These Chefs Left the City to Make Perfect Burgers in the Middle of Nowhere


This story is over 5 years old.

These Chefs Left the City to Make Perfect Burgers in the Middle of Nowhere

If you build it, they will come, or at least cheap rent, quality produce, and a solid community helped to generate one of England's best undiscovered burgers.

There wasn't much to do growing up in my backwater hometown of Hereford.

Nothing but start offensively poor bands, share cigarettes on the local green, and revel in being the scourge of a city that could have just built us a more-than-one-screen cinema, for fuck's sake.

READ MORE: This Chef Quit His Restaurant Job to Start a Sustainable Trout Farm

Herefordshire's natural beauty and world-class fruit, vegetables, and meat just didn't do it for us teenagers. These things generally don't until you've spent a bit of time working your (obviously metaphorical) fingers to the bone to afford to live in a place with progressive culture and a decent food scene. Like London, for example.


The idea of Hereford having either of these things on a similar scale to the capital seems absurd, but considering rent is cheap here, some of the country's best ingredients are readily available, and there's more community than competition from fellow restaurateurs, it would make sense. All it would take is a few people brave enough to do it.


Enter A Rule of Tum, a collective of young chefs and entrepreneurs who run a burger joint and modern British restaurant next-door to each other on a backstreet in Hereford's town center.

The core team—brothers Dorian and Edwin Kirk, and their friend Jon Stead—are all long-time or returning Herefordians. Dorian, the head chef, trained at Hereford's tech college before moving to London and eventually setting up the kitchens at Camden's beloved Colonel Fawcett pub and the Smugglers Tavern in Fitzrovia. He then made the surprising move back to Hereford.

Or, perhaps not that surprising. Stead explains that being outside the capital has been key to Rule of Tum's success.

"Dorian quickly learned there that to run a restaurant, you need a hell of a lot of investment up front," he says. "Even if you have the right connections, rent is going to be 20 times what you'll pay here."


The Burger Shop's beef burger, made using locally sourced meat.

The Rule of Tum burger restaurant—simply called "The Burger Shop"—started out as a pop-up in Hereford's first ever craft beer bar. While extremely hackneyed in Hackney, the combination of patties and IPAs made serious waves in Hereford.


"It's actually never really been about making money at all," Stead says. "It's always been more about doing something interesting for our hometown."

Just six months in to Rule of Tum starting their burger pop-up, the team ran a stall at Hereford's 2014 food festival. It was a hit. "It gave us enough cash in the bank to—if we did all the work ourselves and bought only second-hand gear—open this [restaurant] on a shoestring," explains Stead.

The Burger Shop, with its bare walls, slow-cooked local lamb burgers, slick branding, and Instagram page, was radical in Hereford. It was the first real sign of a group of young people acknowledging that this part of the world could produce modern and interesting food.

Not that Hereford has ever been short of creative young people—the problem was getting them to stick around.

"The classic thing, especially for our generation, is that anybody with a bit of spark, a bit of passion, will leave," laments Stead. "But it's a much higher quality of life here. The energy in London moves so quickly, whereas in Hereford, we have the opportunity to make it much more of a slow burn."

Following the success of The Burger Shop, the collective opened neighboring restaurant, The Bookshop. The specials here include locally sourced blood-rare beef rump and blue cheese-laced lentil Wellington. Bright greens, creamy gratins, red cabbage, and duck fat-roasted potatoes are all served on crockery hand-made by one of the front-of-house team.


Beef rump at The Bookshop, Rule of Tum's modern British restaurant.

"If we do it right, there is time here to support a community that grows over time," says Stead. "We're actually starting to get the bones of a cool place. You can come here for a weekend, eat some good food, have a cool night out drinking good beer and good wine."

Naming a decent place to eat out in Hereford was always a struggle. I remember PizzaExpress-and-a-few-ales being about as exciting as things got.

READ MORE: A London Restaurant Crawl with the King of Convenience Food

"We wanted to be that place," adds Stead. "It's bigger than just a restaurant, and local producers, and exposed light bulbs. It's about the opportunity you have in a place like this to over time curate a community."

It's not that A Rule of Tum's restaurants are great for a "backwater" city like Hereford. They're great because Hereford's produce and people are intrinsic to what they do.