A long time ago in a galaxy far away, a group of Chilli Padawans travelled from far and wide to tackle a challenge of epic proportions. Would they be able to conquer the towering inferno that stood before them, or would a disturbance in the force lead them down the path of failure? Read on to find out…
Back in December, Darth Naga and a few brave souls (myself included) met up for a Darth Naga’s Funhouse ‘O’ Pain Christmas gathering. Since a few of us had previously tackled challenges at Paul’s Pizza and the Red Dog Saloon, the quest was on to find another challenge to test even the most seasoned chilli-head. Hailed as potentially the “World’s Hottest Burger”, Atomic Burger’s Fallout Challenge ticked all of the right boxes, so with some trepidation we headed to Oxford to see if we could earn a place on their Top 100 Wall of Flame.
Atomic Burger opened its Oxford restaurant in 2009 and a second restaurant in Bristol last year. The Fallout Challenge started life as the Godzilla Challenge – a huge burger with a massive helping of fries and only 1 hour to complete it. In May 2012, Atomic Burger decided to increase the challenge by adding an extreme chilli sauce and so the Fallout Challenge was born.
The big day came and after a chaotic drive down the A34 to Oxford, I parked my car and headed for the restaurant. The outside of the restaurant features two large Atomic Burger logos and is decorated with a vast array of comic book covers – It definitely stands out from the other businesses on Cowley Road!
As I stepped through the entrance the first thing that struck me is just how busy it was. Granted it was Saturday lunchtime, but there wasn’t a single empty table in the whole restaurant. Luckily, we’d booked in advance! Darth Naga and the gang were already here, so I made my way across to our table. There were 6 of us in total – Darth Naga, Chris Whitehouse, Jon Doody, Mike Johnston, Ashley Ground and me.
As I was running late, Chris had kindly ordered me the Fallout Challenge – there was no chance of backing out now. Chris and Darth had both passed on the challenge this time leaving 4 of us to sit and contemplate what we’d let ourselves in for.
Whilst we were waiting, I took a look at the other items on the menu. These included ribs, hot dogs, sandwiches and a staggering selection of over 20 different burgers – most of which are named after famous figures. Unlike other burger restaurants, Atomic Burger gives you the choice of having beef, chicken or vegetarian patties with every burger on their menu which is nice to see.
A few moments later, a waiter appeared with disposable gloves and a “disclaimer & liability release form” for each of us. This served as a gentle reminder of the perils that lay ahead.
Darth Naga had previously completed the challenge at Atomic Burger’s second restaurant in Bristol and felt we would all stand a good chance of completing it. His words of encouragement were of little comfort though as the waiter appeared from the kitchen carrying possibly the biggest plate of food I have ever seen.
Three 6oz burgers, three slices of American cheese, two deep-fried cheese & tomato pizza buns, three servings of chilli & garlic fries and lashings of XXX Fallout Ghost Chilli Hot Sauce.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s one of Jon Doody holding the Fallout Pizza Burger.
As Jon held the plate of food aloft, the enormity of the challenge dawned on me. The fourth plate soon emerged from the kitchen and the waiter asked if everyone was ready. After a few nods of agreement, the timer was started.
Everyone else seemed to dive straight into the burgers, but I decided to take a different approach and started with the chilli & garlic fries. A minute later and there were a few groans and hiccups from across the table – perhaps this challenge wasn’t going to be as easy as we’d anticipated.
Undeterred, I continued with the fries and finished them in around 4 minutes. With half the plate cleared, the challenge looked a lot more manageable. I proceeded to cut the burger into bite size pieces and then tackled the first of the pizza buns. By this point, a few spectators had gathered to the side of our table and I was feeling confident.
It was at this point that the heat of the sauce hit me. It wasn’t as hot as the Saltdean Sizzler or the wings at the Red Dog Saloon, but it packed the extract burn that I was dreading.
My progress was starting to slow, but after 10 minutes I had finished 1 pizza bun, two burgers and all of the fries. Only a single burger and pizza bun stood between me and a place of their Wall of Flame, but I was fast approaching the dreaded “Food Wall”.
I took a break for a few minutes and looked around the room hoping to draw inspiration from one of the cartoon figurines or movie characters that decorated the walls, but alas I couldn’t manage another bite. Everyone else was struggling too and despite words of abuse encouragement from Darth Naga, we’d all thrown in the towel by the 30 minute mark. As we recovered, we learned that the sauce is made with Cayenne pepper,fresh chillies and 5M SHU chilli extract! As we left the restaurant we were each handed a loser’s t-shirt.
At the time of writing the success rate of this challenge was around 12%, which is much higher than I expected. Even so, there’s no denying that this is an incredibly difficult challenge.
Overall, the food was really good. The burgers were cooked well and the chilli & garlic fries were delicious. The staff and atmosphere of the restaurant were excellent too. My only gripe is the cost of the Fallout Challenge – £25.
For the money you do get a lot of food and a t-shirt, but I believe the challenge would be a lot more attractive if it were priced between £15 and £18 with t-shirts only being awarded to the winners.
That aside, I did enjoy my visit to Atomic Burger and look forward to trying something else from their extensive menu in the future.