Eating my way around Melbourne – the one about burgers

My first Aussie burger set the benchmark for all burgers, Aussie or otherwise.

Kermonds

In December 2011, on a trip along the Great Ocean Road, we stopped off at Kermonds in Warrnambool. This burger was simply the best I had ever had, so juicy and full of things I had never seen on a burger bun before. In England a burger with cheese and a fried onion was thought of as exotic, up until quite recently. I can actually remember at getting quite excited at my first trip to McDonalds in the 70’s. Indeed, I recall it was the father of the person who we were housesitting for, who was responsible for introducing me to my first Big Mac in Milton Keynes.

Kermonds have had a burger bar in Warrnambool since 1949. And not much has changed. It was almost if I had walked onto a set of Happy Days. A few years ago some would have called it old fashioned. Now of course it is ‘vintage’. Fortunately, no burger entrepreneur came along to improve and modernise, so Kermonds has remained much the same for 66 years.

Also after a long day on the road, I was hungry and tired. This place offered much needed tea, freshly cooked burgers and it was just so cool. It wasn’t just the burger that was good, it was the whole retro experience that makes the burger experience so memorable.

I am pretty sure that is still the best burger I have ever had, but a girl has got to keep tasting them, just to make sure. In the UK The Meatshack burgers are still my favourite. They are a pop up burger stall, and can be found at The Digbeth Dining Club and other events around Birmingham.

On occasions I have missed out as I was not willing to queue for them (is any burger worth a 40 minute line?) but I still rate them very highly. Meatshack describe their burgers as ‘dripping filthy goodness’, and they are not wrong. There are Brummies who would argue that The Original Patty Men make the best burgers, I have yet to try one, so Meatshack is the one for me.

Yet I digress. This is all about Burgers in Melbourne. And one in Sydney. More about that later.

Huxtabuger

Visiting Huxtaburger was on the to do list, and although both Phil and I liked the burgers we had (Bills and Theo, eggs, bacon, beetroot and pineapple were involved) we didn’t like the location. This branch is in a food court off Collins Street, it was too small and absolutely rammed. It was only later we realised we were meant to go to the one on Smith Street in Collingwood. We had plans to go there, but time was our enemy. And other burgers needed to be tasted. Of course, the burger would have tasted the same, but as the Kermonds visit demonstrates, the surroundings adds to the overall burger experience.

Easey’s

Given that the location is therefore important to the burger taste sensation, Phil and I were looking forward to visiting Easey’s.

Hidden in a back street of Collingwood so many people had said this was a must visit. Collingwood is a hipsters paradise, full of vintage furniture and coffee shops. Which is why we like the area. Phil and I are far to old to be hipsters, but if we were 30 Phil would grow a beard and I would yearn for Ercol. Instead we pretend to despise hipsters for thinking that typewriters are cooler than an ipad and vinyl is so much better than a CD. The truth being that actually we wish we had kept our typewriter and are smug that we have not disposed of the vinyl. Yes, we are that couple in While We’re Young. An older version of them, obviously. Anyway, when someone decided to put three train carriages on a roof of an office block no one thought it was an odd thing to do.

I nearly didn’t eat at Easey’s. The sweary Rap music was too loud. Yes, I sound like my mother! A dad brought his daughter to eat in the train and her face as she emerged from the lift was one of pure excitement. All I could think was that dad would squirm at the lyrics. I also thought the young staff judged us to not be hip enough to eat there, and it was implied that we should have reserved a table (for a burger joint) so we were given the tiny table that faced the lift. I wanted the drivers seat. We then amused ourselves with pressing the button and taking reflection selfies. Old we may be but we can still be childish.

We ordered the Easey Cheesey, Chicken Salt Chips and a dip. The chips were the star. The burger, not so much. Coffee served in a paper cup and the burger in a bag. Afterwards, when the sound system broke, I managed to have a conversation with the guy running Zone 1 (there are 4 Zones, the train is number 4).

The staff turned out to be not too hip to talk to oldies after all. I discovered that the best burger experience was to build your own. I also discovered that it is not just me that hates the music but this was an area the owner would not move on. It was all part of the Hip Hop Culture he was creating. And that the kids loved the PAC MAN games in Zone 2 where there was no music. Hmm, I think the kids would rather have a burger in the train, and that the day time customers (families, and suits) were different to the clientele (hipsters) after dark. It needed 70’s rock not sweary rap. All in all I was underwhelmed by the experience. The burgers were overpriced, undercooked and music just horrible. The owner claims to be a burger king.

Easey’s Burgers was birthed from one man’s mission to consume every burger he possibly can. The man known as Jimmy Burgers has spent the past three years eating burgers everyday. During this time his eaten over 3,000 burgers, released a book ‘The Burger Book – Victoria’ which has sold nearly 10,000 copies; taken social media by storm with a combined network of close to 35,000 and most recently is working on a short film series based on his burger adventures.

 

The upside? The views are good. And there is great graffiti on Easey Street.

The area is definitely worth a visit, but if I were going for a burger there are better options. Huxtaburger on Smith Street is just up the road and I would also check out Meatballs and Sons on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy next time.

Organic and free range meat. And their balls are gluten free. (That’s what they say on their website). They also say this.

Imagine a restaurant that invites you to know the butcher by name, the grower by the soil on their hands, the chef by his grin as he pinches herbs from the store’s garden, and the wait staff by the granny smith apple they gave you as a parting gift, last time you were here.

Too good to be true? We don’t think so. Simple. Delicious. Goodness all ‘round.

Lentil

Neither Phil nor I are vegetarians, yet we still love the food and the philosophy at Lentil as Anything.

We are Lentil as Anything, a not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on the generosity of patrons, partners and volunteers. At Lentil as Anything, we believe in the power of humanity to create stupendous change. At our core are our Lentil as Anything vegetarian restaurants, where guests contribute what they feel their meal and experience is worth, according to their own financial ability.

And they make a pretty fine lentil burger. 

We ate here a lot. It was a handy place to visit with the dogs after a walk in the Botanic Garden. We are biased as we volunteered at Lentil in 2011. And this burger, despite being meat free, was as good as if not better than many of the meat laden burgers we tasted Down Under.

Coin Laundry

The other place we regularly ate at was Coin Laundry. Dog friendly, just up the road from the dog park, it was our choice for brunch and was where I discovered smashed avocado. This is their Wagyu beef burger. We really like it here, good coffee, friendly staff and sociable company, many of them also dog walking. And dog people are friendly people.

Bunyip

The breakfast burger.  We had planned a visit to the Iron Houses, and discovered that South Melbourne on a sunny Sunday was the place to be for brunch. The cafes I had pinned on Pinterest were so trendy you had to line up for them. That wasn’t going to happen, so we meandered on towards the market and discovered Bunyip just opposite the market.

When I saw the menu, there was never any doubt what Phil would choose. And this café also encourages customers to buy a suspended coffee, which is another good reason to visit there.

Riverland

On our last visit to Melbourne Riverland became a favourite place to cool down with a beer. Despite it being in the middle of winter it was still warm enough for hardy Poms to take off their coats and eat and drink alfresco.

At $13 Australian dollars (£7.50) for a pint, we decided that even with a strong pound, that it was pricey. And Riverland is better in the summer.

The Pink Elephant

The Pink ElephantPhil also had a Wagyu burger on our first night, at the Pink Elephant. But being jet lagged and all that, no photos. Officially it is called The Windsor Castle and the interior may have you thinking you have gone back to the 1970’s, but for good, solid pub food and well priced beer, it is worth a visit.

The Burger Project

The Burger Project. In windy World Square. Sydney. I had to include this one as it was rather special, if not in Melbourne. And of course I had The Aussie.

Fast food, slow food values, provenance, community, sustainability. You can see why I like the Burger Project.

Burger Project proudly supports local charities and encourages you to continue the responsibility. We believe giving back is paramount and will continue to fundraise through our restaurants, to that end we commit a portion of our turnover to those that need it.

The burgers were very good and for central Sydney, amazingly good value. Not having the hip hop edginess of being in a train on a roof in Collingwood obviously means affordable food. And a better taste in music. Phil said that they were playing the same music that our favourite B&B played on a Sunday morning, and when he remembers what that was, I will update this post.

Update, Phil has remembered. Sunrise, by Norah Jones.

Anyway, we liked the music. Similar to the music style of Sabor y Cultara in LA  it was laid back relaxing music. A place where families, students, suits and hipsters and oldies like me could relax and dive in to a burger and not worry that the kids will ask what the F and MF words mean.

Newsflash

Headline news while we were down under (the press were almost as outraged about this as they are about mislaying some ashes)  American Chef, David Chang said the Aussie burgers were the worst in the world. Has he been to McDonalds? Seems he has:

As for what makes an ideal burger, Chang puts the following on his checklist: ” …bun, cheese, burger. Sometimes bacon. Ketchup on the side, so I can control it. Pickles—yes! Obviously. And the cheese thing has to be very clear: American cheese only.

We need pineapple and beetroot on a burger. And bacon and egg. With smashed avocado on the side please. And fries with chicken salt.

If you are in Melbourne and like burgers here are some more for you to try. 33 Epic burgers. I have mentioned 2 of them and 1 of them was not epic. Or awesome. But you may disagree.

 

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