French burgers out to conquer the planet
Big Fernand, a French burger chain that brings a gourmet touch to the classic sandwich, has just opened a location in London, less than a month after opening its first international location in Hong Kong.
Once regarded as a symbol of American bad taste, burgers have dramatically improved their reputation in France recently, rapidly gaining a strong following. In fact, according to a recent report from the food marketing group Gira Conseil, the burger is now just behind the "jambon beurre" (ham and butter) as the most popular sandwich in the country.
At the Gare Saint Lazare in Paris, where Burger King opened a location in 2013 after a long absence from the French market, burger fans regularly brave long lines for flame-broiled flavors. And French fast food fans are already gearing up for the opening of the country's first Five Guys restaurant. But the arrival of American burger chains hasn't prevented French food entrepreneurs from offering their own take on the classic sandwich.
Leading the pack is Big Fernand, a restaurant chain that has made a name for itself with its "homemade" burgers, positioned as an alternative to the "industrial" versions served elsewhere. And to bring a French touch to this distinctly American culinary concept, the creator insists on calling his version "un hamburgé" (pronounced "amburjay").
Made in France
At its nine locations in France, Big Fernand serves French beef in homemade buns produced on site. The different burgers offered emphasize French standards of "good taste" by incorporating high-quality cheeses and Big Fernand's own signature sauces. In keeping with the American fast-food tradition, however, the burgers are served with homemade fries and cold beverages.
Another reflection of American restaurant culture is the ability to customize one's "hamburgé." There is even a vegetarian option with grilled vegetables, and gluten-sensitive diners can bring their own bread or enjoy their patty without the bun.
In Paris, Lille, Lyon and Nantes, Big Fernand has already established a reputation as one of the best places to enjoy a burger "à la française." The growing success of the original chain has led to a spin-off, Little Fernand, which brings a French touch to another staple of the American fast food tradition: the hot dog. For now there is just one location of the wiener joint, located at 45 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière in the ninth arrondissement of Paris.
Abroad, Big Fernand serves his hamburgés at 19 Percy Street in London and in the IFC Mall on Harbour View Street in Hong Kong.