Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Potless Budget Restaurant Review #7: Quick Hamburgers, Various Locations, France

Being Potless isn't all about cooking at home - it's about having a fabulous value-for-money eating experience, wherever you are.

So, I present to you my series entitled: 'The Potless Budget Restaurant Reviews'!

Having trawled the globe looking for the best of the cheapest eating out establishments, I can now share my findings. 

'Cheap' is, of course, subjective. But what makes a restaurant qualify for this list is a sense of extremely good value. A greasy spoon cafe might be cheap (and delicious too, come to that) but it won't make it onto the list, unless the eating experience it provides is of the very highest quality in proportion to the price it charges.

So, we made it to Aix-en-Provence, after a stop-off at the Relais Routiers south of Lyon and just before that, a wonderful night in the beautiful Alpine town of Annecy. Aix is a university town in the Provence region at the bottom of the Massif Central region of France and a bit north of the Cote d'Azur and our ultimate destination, Nice. It is architecturally beautiful. It is generally warm and temperate. It is famous for its many creative residents - writers, painters, sculptors, chefs - past and present. Oh, and did I say? Aix is AMAZING!!!

The old town is a maze of winding streets and cobbled squares all shrouded by the most wonderful interlinking tree-lined avenues of ancient plane/sycamore trees (pictured below). The whole place is a vibrant mix of students, elegant young professionals and weirdos. Mrs Ribeye and I got roaringly drunk at a fabulous  terrace bar in the main square while the (highly unconvincing, I must say) transvestite bar owner, carrying a jailer's bunch of keys, walked mysteriously in and out of the back bar area. Very cool.

The maaaaaaaasive lunch at the Relais earlier in the day had hurt us bad, and we really didn't fancy eating much when we staggered out of the bar on Place Richelme into the night. Quite frankly, I had had enough of the nutritious (but heavy and a bit same-y if the truth be told) French food for a bit, and really fancied eating some junk. Cheap wine will do that to you, you know.

Now, anyone who reads this blog will know, that I am a bit of a hamburger junkie. I can kick it with the sushi-eaters, I don't mind hanging with the bistro crowd, and I love an occasional vegan-esque meal, but my one true culinary love is the old ground-beef-in-a-bun extravaganza. And I'm very particular.

I don't mind a McDonald's if I'm desperate (I lie. I eat McD's much more than that). But I didn't want to wander into a proper Provencal restaurant and order le steak hache, or even le hamburger. It would probably have come dripping in foie gras or goats cheese and accompanied by snail-encrusted frites. So, 'Quick', a Belgian hamburger chain on the main road through Aix (and on a million other main roads dotted around France - and Belgium too I presume), it had to be.

Quick Restaurants


The Aix town centre branch that we visited had a huge al fresco eating area at the front, marred by a pile of discarded meal boxes and cartons around (but not in) the bins. What a repulsive first impression. We entered the restaurant to be greeted by large colourful photographs of the food on offer. The vibe was generally similar to any other fast food chain, but in our drunken state we didn't pay much attention to the subtle styling touches and lurched towards the smiling counter staff, grateful that the big photos aided me in my ordering (since any attempt at speaking French had been usurped in favour of grunting and pointing).

After ordering, we took a table outside, as far away from the bins as we could find. What a view! Sitting under the enveloping plane trees at night, with their spotlighting creating mysterious and beautiful shadows among the spindly branches, we felt that we were on a Tim Burton film set. Thankful that the burgers were rapidly sobering me up to fully appreciate my surroundings, I resolved to make it back to Aix on future trips.


The Happy Meal concept has made it to the Continent. All of the burgers can be ordered as a 'Menu' with drinks and French fries attached.

Firstly, the burgers/sandwiches: I ordered the Big Mac equivalent: 'Giant Max'. It was a double burger with a special sauce, but without the third middle bun. Utterly sublime. The sauce was a bit smoother than McD's own version, and the omission of the bun was very welcome - more protein and less carbs. The beef was juicy and delicious, and the whole package felt substantial and 'proper food'-like. I was, however, appalled to discover on the box information that the calories are 50% more than a Big Mac's. Ouch.

The wife had a chicken and bacon toasted pannini, which I tasted, and we both decided was awesome (I don't use this word lightly). Very gooey and tasty with crunchy good quality bread. In fact 'gooey' is a word I normally associate with Burger King rather than McDonald's, but it equally applies to this chain. I mean this in a very positive way.

Secondly, the accompaniments: You have a choice of normal fries or 'pommes rustique' - a version of our familiar potato wedges. I got fries and Mrs Ribeye went for the wedges. The fries were really well cooked, golden and crunchy. No ketchup for me though - mayonnaise is the order of the day in Belgian restaurants of course, and in Quick this is no exception. Delish.

The missus' wedges were incredible. Ridged thick slices of potato with a spicy coating. But to cap it, was the sauce they came with: Sun-dried tomato pesto! What an idea! The smooth, slightly cheesey/tomatoey/herby pesto ramped up the flavours of the potatoes to a whole new level. You gotta hand it to the Belgians. Why serve ketchup when you can have mayo? But then why serve mayo when you can have pesto? I'm definitely going to be serving chips with pesto when I get home.

Drinks were the ubiquitous Coke Zero. Why drink Diet Coke any more?


A little bit pricier than the other chains; our combined meals came to 17 Euros (about £7 per head in English). Good value.


If the truth be told, our dinner at the Quick in Aix was not the last time we visited the chain on our trip through France. Having spent a week in Nice, with home-cooked fare being the staple diet throughout our entire stay, we succumbed on our last night in France to the Quick in Amiens, the day before we drove to Calais on our ferry ride back home. It wasn't quite as good, but I attribute that to the lack of a spectacular al fresco dining area in a beautiful town like Aix, rather than anything to do with the food. Plus, at Amiens, we were sat right next to a 6th birthday party in the next booth. Utter hell.

Is Quick better than the other chains? I would say that it is as good, but not better. It's definitely more tasty and exotic than the bigger burger companies' fare, but then the calorie intake is that much more. I'm sure Burger King could serve twice the amount of sauce with everything too if they wanted. But then their customers would probably suffer 25% more heart attacks.

As the French say: 'Everything in moderation - even moderation'. The Belgians probably say it too.

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