Our recent visit to O’Neill’s was an unscheduled stop on our never-ending burger adventure. I had some family visiting from across the pond in New York City. After a weekend of non-stop catch up and hitting almost every bar in Glasgow, I decided to meet up with them for one last bite to eat in Glasgow city centre as they waited around to head to the airport. I received a text message to say that they had settled at O’Neill’s bar in Merchant Square.
Why am I telling you this? Well, luckily we happened to be nearby at the time and proceeded to make the short, five minute walk to the bar; however, this did mean that we weren’t armed with our camera and if we were to sample a burger from the menu, we’d have to resort to mobile phone photography. As you can guess, we did have the burger, so apologies in advance for the slightly washed-out phone photos – they’re not up to our usual JVB standard, but it’s all we had at the time!
Anyway, on to O’Neill’s. Set in Merchant Square, the bar is located in a beautiful building and from the outside it looks impressive. Inside; however, was a different story. Aside from a few gimmicky signs here and there, nothing about O’Neill’s said ‘Irish pub’, which is what it sets out to bring to Glasgow. In fact, overall the bar appeared very worn and dull looking – and not in a ‘that’s what adds character’ type of way either. Yes, it’s a chain pub but there was zero atmosphere and it was so quiet that you could hear other people cough and have conversations at far away tables across the bar. I can imagine the atmosphere being drastically different during live sporting events and during the week as the nearby office buildings empty out for the evening, but on this occasion it was eerily quiet.
The menu features a wide range of burger options and boasts that all burgers are made with 100% Irish beef – probably the only Irish thing you’ll actually find in this Irish bar, then? I opted for the Bison burger, which was described on the menu as ‘a mix of rich and flavoursome American grass-fed Bison and Irish beef, topped with melted Cashel Blue cheese’. Unsurprisingly, there was also the option to add pulled pork for an extra £2, which I did.
Presentation-wise, the burger was a little flat. Everything came housed on some kind of strange floured bun of doom hybrid that wasn’t as bad as the standard floured bun that you know we love so much, but still came apart fairly quickly – especially the bottom.
Taste-wise, there’s actually not that much to report because all I was actually able to taste was the pulled pork; or rather, the barbecue sauce. The pulled pork here was swimming in sauce that was so incredibly sweet that it completely overpowered everything else in the bun – probably a sign that the pork itself isn’t actually that great.
There was also a noticeable lack of blue cheese, which was advertised as being on the burger. It appeared that when I asked to add the pulled pork, it was then put on the burger in place of the blue cheese. In hindsight, I’m not sure just how well barbecue sauce-laden pulled pork and blue cheese would have tasted together, so it’s probably for the best that it wasn’t on there, but that’s not really the point. If the blue cheese was on there, I couldn’t see it or taste it.
So that I could taste some of the patty, I cut the burger in half as usual and then removed some of meat from the bread to eat on its own. The meat was a very dark colour on the inside, almost deathly grey in parts – a sign of an overcooked patty. It was also fairly dry and had no real standout flavour, but this was masked by the lashings of barbecue sauce throughout the pulled pork, which also didn’t help hold the bun together.
The Bison burger was served with crispy fries, which were actually pretty decent – the best part of the meal actually.
At £8.95 plus an extra £2 for pulled pork, this isn’t a cheap burger. In fact, it’s a lot more expensive than I’d expect from a chain pub. If a burger delivers on taste and quality, we certainly don’t mind paying a higher price – unfortunately, this delivered in neither of these areas. At a time when Glasgow is in the midst of a burger revolution with highly regarded, fresh burgers being made widely available at wallet-friendly prices, we’d recommend spending less money and eating better quality elsewhere.
Price: £8.95 (£2 extra for pulled pork), includes fries.
– Dry, overcooked patty.
– Too much sweet barbecue sauce on the pulled pork made it impossible to taste anything else.
– Floured bun wasn’t great and became rather soggy due to the amount of barbecue sauce.
– Cheese was missing.
– Expensive for what you get.
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71-73 Albion Street
Phone: 0141 552 0822