been a hell of a lot of conversation about Atomic Burger on Twitter: from those who had seen the work in progress at the former home of Cafe Delight on Gloucester Road, from those who know the existing Oxford branch and were wishing the team good luck, and from others who had seen the menu and website and simply couldn’t wait for the place to open. We published details of the new venue back in mid-June and the write up has already been one of our most read posts since we launched the website.
Owner Martin Bunce described Atomic Burger to me in our original conversation as being “focused on nostalgia”, with all five senses being entertained. Sounds corny, maybe? Well, actually, he’s right.
Visually, the place is amazing. The walls and ceiling are adorned with all sorts of retro toys and games: Thunderbirds, Gordon the Gopher, Optimus Prime, Trolls…all sorts of things from our childhoods that – in some cases – we’d forgotten even existed. There’s even a screen on the back wall that, on the evening of our visit, was showing (apparently – I had no idea what it was!) the original Battlestar Galactica.
We also spent a lot of time trying to name as many characters as possible in their brilliant mural on the wall behind our table…
The music was fantastic as well, bringing back a lot of memories! Over the course of the evening, we were entertained by the likes of Kate Bush, Queen, songs from Dirty Dancing and some great classic rock.
Drinks orders were taken very quickly – rather than choosing from a great selection of alcoholic drinks (but sadly no cider…), Coke in glass bottles, root beer and more, we both decided to go for milkshakes: vanilla, in my case. We later found out that they are made with Angel Delight, which explains why they’re so beautifully thick and creamy! Having not looked at the menu and just going with the butterscotch option given by our waiter (which was delicious), I think my dining companion was kicking himself when the small child next to us ordered a shake with popping candy – jealousy is not the word…
We were persuaded to order starters (I’m glad I had an elasticated waistband…) and for me it was only ever going to be the Space Balls (£3.95) – described on the menu as “Crispy coated cheesy balls, filled with gooey goodness and served with a salsa dip”. Cheese is always a winner for me. Fried cheese is even better. These were right up my street, really crispy on the outside and indeed filled with gooey goodness – and while the retro presentation wouldn’t have appealed in other venues, it fitted perfectly with the theme here!
While Atomic offer non-burger options such as hot dogs and spare ribs, we weren’t interested. We were here for the burgers, and had both already spent hours perusing the menu to decide what to have. All of the burgers, unlike in many burger restaurants, can be served as beef, chicken or veggie – and gluten free buns are also available (perfect for the two GF friends I’ll be going back with next week!) They’re all interestingly-named too, depending on their toppings: options include the Jake & Elwood (blue cheese, bacon and onions), Smokey & The Bandit (Cajun rubbed burger, smokey BBQ sauce and cheddar) and the Johnny Cash (refried beans, hot sauce, American cheese & jalapeños).
Despite, as I say, having already made my choice in advance…I was then swayed by owner Martin recommending the Mel Brooks (£9.25), which is apparently his favourite. I chose a beef burger rather than chicken or veggie, which was topped with salt beef, thousand island dressing, Swiss cheese and gherkins (plus salad), and a side (each burger comes with one free side order) of “sci fries” – amazing skin-on chips double fried with a chilli and garlic rub.
No complaints whatsoever here. The bun was soft and tasty and didn’t disintegrate as some are prone to do. The burger itself was cooked medium (you can request your burger well done if you want) – still perfectly juicy and slightly pink on the inside. The toppings were certainly generous, and the salt beef was delicious.
We probably didn’t need dessert – we were pretty full already – but how could we resist the temptation of the Roasty Toasty Marshmallows (£3.95), which you roast at an “Atomic Campfire” at your table?!
The “campfire” turned out to be a lit tin of fuel similar to those you use in a chafing dish, accompanied by a bowl of marshmallows (in a Pac Man bowl!!) and fondue forks. As owner Martin says, the smell of toasted marshmallows is an amazing one – and much of the rest of the restaurant seemed to agree…it was certainly a talking point for the table next to us! We may have set fire to a few marshmallows (oops…) but it was a brilliant way to end the meal – despite the large mark up in terms of price!
The fun even continued when we were presented with the bill, which came in a cup containing a Vimto lolly for each of us – no boring mints here! We also had the excitement of being given stickers for our sticker book – a great loyalty scheme from Atomic Burger! Every time you enjoy a dish at the restaurant, you get the corresponding sticker to stick in the relevant place in your sticker book. When you’ve completed a whole menu section, you get a free dish from that section. If you manage to complete the whole of the sticker book before next year’s comes out, you get an exclusive Atomic discount. And, in the spirit of the old Panini football stickers you may have collected in the past, swapsies are actively encouraged
I honestly can’t think of a single bad thing to say about our evening. The atmosphere and decor – and the little touches like our Vimto lollies – make Atomic really stand out from anything else in Bristol. The service was amazing, with every member of staff incredibly friendly and fun, but not so much so that they made us feel interrupted. And the food? Well, as I said right at the start, I left with a massive grin on my face. The food and drink in Atomic seems to get people talking too: we ended up chatting to the people at the table next to us as a result of both the popping candy milkshakes and the toasted marshmallows.
Gloucester Road’s latest addition is a good ‘un, and fits in perfectly with the spirit of the road. It’s fun, friendly, independent and serves great food. Definitely, definitely recommended.
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
Find Atomic Burger on the Bristol Bites Directory…