Friday, September 14, 2012

The Breslin Bar & Grill

Burger Reviewed: The Lamb Burger with feta and cumin

Venue: The Breslin Bar & Grill

Date: 14/9/2012

Today the Burger Friday Fellows ventured down to the banks of Southbank to check out the areas newest eatery - the Breslin Bar & Grill. A brand new venue which has recently popped up, the Breslin is one impressive venue. While bright and airy venues are the style de jour of most places nowadays, the Breslin is decked out in dark leather and low lighting, complete with faux antler fixtures. Walking into this place reminded me of that scene in Ace Ventura - When Nature Calls when Ace walks into that "lovely room of death". Hilarious. Just a place that to look at you would believe it would smell of rich mahogany and meat, and would not look amiss as a "Boss House" of Ralph Lauren.

So given the plush digs, and the promise of carnivorous delights associated with the name of the venue we were expecting big things. The burger itself comes out on a chopping board, with an arrangement of condiments, including pickled beetroot and twice cooked chips. Everything to date was positive, but to understand our rating, we have to break this burger down into its parts.

Being a meat lovers paradise, naturally the patty was the star of the show. A quality handmade patty of generous proportions which was cooked to a juicy medium. The quality of the patty was top notch and made me want to order a side of steak or pork ribs. I liken the patty to the annual MLB Home Run Derby - you were promised a big man smashing a pill as far as possible. And it delivered.

Unfortunately, the quality of the patty was taken over by the doughiness of the bun. It was burgeoning on unpleasant. While the meat to patty ratio was good, afterwards I felt like that guy on current affair that falls asleep 65 times a day spontaneously. While I enjoy a food coma as much as the next man, it oft arrives at that inconvenient time when you have work to finish off in the afternoon.

With a doughy bun, you really need the remaining ingredients on the burger to step in to counteract. While the addition of feta was an interesting inclusion which definitely gave the burger a little something extra, we didn't get the required freshness of the salads (unsurprising considering the nature of the service offering Breslin), the crispiness of the bacon or the tang of a sauce combination to really make this burger work. As a result, this burger did not rate well from a synergy point of view.

The chips were plentiful in supply and cooked well but much like the bun, they were a little chunky and just gave off an overly doughy/starchy feel that was like eating a whole potato. Cut each chip in half before cooking it and all of a sudden you have yourself a belter of a chip.

For me at the end of the day, this burger was probably like a young Gary Ablett Jnr in his first year. You can tell the Breslin are going to do very good things in the future, giving enough glimpses of the potential pedigree to come. While young Gary and the Breslin might not standout in there first year as the best going around currently, there is definitely a lot of potential there to suggest that they could go to great levels. I am looking forward to it.

Burger Friday Rating: 32.5/50

Breslin Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cafe Bar Hotel

Burger reviewed: The HOTEL Burger

Venue: Cafe Bar Hotel

Date: 17/8/2012

Today the burger Fridays fellows ventured down to the cafe at the bottom of the Pitcher Partners building. Given the locale at the bottom of an office building, expectations are quite rightly set low. The place is essentially a glorified food court venue, but if you worked in that building you wouldn't mind the quick service at bargain basement prices that it lends itself to. Beers on tap and some Irish hospitality from the birds behind the counter make the experience an enjoyable one.

The immediate thought that pops into your head when you look at the photo above is that the burger looks dry. This was due to a number of factors.

Firstly, the patty was slightly more towards well done that the ideal juicy medium that the Fellows have come to love. The patty itself was actually quite tasty due to the herbs thrown into the patty mixture. However, the grill plate temperature was set too low and the burger cooked through - resulting in the juices from the meat being cooked out.

Secondly, the buns seemed to be a tad on the older side (or what supermarket special boards would refer to as "crusty bread ideal for croutons"). We do not mind crustier bread as long the burger makes up for the lack of moisture in other ways. The crusty bread coupled with the over cooked patty resulted in the need for a mid-mouthful swig of beer. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose.

Thirdly, the burger lacked the salads which can normally be relied upon to refresh the palette. A small handful of lettuce and a cheeky slice of tomato and/or beetroot would have been serviceable. The Fellows are not ones to harp on about the need for salad on a burger but when you don't get enough of it, you really notice it. I am sure Turtle from Entourage has been preaching this phenomenon for quite a while. 

Finally, the sauce combination was quite good (being of tomato chutney and American style mustard) but was in limited supply. A drier bun can be saved due to a plentiful supply of sauce moistening it. However, this was not the case. Although, props must be given for a sauce combination for with the desired level of tang which gave the burger a balanced taste.

Unfortunately, the burger itself fits the character of something befitting a food court location. However, the ripper value at $11 with chips and beer is probably the most note worthy aspects of the burger. I suppose that is kinda like the most note worthy thing about Liz Cambage is that she is big, i.e. pretty obvious from the outset and after seeing her play, there is not much else worth mentioning.

If you worked in the area it's worth giving a crack but I wouldn't venture too far out of your way to get there. But at the end of the day, I have never met a bad burger - only better ones. And even though this burger is at the bottom end of our scale, it is still satisfying enough to warrant the $11.

Burger Friday rating: 27/50

 Cafe Bar Hotel on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New York Burger

Burger reviewed: The Manhattan Burger

Venue: New York Burger

Date: 6/7/2012

The Collins Street store of New York Burger Co (NYBC) was the venue of today’s Burger Friday meeting. And to give you the result straight up, I was left slightly underwhelmed.

NYBC is a relatively new entrant to the market of franchised burger venues and its signature burger, the Manhattan, was the burger dejour. Proclaiming to be from the land of the bigger, stronger, fatter I expected this thing to be f’ing huge. I am talking burger the size of Brett Ebert’s head, enough chips to stop Adam Richman in his tracks and coupled with a xxxl size refillable cup of soda. 

And to be honest, I  don’t think this is unreasonable when you think of the largesse that New York has provided the world. The Big Apple, the home of the Big Bambino, the Donald, the Yankees, the Knicks. A place that Frank Sinatra loved so much he repeated its name twice!

But unfortunately my gluttonous dreams were deflated when it came out. It was just kinda normal. Real normal. Just your real run of the mill, smack bang in the middle, average burger. Kinda like every player on the Melbourne football club list type of normal.  

The patty was the highlight of the burger but still had its flaws (it is kind of like being labelled as the smartest contestant on the TV show "The Hills"). It was well cooked but clearly was not handmade. A handmade burger is so much more of an asset to a burger maker in that firstly, the meat is generally of higher quality but also, spices and herbs can be tossed into the patty mixture allowing you to personalise your patty. Not to mention allowing you to finagle the mixture into whatever size and shape you want. My number one tip for NYBC would be to upgrade to a handmade patty and experiment with the patty mixture to give a truer New York experience. Nostalgia is gold.   

The bun did its job in that it kept the burger together. That is about all we can say for it. Much like the maligned Australian-born English wicket keeper Geraint Jones - he stopped the ball from going to the boundary when the batsmen left it - that is all.  

The chips were akin to the style and serving size you get from McD’s for $1 on the dollar change menu and were quite well done. A good shoestring fry with some nice sauce is always going to please the Fellows. Unfortunately, the sauce was lacking.  

Everything is better with bacon and the same holds true for the burger at NYBC. However, the bacon lacked the ideal crunch that would make this burger better tuxturally.  

All in all, the burger had flavours similar to that of your local fish and chip shop, but without the ooze of cheese and egg. Due to the fact that this burger seemed to lack effort and the ability to live up to its name, we are likening this burger to Nathan Ablett. But hey, he won a premiership - that makes him a better footballer than Nathan Buckley in my book.

The price was reasonable at around $13 for the meal combo which is good for a venue in amongst the rat race that is Collins Street. If you are in the area, it is probably worth trying. 

Burger Friday Rating: 30/50

New York Burger (CBD) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Merrywell

Burger Reviewed: The Merrywell

Venue: The Merrywell

Date: 8/6/2012

This Friday’s burger adventure brought the fellows to Merrywell in Southbank to sample the originally named Merrywell burger.

On a day that saw LeBron James put up 45 points, 15 boards and 5 dimes against the Celtics, the Merrywell burger was never going to be the best performer of the day. However, it did put up a Paul Pierce esc effort – meaty, hard-hitting and full of class. Ironically, the table number we were given was number 34 – a number made famous by Paul Pierce himself and another unhinged superstar in Hakeem “the Dream”, but also a number that has been brought down by certain muppets such as Alan Toovey and the chemical element Selenium (a key ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos). Anyways, why am I talking about this?
In order to understand the burger on the whole, we must first break it down into its parts – and to do so, I will be making reference to not one, not two, but three 1960’s Clint Eastwood Country and Western epics:

The Good:
The patty was really tasty and well cooked. The Chef/s at Merrywell have hit what is called “the grilling sweetspot” which steak cookers have been searching for for years. First discovered by Sir Barnabus T Grillplate, for which the cooking apparatus is named, “the grilling sweetspot” is that temperature of the grill that allows you to char the outside of the patty just enough to impose that slightly bitter charcoal flavour whilst keeping the inner patty to a perfect medium-rare. Full marks for the beef injection!

The Merrywell had what every good burger has, and every average burger lacks – and that is a bit of zip and zing in each bite – Zsa Zsa Zu for the female readers (the missus made me watch all six seasons). This represents a great lesson to be learned by all burger makers – a truly great burger has some kick in it - it may come in the form of pickles, mustard, charred bacon or a spicy relish. But it is an absolute must!

The Bad:   
The burger had some structural integrity issues mainly caused by a bun that was slightly too small to be serviceable (ah hem Jake King!!). However, it must be noted that the bun was only slightly off – another 1 – 2 cm’s extra in diameter would have been ideal.

Now I am not one for blaspheming but the bacon was virtually unnoticeable. I know, “thou shalt not take the bacon’s name in vain” but I just feel I have a responsibility to bring it to your attention. If the bacon was slightly crispier or slightly more charred it would have been a lot better.

The Ugly:
The burger was as wet and sloppy as something very wet and sloppy. I am going to leave the metaphor to you to think of. But it got to the stage where the bun went mushy – much the same way the tomato sangas your old girl made for you in primary school would have.

A Fist full of Dollars:
The Merrywell burger comes in at $20 even with a healthy serving of seriously good chips and a couple of sauce bottles by your side. If you don’t like Heinz Big Red (ridiculous thought I know but there are some backwards people who prefer a nice whole-egg mayonnaise or maybe even vinegar with their chips) you could just use the chips to soak up the litre of meat juice pooling at the bottom of the plate. Seriously, it was like the burger was Nick Reiwoldt’s head and it was watching the 2009 Grand Final medal presentations (also known as one of the happiest moments of my life – not a Geelong supporter in case you were wondering).

Hang ‘em high:
On the whole, the burger is an absolute ripper! All the toppings are fresh, the bun is light and easy to mung through, and the overall flavour is quite memorable.

The analogy I will use to describe this burger (as well as comparing it to Paul Pierce) is that of a Johnny Cash song. If you “Walk the line” to Merrywell, you will not “Cry, Cry, Cry” or end up with the “Folsom Prison Blues”. Instead “I promise you”, you will enjoy a cracking burger, and one that is should be served “When the man comes around”.

Burger Friday Rating: 42.15/50

The Merrywell on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strange Wolf

Burger reviewed: Strange Wolf Beef Burger
Venue: Strange Wolf
Date: 27/4/2012

This week's burger adventure saw the Fellow's strut up to the Strange Wolf bar on Strachan Lane. A tucked away bar which specialises in making one thing - burgers!

We walked down the stairs and were greeted by a place more congested than St. Kilda's backline - probably with the footballing talent to match. Zac Dawson = a poor man's Jason Saddington! But that is off topic.

What then commenced is the most intense game of musical chairs that the world has ever seen - and not fun a game of musical chairs where everybody wins (like the one in that episode of the Simpsons where Bart gets placed in the remedial class in Cypress Creek) but one where every person that leaves the place has a swarm of people dive on their chair like Joel Selwood dives on the footy (except they are looking for a chair rather than a cheap free kick). My recommendation for people going to this place is to fight dirty!

I will just come out and say it.. the service was poor! I think this was the first time that the Fellow's handed out a Krispy Kreme donut for speed of service. This place made Arjuna Ranatunga look like Dwyane Leverock (minus the greatest catch in cricket history - youtube it if you haven't seen it).

The chips were as lifeless as a Mumbai cricket pitch, even more unfortunate is that lacked they heat of Mumbai (a place that brought you such cricketing royalty as Ajit Agarkar - the only test cricketer to score seven ducks in a row). The analogy that I would use to describe the chips would be that of Simon Wiggins - a bloke that Carlton continuously forgot to delist because he was so forgettable. Even worse was that the sauce came in the bottom half of a shot glass - although I have seriously thought about sipping smokey BBQ on the rocks - this was not ideal.

The burger itself was really good. The patty was spilling out over the edge of the bun (picture the gut hanging out of Derek Kickett's shorts), was cooked well, well seasoned and had a rustic texture (even though one of the fellow's doesn't actually know what texture means). One positive is that they didn't waste time with greenery - a few julienne's of iceberg was about it. My favourite part of the burger was the mustard - the kind of mustard you spread on your Christmas ham on toast. All up, the burger worked as a whole despite being disadvantaged by the side dishes around it and the overall set up (Gary Ablett much?).  

Following the usual lively Political discussion that has become expected of the sacred gatherings of the Fellows, we began to talk about which sports person this burger reminded us of. One person that came to mind was Brent Stanton as he delivers when there aren't any people around him, but he is no good in traffic (this is reference to the poor speed of service during congested times). However, as this is an Olympic year - a year in which the best athletes in the world come together to see who can get their hands on the world's least detectable forms of performance enhancing substances - I thought an Australian Olympian would be more fitting. Therefore, I have chosen Australia's number 3 man, Daniel Kowalski. Much like the perennial bridesmaid's bridesmaid, Strange Wolf were technically very good, but just slower than their main rivals.  

In conclusion, I would go back for the burger, but not for anything else.

Which brings me to this week's burger Friday life lesson - God is just Dog backwards, so have a laugh instead!

Peace out!

Burger Friday Rating: 32.67/50
Strange Wolf on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Andrews Hamburgers

Burger reviewed: Traditional beef burger with the lot.
Venue: Andrews Hamburgers Albert Park
Date: 20 April 2012

The iconic Andrews Hamburgers in Albert Park was the venue of this weeks Burger Friday. Having served up burgers since 1939, there is little doubt that Andrew know burgers, and accordingly so, Andrews Hamburgers reputation for dishing up delicious burgers is widely known across Melbourne.

The word icon was originally used to describe works of early Christian religious art. Now the word is commonly used in the general sense of a symbol — i.e. a name, face, picture, edifice or even a person readily recognized as having some well-known significance or embodying certain qualities. For Andrews hamburgers the latter is probably more applicable than the former. While hardly recognisable as a religious piece of art (except maybe on the way home after a dozen frothies), but certainly a delicious and modern iconic burger. And let's be honest, besides the grand prix, and the lake (which arguably both relate to the same thing), is there much else which Albert park is known for?

The burger with the lot is a lot of value for the money (coming in with chips at under $15). It is big, honest and flavor some. Think fish and chip shop burger, and then make it bigger and better. While grilling the meat patty, grilled onions are pushed on top into the meat and then covered with swiss cheese to melt away deliciously into a sticky beautiful mess. The meat and cheese mess is then perched on a bun on top of a bed of cabbage and lettuce, covered with crunchy bacon and topped with a dollop of the old trusty dead horse (heinz big red) to complete the beast. Wrapped in paper and served in a paper bag, this is take away burgers at their mighty best. Hot tip for young players - make sure you assume the position, i.e. when your going to take your first bite, lean forward and stick your arse out to avoid making a mess of your clothing. 

Now if I do my math correctly, having opened in 1939, that is 73 years of burger flipping. It is clear to see that these guys know what they are doing behind a hot plate and the crowds of tradies and hipsters flocking to Bridport street to indulge in this well known burger can attest to that. The sheer number and consistency of the burgers being served by the staff was akin to the skillful brilliance of disposals coming from Nathan Buckleys right and left foots during his playing prime.

If your local served up this burgers you would probably die from a heart attack at age 50, but would go out in a bloody big coffin as a fat and happy man. If in the area it is definitely worth giving a crack. Like Michael Malthouse, these guys just know what they are doing, and have been doing it for years. While there are new venues with flashier game plans, sometimes a good game plan just works. You don't win the best burger in Melbourne (aka the premiership) multiple times for no reason.

Burger Friday Rating: 39.40/50

Andrew's Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Burger reviewed: Big Mac - Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions - all on a sesame seed bun
Venue: McDonalds
Date: 13 April 2012

The fellows decided that it was time to rate a burger that our many readers can relate to – a yardstick if you will. We therefore ventured to McDonalds to try their stalwart, the Big Mac. For the sake of argument I wanted to mention that the McDonalds we ventured was the Southbank one, located close to Yarra. If you listen to the McDonalds advertisements this fact is of little relevance, as whether you are in Melbourne or Belarus, a Big Mac is apparently identical. Some fellows reminisced about the famous Big Mac song as we entered. For those of you who are not familiar with the tune, you will find it at the following link

While this blog is primarily about burgers, we fellows also give a smaller weight to the Burger Friday experience in general. This contains such criteria such as atmosphere, cleanliness, speed of service and whether a beer is included in a meal. While beer is available in some European McDonalds stores, the Australian version obviously struggled to figure in this category. The cleanliness of McDonalds is usually a hit and miss. If the restaurant is quiet, it would normally be impeccable but generally at peak times the cleanliness can be an issue. The stories we hear about our mates who used to work as cooks for McDonalds makes you think that the OHS inspector will revoke some licences quicker that Nathan Tinkler revoked the A league licence of the Newcastle Jets, but of course these stories cannot be verified. We can also officially say we have found the Usain Bolt in terms of speed of service, but you would expect that from a “fast food” chain. Enough about the experience let’s get to the real stuff.    

The Big Mac is inherently linked to being Big, but as the photos above may suggest, the Maccas advertisers have definitely perfected the art of optical illusion. There are two-all beef patties which is apparently meant to make the burger big, but in reality both patties are so thin, that they would struggle to match the size of generally accepted single patty. The McDonalds patties are also bereft of flavour, but that is what you would come to expect from pre-packaged meat. However all is not lost, as flavour does come through in spades through the Big Mac’s special sauce.  Google tells me the sauce is a mix of various types of salad dressing mayonnaise, various pickle relishes and even some ketchup. Whatever is in it, this special sauce is what makes a Big Mac, a Big Mac. The sesame seed bun is a soft as a Jason bedding pillow, but I have doubts about its ability to match the pillow’s toughness. The burger may not have it all, but tell me you have sunk your teeth into one after a steady night on the piss.       

Onto the famous Maccas fries. We have noticed that most burger joints have used these shoe strings as a template for their own establishments and it is easy to see why. Crisp, easy to eat and the perfect amount of a salt, create a sumptuous side dish. The only time McDonalds fries are not good is when they are cold and soggy. The fellows were lucky enough to experience a recently cooked crop of fries. Big tick. Only issue is that you must request sauce. Seriously McDonalds, just include the bloddy sauce in the take away bag or tray. You can’t be saving that much money. Speaking of money, at $7.85for a large meal, even the tightest people should be able to scruff up the change to afford this burger.     

The Big Mac is a burger you can rely on. You know what you’re going to get whether you are in Melbourne or Belarus. While this burger won’t have you salivating for more, few can argue about its consistency. A lot like St Kilda utility Jason Blake, a player who has played over 200 games  but has yet to poll a single bronwlow vote. The Big Mac, ultra consistent, but not the burger of your dreams.

Burger Friday Rating: 29/50

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waterside Hotel

Burger reviewed: Wagyu Burger.
Venue: Waterside Hotel
Date: Thursday, 5 April 2012.

Not excited by the prospect of a fillet-o-fish on Good Friday, the Fellows unanimously elected to invoke the operation of clause 37 of the constitution and bring forward our traditional Wagyu burger to Thursday. In doing so, the Fellows ventured off to the corner of King St to the Melbourne landmark that is the Waterside Hotel.  As with any trip to King St, there is a certain expectation of satisfaction and this journey was no different (albeit that the manly table service that we received was not quite what we have come to expect from this former industrial precinct). 

Like the great Scotty Palmer, the Fellows are not ones to hold back on their punches and the Waterside Hotel is certainly not going to win any awards for beauty. It's a venue in which you are more likely to run into Danny Southern or Mark Zanotti than one where you might find Shawn Hampson cuddling up to Megan Gale.  While this might not be the venue to take the lovely lady for an anniversary or valentines day,  let's not forget that this is not Coxy's Big Break and the Fellows are here to judge burgers, and a great burger at that.

A bit sick of the gourmet 'knife and fork' style burgers that we have started to become accustomed to, the Fellows were delighted to get their hands on a uniquely Australian-style burger.  This was a burger that brought back memories of munching on a rustic burger from the local Fish-N-Chip shop while watching Wayne Carey put on a clinic in the early 90s.  

As the photo can attest, the Russian judge is surely going to give it a whack for presentation but who cares when it tastes that good.  Accompanied by crispy bacon, a sunny side down egg, beetroot and the usual salads, this was a hearty burger with all the trimmings and represented exceptional value for money. Although the patty was a tad small,  and the burger had some serious structural issues, this was overlooked because the burger as a whole just worked.  If anything, this burger epitomised synergy - while the sum of its parts may not have been great, as one, it was something to behold.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the quality of the chips.  They were an equally impressive sidekick, which, like Scottie Pippen, probably don't receive as much kudos as they probably deserve given the quality of what surrounds them.  The chips were thick, golden, fluffy and well seasoned, and a welcome break from the standard French Fry which has crept its way onto many burger menus of late.

A number of names were canvassed on our amble back to the office, but this burger is most appropriately likened to 2011 Grand Final captain, Cameron Ling.  It's not pretty but highly effective.  As Ling aged, he became a more robust and rudimentary footballer, who continually got the job done on seemingly more skilful, quicker and arguably better opponents.  However, his persistence to perfect the little things, saw him take many scalps in his prized career - none more so than Brownlow medallist Dane Swan in the 2011 Grand Final. This burger is know different - it does the little things right without the need to be flashy.  

While we may not rush to the Waterside for our next date, don't be surprised if you run into a few of the Fellows indulging in the $12 burger and pot special before wandering over to Etihad stadium.  A great burger and a bargain at this price. 

Burger Friday Rating: 36.25/50

Waterside Hotel on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bear Brass

Burger reviewed: Wagyu Burger, beef burger, cornte cheese, onion confit, house pickles, fries
Venue: Bear Brass
Date: 30/3/2012

I feel a lot of sympathy for Richmond supporters. The journey of a Burger Friday fellow reviewing burgers on a Friday has a lot of similarities with the proverbial emotional rollercoaster experience of the yellow and black faithful. Today we headed off with an air of anticipation following some strong recent murmurings to expect big things from the burger at Bear Brass, a self described “buzzy” venue in Southbank along the banks of the Yarra River. 

With an absolute belter of an autumn day in Melbourne at a positively balmy 27 degrees with the sun shining, the setting could not be better for a big first up performance. The small side to side cranial movements of a head wobble are just starting to set in that this could be the one. And then the reality sinks in. Whack. 

While the Burger Friday fellows like to avoid hype in order to judge burgers with an openness of mind (not seen since when Ben Cousins’ experienced his last hit), perhaps it was these reverberations that penetrated our sub conscious thoughts which ultimately left us underwhelmed.

So let's start with the good, before moving onto the bad and the ugly. The burger itself was generous in size, with a decent helping of McD's style fries and accompanying saucers of tomato sauce and homemade pickles. Plentiful sauce is always a favourite of the fellows so this was welcomed with open arms, even if it’s come from a Big Red Heinz bottle out the back. The venue also gets a tick, as it is in a bloody good location and having been recently refurbished, is in spectacular nick. The cooking of the burger patty also gets a tick from me, because it was cooked to a nice medium and was sufficient in size and appearance.

Now for the bad. The bun to patty ratio was all out of whack. The patty sat in that bun like it was a baseball in beaten old chewed up baseball mitt. Using the power of guesstimate, I would say the ratio was around 1:2, falling clearly outsize of the acceptable range.  It wasn't that the patty was small, it was just that the bun was proportionally oversized.

Also falling into the bad category was the cheese. While taking time out from managing my (fantasy) football team during the week, I was postulating that good cheese should be awarded a Nobel peace prize for its contributions towards structural integrity and overall harmonisation of burgers across the world. My postulations however require a rethink after today's burger. Perhaps the key element is not just cheese by itself, but cheese in conjunction with the application of heat to bring forth the gloriousness of melted cheese. Unfortunately this cheese was neither melted nor glorious.

And the ugly has to go to the flavouring. Or should I say lack thereof. I poured that whole aforementioned saucer of pickles (also containing some chillies which had about as much heat as Melbourne in the middle of winter) and the saucer of sauce on the burger to try and give it flavour. While this helped to some degree, it was ultimately to no avail. A great burger has that ultimate combination of flavours of sweetness, saltiness and smack of tanginess to finish it off. This sadly had none of the above. It's unfortunate given the cooking of the patty was great and the simple addition of some salt, pepper and good relish could have turned a mediocre burger into something much much better.

For me the burger as a whole was a lot like the coaching career at Richmond of the man with the golden tan Terry Wallace. He came in with a bang, looking good and getting supporters excited about where the tigers were going. Ultimately though for all the good looks, 5 year plans, bravado, and head wobbling, the tigers were no good where it counts, being performing on the field. But if a few pieces had fallen the right way (like recruiting Buddy Franklin instead of Richard Tambling), who knows, perhaps they could have been something. Likewise for this burger, a couple of additions and suddenly we have something great.

Burger Friday Rating: 25.5/50
Bear Brass on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

12 McDonald's Menu Item Fails

The world's most famous burger company have provided many memorable moments over the years for millions around the world. Here is a list of some of their least spectacular menu items. 


 The McLobster is pretty much lobster meat shoved in a hot dog bun with "McLobster sauce" and shredded lettuce. Like its much more successful compatriot the McRib, it appears every once in a while across the country as a promotion, only to vanish weeks later. 

The fabled McLobster drew some hype earlier this year when rumors swirled about its reappearance nationwide. It's currently only available in parts of New England and eastern Canada.

There are a couple factors that gutted the McLobster's hopes of making it to the big time. It costs a hefty $5.99, which consumers are reluctant to pay for a single sandwich. Plus, it's incredibly difficult to market a "quality" shellfish item at a fast food joint.

McGratin Croquette

The McGratin Croquette (known as Gurakoro in Japan) was a particularly strange item, specially created for the Japanese market. It contains deep fried macaroni, shrimp and mashed potatoes. describes the texture of the inside of the croquette as "fluffy and creamy." 

Most attribute its failure to its taste, but the marketing of the McGratin Croquette didn't match up well with the Japanese audience either. Somehow, it still manages to make a surprise appearance every so often in Japan only.

Hula Burger

McDonald's founder Ray Kroc had countless successes with his items, but this wasn't one of them. 
The meatless Hula Burger was meant for Catholics who abstained from eating meat every Friday. Instead of a beef or chicken patty, its bun contained a grilled pineapple slice, topped with cheese.
The idea behind it made sense -- the execution just didn't work. People simply didn't like it. McDonald's killed the Hula Burger early on, as it became quickly evident that its alternative, the Filet-o-Fish, was getting much better traction. 

Pizza & McPizza

McDonald's developed new pizza items in the late 1980s in its push to start offering dinner items, but it had some inherent problems right from the get-go. 

The made-to-order pizza took far longer to make than the usual McDonald's fare, and consumers just weren't willing to wait for food that was supposed to be fast. There was also the McPizza, which resembled Hot Pockets and failed miserably.

Competition in the pizza industry was intense, and McDonald's pizzas didn't have the pull to take customers away from the big chains like Domino's and Pizza Hut. But also, it just wasn't consistent with the McDonald's brand. People went to McDonald's for burgers and fries, not pizza.


Another one of those dinner items, McSpaghetti just couldn't get it quite right. There was also lasagna and fettucini alfredo, along with side dishes in the form of mashed potatoes with gravy and a vegetable medley. It went down quickly with the rest of that dinner menu. 

It's still available in some international markets, and even has a bit of a cult following.


The McAfrika was one of the biggest marketing catastrophes McDonald's ever caused for itself. It contained beef, cheese, tomatoes and salad in a pita-like sandwich. 

It was released in 2002 during a slew of famines in southern Africa. McDonald's apologized and pulled the item, once the PR crisis heated up.

McDonald's did it again with the McAfrica in a 2008 promotion for the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, it received a similar negative outcry.

Arch Deluxe

The Arch Deluxe debuted in 1996 and was meant to target (and only target) McDonald's adult customers, but it bombed massively. The burger was a quarter-pounder with peppered bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, ketchup and a secret sauce. 

It's been considered one of the most expensive product failures in McDonald's history, primarily due to the $100 million marketing campaign that accompanied it. Advertisements depicted children disgusted with the burger, and Ronald McDonald playing adult sports.

A decade later, McDonald's tried a similar sandwich in Japan, called the Tomato McGrand. It failed too.


The taste of the McHotDog was acceptable to consumers, and there were no scandals behind the scenes or within the bun. 

But the failure of McHotDog was a branding issue. Even what seemed like a low-risk, simple product never caught on because McDonald's consumers just didn't equate the brand with the type of food. It made a few comebacks during the mid-1990s as a seasonal item in select mid-western US restaurants.

It has since reappeared in Japan, where consumers are used to McDonald's offering a wider variety of options.


McDonald's introduced the McDLT in the mid-1980s. It was a simple burger with lettuce and tomato, but came in a styrofoam package with separated the lettuce and tomato from the beef patty, keeping the veggies cool and the meat warm. 

All was going well for the McDLT until a PR crisis squashed it. The country was becoming increasingly conscious about the environment, and the double-container caused double the damage.

McDonald's pulled the ill-fated McDLT from its menu in 1990, after a 6-year run.

McLean Deluxe

The McLean Deluxe was another one of McDonald's earlier efforts to be perceived as more health-conscious. It was more a cousin to its predecessor the McDLT than the similarly-named Arch Deluxe which appeared half a decade later. 

Introduced in 1991, the burger was advertised as 91% fat-free, but what doomed the McLean Deluxe was what McDonald's did to get it that way.
McDonald's replaced much of the fat with water and injected carrageenan (seaweed) in order to get the patty to stay together. It performed well in initial taste tests, but it didn't sell well once it went live.

Big N' Tasty

The Big N' Tasty was yet another attempt to defeat Burger King's Whopper, a feat its predecessors -- the McDLT and Big Xtra -- failed to do. 
While not a complete failure, consumer preferences had leaned towards another line of McDonald's items in recent years -- the Angus burgers -- and the company decided to cut the Big N' Tasty from its menu earlier this year.


McDonald's started offering super-sized meals in 1993, and fast-food-goers gobbled it up. But it all went downhill in 2004 when independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me was released. The film showed Spurlock eating nothing but McDonald's for a month, and how it negatively affected his body. 

It was a PR disaster for McDonald's, and the company had no choice but to start pulling super-sizing from its menus. By the end of 2004, super-sized portions were gone forever.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Beer Deluxe

Burger reviewed: house-made beef double pattie with lettuce, bacon, onion & cheese
Venue: Beer Deluxe
Date: 16 March 2012

This week the fellows were dealt a curve ball when their planned venue, was at full capacity, resulting in No Mercy’s classic “Where do you go?” ringing in my head.  While our switch of venue may not have been as seamless as Chris Tarrant’s transition to the backline, the fellows made the decision to venture to Beer Deluxe, located at Melbourne’s favourite eyesore, Federation Square. While the outdoor relaxed setting may not have gone well with the muggy overcast weather conditions, one can appreciate the friendly atmosphere the venue delivers. It feels like the kind of place Bernie Vince may decide to drop his pants at, after a few celebratory frothies.

There is nothing wrong with a double pattie, but it would have been nice if the patties actually matched the size of the bun. Furthermore, despite being homemade, the patties were as dry as a Carl Barron comedy show. As already eluded to in earlier blogs, bacon always makes things better. Nevertheless it is the fair to say, the bacon added as many runs as Brad Haddin during the summer. The biggest criticism I can reserve for this burger centres around the sauce, or apparent lack of it. I am pretty sure my tastebuds picked up a semblance of American mustard, but I may have been dreaming.

One of the fellows’ biggest grievances is the skewer that often appears in between a burger. Generally this indicates a burger’s inability to hold together, but in this case, the burger lasted the journey quite well. This begs the question what the hell was the skewer doing there? I also was aggrieved that despite the fellows ordering their burgers at relatively the same time, there was a large time differential in receiving the burgers. It is lunchtime so it is best to be prepared.

However all was not lost. The positives really stem from the size of the burger – a beast if you will. The onions weren’t too shabby either. While we fellows have shown a preference toward fries of the shoe string variety, these chips were definitely a winner. I believe the chip is a harder skill to master, so Beer Deluxe can be commended for this effort. Also, no one can really complain about a double pattie burger with chips for $12.50, can they?

Furthermore, Beer Deluxe is aptly named given it specialises in showcasing local beers from Australian craft breweries. I have already forgotten the name of my pint, but think VB, but good. The staff were also helpful when quizzed about the taste of the available beers. While the comeback may not see the burger enter Mike Sheehan’s Top 50, Beer Deluxe has fared much better than Thorpedo did in the pool later that night.  

Taken as a whole, the burger can be described as fair, reasonable, run-of the mill, average, well I think you get the picture. I would happily eat there again but will not be rushing back either. One can think of the many players listed in the famous facebook page “mediocre 90’s AFL appreciation society” as the source of a ripper analogy. However I am going to go with a different tact and label the burger renowned Tasmanian cricketer Michael Di Venuto. While he was good enough to grab 9 one day international caps for the Aussies, in the end, the Aussie selectors were not rushing to go back for more, and he now finds himself playing international cricket for Italy. That’s right people, Italy have an international cricket team. They have even won two division 2 European cricket championships. Ah the things you learn while looking up Michael Di Venuto’s cricket statistics on google. Until next week.

Burger Friday Rating: 31.37/50
Beer DeLuxe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 9, 2012

Trunk Diner

Burger reviewed: 175gram Fresh Ground Wagyu beef, grilled brioche, baby cos lettuce, thick cut tomato, house-made pickles, cheese and bacon.

Venue: Trunk Diner

Date: 9 March 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new clubhouse leader!

In a week that saw a well known Australian newspaper publish an article on Victoria's best burgers, the fellows now redundant, made their way to Trunk Diner for an absolute ball-tearer of a burger. Which somehow, did not make its way onto this well known newspapers list - seriously you put a cheeseburger from a milk bar out in the sticks, a place which is sure to end up as an insurance scam when it "accidentally' burns down, over a gastronomical experience in the CBD of the best city in Australia - that's right Sydney I said it.

As such, I am giving this little beauty the title of "The People's burger"!

Located on Exhibition Street, Trunk Diner is described as an "American style diner". When one hears this description, one thinks of barmaids dressed up in cheerleading uniforms and roller blades. Quite the contrary. We were greeted by a Vincent Chase look-a-like who was clearly hung over and quite proud that he was 30 minutes late for his shift.

The outdoor setting was very pleasant and a place where you feel right at home (as evidenced by the number of birds who had snapped one off on some of the tables).

Now to the burger. Trunk have played this well (unlike Gautam Gambhir and the short ball - seriously I haven't enjoyed watching a bloke go out this much since Darryl Cullinan last played) as they have gotten the basics down pat (unlike Scott Muller). The bun is light and soft, the patty is tasty and juicy and the salads are fresh. But Trunk are able to differentiate themselves in a number of simple ways.

The first is that they have taken the best parts of the two best burgers in town and combined them into a superburger - a cheeseburger with bacon if you will. They have taken the "construct your own" approach of Rockpool and combined it with the unbelievable sauces of Cafe Vue. As if there was any argument that smokey barbeque is the greatest condiment on the planet, I will go out on a limb and say the homemade smokey barbeque at Trunk is the balls! And being given a bottle of it to put on your burger and dunk your chips in is a huge win.

The second is the bacon. As eluded to earlier, everything is better with bacon. And the Miss Piggy at Trunk is cooked a lot longer than anywhere else giving it a slightly charred taste which is groin-grabbingly transcendent without tasting bitter or burnt.

Finally the homemade pickle. More playful than a proverbial at a Wiggles concert. The acidic pickle leaves the flavours of the burger mingling in your mouth in a seductive pas de deux.

My only gripe about this burger was that my patty was slightly more towards well done than medium but the other fellows did not seem to have this problem. Ah well, life is a box of chocolates Forrest.

And to the sporting analogy. Due to a number of complaints from our readership of the weekly burview being targeted more towards our male audience, I will be likening this week’s burger a few things that are a little more feminine.

1. This burger is a lot like Australian Diamonds stalwart Eloise Southby-Halbish. The burger was well complimented by bacon and the salads (for the purposes of this analogy we will call the bacon Shazza McMahon and the salads Natasha Chokljat). The burger can even be accompanied by a well known beer (this is in reference to ESH's romance with footballer Justin Blumfield). All in all, a burger that will go down as one of the better Melbourne has produced.

2. This burger is a lot like a Mimco clutch - great value, dependable, devoid of handbag clutter and goes well with a nice pair of boots (beer).

3. The movie Love Actually. Tasteful, consuming and enough Hugh Grant to satisfy your cravings.

That's about all I have got. Great value for money and very tasty - get on a Trunk burger right meow.

Burger Friday Rating: 43.25    

Trunk Diner on Urbanspoon


Burger reviewed: Cervo burger – house-made beef burger with tomato, bacon, caramelised onion & swiss cheese, served with fries and salad.
Venue: Cervo Cafe
Date: 8 March 2012

 The fellows ventured down to Cervo Cafe (adjacent to Crown casino) to sample the aptly named Cervo burger – a house-made beef burger with tomato, bacon, caramelised onion & Swiss cheese. At the princely sum of $21.90 (or $30 with a beer), the fellows were expecting a spectacle to rival the Superbowl half-time show, but, as Janet Jackson can attest, the spectacle doesn’t always turn out as planned. This burger was no different. It failed to deliver on the biggest of stages.

 I am not sure how many fingers the chef had in the kitchen, or how many beads may have fallen off their abacus, but it might be worth counting how many ingredients are supposed to be included in your burger before sending it out. While Jack Watts or Josh Fraser may be able to make a career out of failed promises and under-delivering, when we fellows see bacon on a menu – we expect it to be there. Fail.

Our dismay didn’t end there. The burger continued its downward spiral faster than Tiger Woods’ reputation. The bun was clearly sourced from the back shelf at Woolworths and only thrown under the griller to give it some life. The salad didn’t fair much better and was as wilted as Sam Newman’s libido. The hat-trick was complete when, to our utter amazement, the burger had no sauce. What sort of burger has no sauce? Honestly? One can only think that Cervo cafe’s budget was about as meagre as that of Paul Stoddart’s Minardi formula one team.

 The burger made the faux pas of using a skewer as a decoration – it clearly didn’t assist with the structural integrity of the burger given the burger had collapsed before reaching the table. The Italian flag atop the skewer was an interesting touch, but I’d have preferred if the kitchen had focused on cooking the pattie. The house-made beef pattie was more like meatloaf, and we all know how well that went down at last year AFL grand final.

A bit like England’s recent test series against Pakistan (0–3), it was difficult to find any positives from the Cervo burger. It is fair to say that the French fries to the Cervo burger were the Monty Panesar of the English XI. When everything else around was a shambles, like Monty, they stood out from their peers. They were crunchy, fresh and well-seasoned. Equally too, the Swiss cheese was melted perfectly on the burger but the damage was already done. Some shining lights in an otherwise bleak performance.

The burger reminded me of the infamous Sam Bowie - the number 2 pick in the 1984 NBA draft. In arguably the most colossal blunder in sporting history, Bowie went on to average 10.9 ppg and 7.5 rpg while the number 3 pick, Michael Jordan, went on to become the greatest ever. Why Portland chose Bowie over Jordan we can only speculate. Why the fellows chose Cervo cafe over Neil Perry’s Rockpool, we can only assume because Rockpool was closed...

Burger Friday Rating: 22.66/50

Cervo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Burger Friday - Your favourite Burger Friday venues

Burgers are cross generational, cross cultural and cross societal. A good burger can bring people together from all walks of life to enjoy the simple pleasures of beef, cheese, sauce, bacon and bun. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, everyone can appreciate the simplicity and complexity of a good burger. A great burger is a work of art.

We here at Burger Friday are on a mission (from the Burger Gods) to find the best burgers in Melbourne. We see this as our duty to help facilitate the coming together of the people to enjoy this simple and delicious Friday tradition, and maybe just make this place a little bit better.  After all, if beef, cheese, sauce, bacon and bun can mingle together seamlessly as if they were born to be one glorious food, can't we all just get along. 

So as Champion's of the People (aka the People's Champ) that we are, we want to throw it out to you to tell us where your favourite burger venue is and where we should go for our reviews. After all this isn't a Burger dictatorship, this is a Burger Democracy of the people.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Giving the burger market a good grilling

Interesting little article in the Age about the burger chain Grill’d. Not sure about the maths in tip number 2 (pretty sure 51% is greater than 49%), but regardless Grill’d has done a great service to improving burgers across Melbourne and to the recognition of men’s health issues through Movember.  It takes balls as big of burgers to go out and start your own business so we tip our hats to you.
No ads. No celebrity endorsements. No meal deals. No upsizing. Grill'd Burgers wants a brand without the trimmings.
“We don't believe in loyalty programs,” says founder Simon Crowe. “We don't believe in highlighting some people to the exclusion of others. We want the business to be communal in its feel.”
So says one of the few people in history to have a burger named after them. The 'Simon Says' burger is a grilled chicken breast with avocado, bacon, salad, tomato and herbed mayo. It is also the source of some chagrin for the man who left a lucrative career as international brand manager at Foster's Group to start a healthy burger shop in Hawthorn in 2004.
There are now 51 Grill'd restaurants across Australia employing more than 500 people and generating $67 million in revenue in the past year, up 68 per cent from the year before .
“I kind of feel like the movement that is Grill'd is not me, it's our people," Crowe says, "and I sometimes feel a little embarrassed that there is a focus on me. But I know the business needs a leader. I know it needs somebody who is its spokesperson.”
It may seem strange to describe a burger franchise as a movement, but it sums up the 39-year-old Melburnian's grand plans. The dream started becoming reality one night at the pub, when friends told Crowe to put up or shut up about his plan to start a healthy burger shop.
Still, there were teething problems. A lease collapsed and Crowe remembers being racked by doubt, particularly one afternoon in January when he visited the store after a storm.
“I drove down the street to have a look at it and I was shaking in the car because there was not a single soul in the street and I thought, 'what have I done, what am I doing?'”
But Crowe was fulfilling a life-long ambition to own a business.
At Foster's, he recalls “I almost had the perfect job, [except] I was selling an Australia that I didn't believe in. I was selling a Crocodile Dundee Australia".
“If I could write my ticket I would love to take Grill'd, with the Australian character that we have, and take that overseas. That will happen, but we're not in a mad rush to do it. We've got plenty of expansion opportunity in Australia.”
He attributes success in part to not contemplating franchising from day one.
"That meant that we became expert operators... when there were operational issues and challenges we knew how to fix them and how to make sure that the business model was robust and strong.”
“So many food businesses, particularly those that are 100 per cent franchised, will often turn to consultants who say you need to get 20 or 50 or 100 sites to actually become profitable, and they stretch themselves too far, too thin.”
There are now 22 franchises and 29 company-owned Grill'd outlets. The aim is for half the restaurants to eventually be owned by franchisees who have come through a comprehensive testing process, including a psyche assessment.
“What we often find is there are people who are looking for a business opportunity only, and they tick the business acumen box and sometimes the life experience, but it's a square peg, round hole if they don't comprehend what Grill'd is.”
Crowe studied psychology at Melbourne University and sees the parallels in marketing.
"We need to understand how people think, how they might behave, what's important to them and meet their needs. So psychology and marketing are often one and the same, they're just termed differently.”
Grill'd hones in on sounds, smells, theatre, ambience, music, temperature, lighting, and service.
"The layer effect of all of those things is what's special and what's powerful, and when we get that right, it's intoxicating. It's actually almost addictive,” Crowe says.
But are Grill'd Healthy Burgers actually good for you?
Two years ago the Obesity Policy Coalition found a Vegetarian burger from Grill'd contained more fat than a Big Mac. However, senior policy adviser Jane Martin says larger portions mean more kilojoules.
“No question we have a meal-sized offer," Mr Crowe said, "and it's something we're incredibly proud of." 
"It's not about only fat because if it was we'd recommend that you eat only a lettuce leaf and not anything else.”
Melanie McGrice, of diet consultancy Health Kick, says Grill'd uses more fresh food and ingredients than traditional burgers.
“If you're going to choose between the two, I would be going for a Grill'd burger," McGrice says.
She advocates eating take-away food only once a fortnight, leaving some room for improvement for the energetic Crowe, who still chomps through four burgers a week.
Crowe's 5 tips for entrepreneurs
1. Know your business at an intimate level. You need to have enough knowledge of the day-to-day operations to 'smell test' the genuine insights from the noise, and recognise any potential drift away from your vision.
2. 51 per cent business: 49 per cent people. People are your greatest asset – always. While they will no doubt be your greatest challenge, your team requires the entrepreneur to direct and steer the business agenda to give its people visibility into the future and provide them the opportunity to shine.
3. Make your brand the hero of your business and ensure that it is the filter through which all decisions are made.
4. Choose your business partners carefully and know what they bring to the table. Ideally ensure that you are getting more than only capital. A good business relationship is like a marriage – a journey; full of ups and downs but it's inter-dependent, and worth the ongoing investment in time and emotion.
5. Passion! While we applaud it in sport we often ridicule it in business. Passion can be the most engaging and most intoxicating driver of success to all of those that interact with you and your business.