Hamburgers – the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.” Such were the words of one Mr Jules Winnfield, hitman extraordinaire played by Samuel L. Jackson in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino classic, Pulp Fiction.
Winnfield was and always will be one of the coolest cats to grace the silver screen – a man of taste who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
Winnfield would’ve left this place with a grin ... And not just because his quote is painted above the bar.
The Market Vaults in Stafford is an important part of the town’s dining scene for one all-important reason, that smacks you right between the eyes the moment you walk through the door.
An historic venue, the ‘artist-formerly-known-as-Joxer-Brady’s’ features a well-loved centrepiece bar with more tales to tell than the Brothers Grimm. Its decor is old-world pretty and hipster gritty, with no effort wasted on apologising for a well-worn charm that has earned its stripes.
The beaten wooden floor has been the path of many a pilgrim looking to read the live music ads on the walls, sample the hand-pulls and breathe in a bit of devil-may-care ambience.
And while taking in this hypnotically nonchalant venue, your eyes are drawn to one of its few statement decorations – a saw, sat at home above the bar, and elegantly branded with the words ‘tattoo removal’.
Simply put, The Market Vaults is cool.
This place is known for three things: Beer, live music and burgers.
The beer I had tried before – it was good. The music I too had previously experienced – another box ticked. Today I was here for offering número tres.
The Market Vaults proudly waves her flag online as being the home of the best burger in Stafford.
Having glanced at her offerings and having heard of magical, bewitching creations by reputation, I was keen to put this claim to the test.
My partner and I arrived for lunch on a rainy Saturday (Dennis, Ciara, Jorge – take your pick), and despite being late due to the weather, we were seated with no problem.
The Market Vaults has a decent online menu that will whet your appetite, but it’s worth waiting until you get there and perusing the special guest burger offerings, before you allow your heart and stomach to commit to anything.
Themed specials are often tied in to sporting events and the like (several creations were crafted to celebrate the Rugby Union Six Nations), and these are worth a look purely out of respect for the imagination that has gone into them.
Everything available caught my eye – a deep fried chicken burger replete with smoked chilli and cheese sauce sounded like it was particularly up my street – but today, it was all about the beef.
The Market Vaults proudly sources all of its burgers from award-winning butcher, Perry’s of Eccleshall. Perry’s burgers are among the best and most succulent I’ve ever experienced, and one of my favourite Eccleshall pub restaurants uses them to great effect. Whenever I see beef from Perry’s on a menu, I’m sold, and today would be no exception.
I opted for the saliva-inducing New York Deli burger, smugly pleased that my choice – packed with a wealth of ingredients – would surely outdo whatever my better half was about to go for.
But then of course, checkmate.
“I’d like ‘The Elvis’ please.”
She’d gone and done it. Named for rock and roll’s finest son, and naturally featuring some of his favourite foodstuffs, The Market Vaults’s Elvis burger consisted of a Perry’s beef patty topped with smoked streaky bacon… along with raspberry jam, and crunchy peanut butter. Than’ you very much.
It was a bold choice, but seeing as it stood on the menu with all the confidence of The King himself, I had a feeling it would pay off.
To bolster our beefy selections, we also opted to share a bowl of beef brisket dirty fries, served with red cabbage, crispy onions and cheese. This was my kind of lunch, and with Jailhouse Rock sufficiently entrenched in my mind’s ear (…you’re welcome), I sat back and awaited the arrival of the feast we had braved the storm for.
The sight of my New York Deli Burger as it arrived did not disappoint. I’ve got a lot of affection for The Big Apple, and this burger reminded me of all the things I love most about it – indulgence, excess and no-nonsense.
Packed with a sumptuous load of antipasti cured meats, Gruyère cheese, pickled gherkins and an indulgent spreading of American mustard, it was a lunchtime bite that blokes’ dreams are made of.
The Perry’s beef patty within was far from lost, despite the generous wealth of supporting ingredients, and as I bit into my feast of the week, I was delighted to find it had been cooked brilliantly.
The burger was far from overdone, retaining plenty of juice and succulence, and the flavour of the beef was drawn out and complemented superbly by the rich cured meats that topped it. The gherkins gave the whole thing a fantastic kick, that was amplified to just the right level by the cheeky power of the mustard, and the sweet but slightly salty Gruyère provided a balance that sealed the deal perfectly. Hats off to the chef – nay, architect – of this absolute bad boy of a creation.
Like The King himself all those years ago, the Elvis burger broke the mould. With my good lady having happily obliged my request for a try, I bit into what was nothing less than the most delightful surprise I had tasted in a long time.
Again, the beef patty was cooked to perfection, with the salty smoked bacon possessing just the right crunch. While obviously not the most traditional bedfellows of a beef patty, the jam and the peanut butter just worked, plain and simple. Try it, and you will be converted.
The dirty fries were a great addition, with the tender brisket rich in smoked barbecue flavour, and a wonderful partner to the golden fries beneath it.
The portion was generous, and these would comfortably serve your average Joe as a main course for one.
Split two ways, they were the perfect way to seal the deal on a lunch of indulgence and good times.
The Market Vaults does what it does and does it well. It is not fine dining, and never pretends to be anything close. But what it is is fun dining, and a celebration of the fact that great food need not be pretentious.
Service was prompt and friendly throughout, making it all the more pleasurable to tuck into one of the finest burgers to have ever passed my lips.
I haven’t tried every burger in town ... yet. So it would be wrong for me to pass judgment on the Vaults’s claim of serving the best.
All I will say is the bar has been well set, and if you’re looking for great food, good vibes and a cheeky dining surprise, look no further.
Classic Hamburger. Locally sourced beef patty, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and house burger sauce. Served with skin on fries. £9.50
Lamb Kofte. Homemade lamb kofte burger cooked in hot sauce marinade, cheddar cheese topped with cucumber and cracked pepper mayo. £13
Cajun Chicken. Homemade Cajun blend marinated on a chicken breast, mozzarella cheese and jalapenos. £11.50
Nachos and fries
Bacon and Cheese. Smoked bacon, cheese, gherkins, tomato, spring onion and cucumber. £8
Funghi. Mixed mushrooms, stilton and caramelized onion. £7.50
The Market Vaults
4 St Marton's Place