Date: 15 July 2013
On a stereotypical Melbourne day - torrential downpour followed by blue skies and sunshine - we ventured to Prospect Espresso in Camberwell. Espresso is the type of cafe that makes a name for itself through word of mouth; the type of place that you could be forgiven for overlooking on your way past the many shopfronts on Burke Rd, but fortunately for us this place has started to make a name for itself in burger enthusiast circles. Needless to say, we were not disappointed.
In a world where first impressions count more so than ever before, we were greeted promptly by an energetic and bubbly waitress who quickly found us a seat at the large wooden communal table. A growing trend in Melbourne hospitality, the table dominates the décor but is complemented by a mixture of smaller tables. Although space is at a premium, it is a well organized layout which fits nicely with the rustic furniture and fittings. It has somewhat of a refurbished inner-city warehouse apartment feel to it and although quiet loud, it still has a homely and welcoming vibe.
Although Prospect Espresso receives rave reviews for it's coffee, we ventured to this cafe to sample the house burger - house minced beef, bacon, cheese, pickles, lettuce, chips and aioli for the fair price of $18. It came out in good speed for what was a busy Friday afternoon but most impressive was the presentation. While some of us here at Burger Friday prefer the look of a greasy, juicy, American-style burger, I am one who prefers the postcard burger. This would be right at the top of that list (unfortunately my camera work on the iPhone 5 doesn't do this justice). Credit must be given for the use of props; the inclusion of the traditional (albeit miniature) frying basket to hold the chips is a great look.
The burger was smaller than what we're used to, but what it lacked in size it made up for in flavour. The burger was cooked to perfection, it was charred on the outside trapping in the moisture and juices from the gelatinous pattie. The ground and hand pressed pattie was lightly season and while some might have preferred a bigger statement from the pattie (in terms of herbs and spices), the precise cooking makes this pattie a winner. Many outstanding patties have been ruined by the chef (or should i say cook), but this was mastery of a fry pan at its finest.
It didn't stop there though. The bacon was equally impressive as it was crispy and charred, with enough rind left on to provide a salty crunch. While no one wants a pork belly rasher of bacon (i.e., 90% fat), the burger does benefit from having some of the natural fat stay on the bacon. This was evident here as the saltiness of the bacon balanced tang from the aioli. This rivals the Trunk Diner for best use of bacon on a burger - a real pleasure.
When you have two genuine stars like the pattie and the bacon, you can be forgiven for overlooking the other accompaniments. There was nothing to fault with these, the lettuce was crisp and the pickles provided a nice savoury touch. They were able contributors to a two starred attack, not too dissimilar to Jack Gunston or Pau Puopolo to the Hawthorn attack.
I have already touched on the presentation of the chips, but it is one thing to look impressive, it is another thing altogether to meet (and exceed) those expectations. These chips were top-notch. Golden brown, crunchy, seasoned yet fluffy and light in the middle. They were perfectly suited to the aioli which was fresh and light.
My only real gripe with this burger was the absence of a boutique beer, or any beer for that matter, to wash it down with. Hardly relevant in our culinary quest to find Melbourne's best burger, particularly given the number of licensed venues in close proximity, but there is something extra special about a soothing ale to accompany a delicious meal.
I had some difficulty, and agonised long and hard, as to who I would liken this burger to. Ultimately, I settled on Daniel Geale. The little known Australian boxer (which is changing quickly) is a no-nonsense, honest and rugged fighter. Where the likes of Mundine have polarised the Australian boxing public, Geale is a contemporary gentleman in a sport that is characterised by ego, salesmanship and bravado. Although he recently lost his IBF world title, he retained his humility and will be back fighting in those ranks before too long. Like Geale, the Espresso burger is understated and unpretentious and also has the potential to be a household name on the burger circuit. A relative unknown; it won't last for long.
Do yourself a favour and go sample this burger now. You will not be disappointed.
Burger Friday Rating: 41/50