Lazerpig

IMG_7146

One comes to expect a certain level of burger greatness in the inner-north of Melbourne. It’s like it is against their code to make a bad burger or something. I came to Lazerpig with exactly this expectation. One caveat should apply here though: I was feeling a little bit 2nd hand after one too many craft beers the night before, and I’m not entirely sure that my stomach, or taste buds for that matter, were ready for a burger and chips.

By now it should be obvious that I was not impressed. This was a strange burger experience. There was something about the patty. It was perfectly cooked; medium-rare. But there was an element of freshness missing. Or perhaps some seasoning. I can’t quite put my finger on it, other than to say they just didn’t nail it. The flavour of the patty dominated, but not in a good way. Perhaps there was just a lack of flavour from the sauce combo that couldn’t bring all the elements together. The chips were an exception. Real chips; not out of a bag, but cut on site from real potatoes. And they were great. Crisp, with the skins left on. A worthy accompaniment to any burger.

I really need to vent about the service here. Sometimes, you just need the interaction with the staff to be a 2-way street. Unfortunately all I got here were grunts, and a general feeling that I was an inconvenience on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. Possibly one of the least friendly waitresses I have ever met. (They weren’t busy at all, so really no excuse here.)

Lazerpig is ultimately a pizza place. And the pizzas looked great. There was something enticing about the idea of a naturally fermented dough, proved for a minimum of 72 hours, with an array of delicious toppings, cooked in a wood fired oven. They did look a treat. At some point I will come back here to try the pizzas. But that day will only come once I forget about the poor quality customer service.

Lazerpig Pizza Parlour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements
Read more "Lazerpig"

Dandenong Pavilion

IMG_7121[1]

This is not my first visit to Dandenong Pavilion. Interestingly, when I sat down in front of the menu, I was convinced that the burger I had on my first visit was no longer there. I thought it had been a standard cheeseburger, as per my rules. Apparently the rules weren’t in play in March, or possibly there was no such choice to be had. Disappointment.

These guys are rightly proud of their reputation. They have enjoyed serious acclaim from burger lovers and bloggers from Melbourne, regularly featuring on best burger lists. They weren’t afraid to point this out when presenting the menu either. There are 4 choices on their “secret” burger menu, and I chose the General. I now realise this is the same choice I made 7 months ago.

The presentation of the burger has changed slightly. The chips now come in a cup, but still feature the seasoning – this doesn’t add much flavour, and seriously messes up your hands. Otherwise things are pretty much status quo. The 2 patties are almost spot on. Perhaps a tad overcooked, but the taste and texture really hit the spot for me. This makes me happy. Otherwise, the burger is an average experience. The pickles were chopped. Sauces were a nice combination of ketchup and mustard. There was a neat layer of jalapenos below the patties, which were not really needed for my mind. Would have preferred if they had been substituted for lettuce and tomato.

IMG_7122[1]

Which leads me nicely into my main whinge: no standard cheeseburger. A big omission here. Instead they have opted for some more “gourmet” choices including such items as Swiss cheese, truffle mayo, horseradish sauce, or black Russian tomato. No way Jose! This is one area where their sister outlet – Grand Trailer Park Taverna – has got the burger game nailed: simplicity. The Dandenong experience has been “upmarketed” with some fancy stuff, perhaps to justify charging $21.50. In the end a solid experience – with near perfect patties – made all the more sweet by the fact that it was paid for by work.

It should be noted that I came here with a couple of international visitors – NZ’ers. I was a little embarrassed when Phil suggested we take our business visitors for a burger lunch, but they politely agreed. Due to the seductive nature of my burger obsession, those around me are naturally joining the craze. Not only that, often they insist that we go for burgers, despite my protestations. I’m not sure whether this is because my friends think that I would only be happy in a burger joint; or, whether they genuinely want to eat burgers with me? Either way I feel a little guilty. But, I get over it pretty quickly…

IMG_7121[1]

Dandenong Pavilion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read more "Dandenong Pavilion"

Mick Adams Burger Bar

IMG_7110[1]

Mick Adams Burger Bar is further evidence of the spread of burgers to the suburbs. It’s great to see these places opening up all over the place, but they really need to pay attention to getting the burgers right.

From the outside, the place is a little understated. They don’t really shout about what they are doing – which I like. Walking inside, there is a definite burger shop vibe, and generous use of light and dark shades. Very masculine. The kitchen is on display, and everything looks neat and tidy. Check.

They also have an interesting story: the shop is named after Mick Adams who apparently opened Australia’s first milk bar in Sydney. Now what this has to do with a burger shop in Oakleigh is completely beyond me, and there is absolutely no resemblance to a milk bar here. It begs the question. What were they thinking? I guess it’s possible that the original milk bar was nothing like those of my childhood, but still…

As I alluded to above, the burger (the Cheezy Mike) really wasn’t up to par. The bun looked a little anaemic; basically a white roll zhooshed up with some multi-coloured seeds. The patty was under-seasoned, although nicely cooked, and the cheese was not visible from the outside – bigger slice please! The sauces were just plain. Plain mayonnaise on the top, and plain ketchup on the bottom. Boring. The whole thing just looks uninspiring. On a more positive note, the parmesan and truffle fries were a real hit. The fetta chips were quite nice too – thick cut chips with crumbled fetta.

IMG_7109[1] IMG_7108[1]

In fairness, other burgers at my table did look far superior. The veg burger (Lean Green) looked really quite good, as did the Spicy Jorge. Looks like my burger rules cost me here! It should also be noted that I hated the names of the burgers…

IMG_7112[1]IMG_7113[1]

 

Perhaps they do have it right after all. This is a step up from the Grill’d experience, with better beer and more of a burger vibe than the well known chain. My friends made noises like they were happy here. I guess my burger snobbishness, coupled with the rules coloured my experience. In my defense, the reviews online are far from positive and I must reach the same conclusion: this place is a fail.

IMG_7110[1]

Mick Adams Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read more "Mick Adams Burger Bar"

Dude Food Man

IMG_7103[1]

The Dude has been on my list for quite some time, and with good reason. They started as a food truck, but eventually opened this store in Essendon – albeit in a slightly odd location. Very little foot traffic and little else on the same strip; it’s no wonder there wasn’t a massive crowd here. Just to be clear, it was 6:30pm on a Saturday night.

The fitout of the shop almost looks a little tired, or perhaps cliched, or both. But the thing that really stands out here is the prices! $14 for the basic burger is getting pretty expensive – better blow my mind! Once the burger arrived, I think it became clear why it was so pricey: that brioche bun must have had at least $14 worth of butter in it. Mmm, buuuuttttteeeerrrrrr… (channeling my inner Homer Simpson).

IMG_7101[1]

I went for “The Dude Burger” and was not disappointed by the presentation. As soon as I saw it, I figured I was in for a treat (except for the chopped lettuce). Dripping with sauce, glistening bun, and I just loved the bowl that it came in. Sauce oozing from every orifice, this was gonna need quite a few napkins to clean myself up.

IMG_7107[1]

Diving in I was immediately impressed with the bun. As I said, so buttery, but also quite sweet. This is true brioche. No mucking about. The sauces err on the side of the mustard and ketchup brigade, rounded out nicely by the mayo – preventing a vinegar overload. The patty was not bad, but lacked a little seasoning for me. The cheese was a really authentic American addition; dark yellow, almost orange. Really good flavour that enhanced the experience.., normally I wouldn’t go in for this kind of cheese. The pickles were ho-hum, when they could have been an area to really shine. This is all too often the case it seems – pickles are an afterthought, or perhaps that’s just my individual point of view.

The Dude deserves his reputation. This is a quality burger establishment. They also had a nice selection of dude food accompaniments, such as mac and cheese balls. The American diner theme is perhaps a little overdone here, or perhaps just a sign of the changing times. Burgers should be moving beyond this concept of the manufactured 50’s diner. If you want to go down this road, perhaps Fat Bob’s in Moorabbin is a good template to follow. A little more class, some local flair, and a more genuine kitsch. Go here for the burger with it’s decadent brioche. It may not feature in a top ten – if I was to name a leader board – but still an experience worth having.

IMG_7103[1]

Dude Food Man Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read more "Dude Food Man"

Homemade Burger

IMG_7035[1]

Given that I made this burger myself, it would be poor form to bestow any sort of rating on it. I do feel compelled to share it’s flaws and ingredients though…

Bun: Brioche I bought from Thomas Dux – $2.50 per roll!
Sauce: Homemade Tomato Ketchup – adaptation of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe from his “Meat” cookbook – I make this every year
Mayo: Mixture of American mustard and Real Foods whole egg mayo
Salad: Garden variety tomato and cos lettuce from the supermarket
Pickles: Whole gherkins from the supermarket
Cheese: Mainland Extra Tasty sliced cheese
Beef: Regular beef mince from the supermarket

Room for improvement:
There were a few areas where this burger failed. The patty was overcooked – oh how I have complained when others have committed this cardinal sin! The quality of the meat really needs improvement too. I forgot to toast the bun, which left it with a stale texture, and also a little cold on the palate. Some better cheese would elevate the flavour as well. I would definitely like to try making my own pickles.

Despite it’s failings, I would absolutely put this in my top 5 – oops, I just went and did what I said I wasn’t going to do. This should come as no surprise though. I have sampled plenty of burgers of late, and my version is simply a combination of my favorite things. My opinion was backed up by my friends (guineas pigs?) who shared the experience with me. I hope they were not just being polite!

One thing I do like, is that besides the brioche bun, and my homemade ketchup, all the ingredients are relatively easy to find. In order to improve it further, I will need to look further afield than the local supermarket; and I’ll also need to bring my cooking A game to the BBQ. Bring on MkII…

Read more "Homemade Burger"

Rude Boy Burger

IMG_7007[1]

The price of fame is being busy; REAL busy.

Rude Boy Burger has had some attention of late, appearing in Broadsheet; Triple M’s “The 12 Most Ridiculously Delicious Burgers In Melbourne” list; and, Time Out Melbourne’s “Best Melbourne Burgers” list. Now, I am very sceptical about these lists, and there are reports that some of them are basically just paid advertising – with the highest bidder getting the highest rating. But, given Pinky gave me the thumbs up for this place, I was keen to join him and give it a go.

Based on his experience of just how busy they are, we left it til late to arrive here – at about 8:00pm. It was still absolutely packed, with a line to infinity. We decided to have some more beers, and wait for the line to subside. We came back an hour later, and there was still a 45 minute wait. Like I said, busy.

Now the first impression was average. A nice fit out, although being so busy let’s the dining area get a bit messy. Looking at the menu, they explicitly mention that the burgers are cooked medium-well. This I have never encountered before. All the best burger places talk about medium-rare patties, and this is the best way to have a burger in my opinion. I asked if this option was available, and a very stressed member of the kitchen staff shot that idea down, quick smart. I wondered why? Is the mince not fresh? Or is it just too much inconvenience for them to fulfil the request? Of course, it could have just been the stress of being so busy.

While ordering, I was watching the cooks at the grill handle the patties. There was lots of pressing and squashing going on, and very little respect for this glorious creation. Another black mark in my book. A great burger really needs to be treated like a fine piece of steak. They were also melting the cheese in the oven; red flag for an overcooked patty!

IMG_7015[1]

The presentation and overall look of the burgers was excellent. I ordered the shop’s namesake: the Rude Boy. As you can see from the photos, there was a massive amount of sauce present. We were also told that the kitchen ran out of burger buns, and had to grab an alternative from the cafe next door. It was a delicious brioche bun, but I can’t comment on how this compares to the standard bun. Overall a very tasty burger, but as predicted, the patty was overcooked (although not dry); and over-salted. In my experience, salting a burger patty is a real science. If you are going to have a pink patty you need to ramp up the salt a bit. If this patty was pink, the seasoning could possibly have been perfect. As it was well done it was REALLY salty. A saucy number that was actually quite delicious all in all, but left me with a very dry mouth. More beer anyone?!

IMG_7009[1]IMG_7016[1]IMG_7012[1]

Special mention to the “Cubano” loaded fries. Recommended by Pinky, and there was no doubt they were delicious. As it was so late, and I rode my bike 18kms to get here, I really needed those extra carbs. Look at all those pickles!

Overall a great burger, but room for improvement. When the dust settles from the fame of media notoriety, perhaps they will have the time to devote to perfecting some of the flaws I found here. But a worthy contender in it’s current guise.

IMG_7015[1]

Rude Boy Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read more "Rude Boy Burger"

Margaret River Wine Tour

IMG_6925[1]

I would class myself as a wine appreciator, although someone who can only say “I like,” or “I don’t like this wine.” I used to say that I don’t like Chardonnay, or really any white wine for that matter. I couldn’t even articulate why! It was tolerable, but certainly not preferable. I professed this to a wine lover, and was immediately instructed to try a Margaret River Chardonnay.

Now this changed everything…

Given that same wine lover stole my friend from Melbourne, and whisked him away to Perth to live, I saw a golden opportunity to visit this mythical wine paradise. And so it was that I found myself in Margaret River on the Wine for Dudes tour bus last week. There were 4 wineries on the itinerary, as well as an olive grove and a brewery.

First cab off the rank was Edwards Wines. Now I rarely hold back in being critical, and this is no exception. First impressions were not encouraging. My memory is of a slightly tacky trellis arch, leading to a tired, peach coloured building. They have a unique narrative at Edwards; the winery’s founder, Brian Edwards, flew a Tiger Moth from England to Australia in 1990 to raise funds for charity. The winery has since been inherited by his two sons.

IMG_6872[1]

I certainly wouldn’t want to take anything away from this achievement – and it is a great achievement! But, it felt like they were clinging to this out of some obligation to the memory of their father; or perhaps because they lack a fresh narrative to take it’s place in a new era. For me this really spoiled the whole experience. They just seemed to be stuck in a 90’s time warp. Of course, it is entirely possible that I am just not in their target market. Perhaps the greater cross section of visitors to this region would really appreciate this little piece of nostalgia?

As for the wines, I really didn’t take to any of them. I stupidly convinced myself to buy at least 1 bottle from each winery we visited, so I grabbed a bottle of their Cabernet Merlot Malbec, as this was the one I liked the most. This decision was one that I am still regretting now. I almost don’t want to drink the wine, and would feel bad taking it to someone’s house to share – I would be compelled to tell the story in great detail too.

I must confess, that having just checked their website, I am tempted to soften my criticisms of this particular winery. Such is the power of marketing on my impressions and decision making. Online is obviously a space that they have designed to appeal to my demographic more closely. I wonder if this would change my opinion of the wine too?

Next stop was Olio Bello for some olive oil tastings. I loathed this experience. Another venue that just did not suit my tastes, and the olive oil, dips and sauces were not really all that exciting for me. I couldn’t wait to leave…

IMG_6875[1]

Now to a more positive experience, Hay Shed Hill winery. This was like an oasis in the desert after the first two stops, and also proves that I am not negative about absolutely everything!

Coming up the driveway, you could see and feel the history of this place. The 30 year old vines were clearly amongst some of the first planted in this region; their heavy stems leading to delicate shoots of the new season’s crop. The buildings had a classic feel, but once you walked inside, it was obvious that they were moving with the times.

IMG_6878[1]

The restaurant – or cafe as they call it – had a casual feel, with some quality food offerings. The chef also has the claim to fame of once appearing as a guest on Masterchef. I spoke to him about this, and he was very keen to play it down, saying that it was years ago. A true chef; I love it! The main draw card here for me was the cheese cabinet. Oh my god, my eyes pretty much popped straight out of their sockets! Nothing really local in there, although I think that is with good reason.

IMG_6877[1]

I promptly fixed my gaze on the bottom shelf, and ordered 3 of their finest blues, one of which was greedily consumed in my tent, strangely paired with beer – an IPA from Feral Brewing called “Hop Hog.” What can I say, it worked for me, and I do love beer. I did enjoy the cheeses as a selection with some fine Swan Valley bubbles on a later occcasion.

IMG_6987[1]

The wine here was impressive, and the vast selection showed both the size of this winery’s interests, and their ability to move with the times. The knowledge of our lovely NZ host from the winery was very impressive indeed, and I felt that I learned a thing or two here. I did pick up a couple of bottles from the cellar door: a Hay Shed Hill Block 1 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (or SSB in WA speak), and a Hay Shed Hill Voignier dessert wine from McLaren Vale. Sadly they had run out of Chardonnay, although I managed to find it in my local Dan Murphy’s, ready to be enjoyed on my upcoming birthday.

Next visit was to Laurance winery. The grounds here were so impressive, as were the buildings. Someone has invested a lot of money here to get things looking just how they like it.

IMG_6879[1]IMG_6882[1]       rose-wine

Unfortunately, behind the style, there really was very little substance. The wine was very palatable, but nothing stood out from the crowd as a winner. I absolutely hated the bottles they came in, so quickly abandoned my intention to buy from each winery.

The last winery on the tour was House of Cards. I really fell in love with this place. The owners are in their early 30’s, with a young family, and have put it all on the line for this risky venture. They also have a point of difference, in that their wines come only from the vines on their property. This adds substance to the name, as wine making can be like a “house of cards” if the harvest does not come in. For these guys, this is amplified by not being able to buy-in grapes from elsewhere if there is a tough season.

The wine was really good here (see how I still have so few ways to describe why I like wine). There was a certain authenticity to the presentation during the tastings, and I left really impressed. Also left with a bottle of their Chardonnay (which was thoroughly enjoyed) and a Cabernet Merlot from their “The Joker” series.

My photos from House of Cards are poor and sadly lacking. Perhaps an indication of how much wine had been tasted at this point?

IMG_6885[1]

Final stop on the tour was to a brewery. Now this is more my speed! Cheeky Monkey is another large Margaret River venture, with very impressive grounds. This would be the perfect place to have a function, and the spaces were immense. The beer here was not out of this world, but tasty none the less. Certainly made a refreshing change after a day of wine tastings. My favorite was the Pilsner, slightly surprising for me, but a nice palate cleansing, refreshing brew if I do say so. I skipped the ciders, hence the 2 empty spaces on the paddle. Only beer for this little black duck!

IMG_6887[1]

The tour itself was well run, with our knowledgeable guide John providing us with information and entertainment along the way. Perhaps not all the wineries he chose were to my taste, but the tour operators tread a tight rope when it comes to running these tours. There was a few backpackers in our group, who clearly felt that the $95 they paid was justification enough to get drunk for free. I am fairly certain the wineries dispensing free wine tastings do not appreciate this attitude. John tried to encourage us all to buy wines, to support each winery. No doubt he feels obliged to try his best to help the sales, especially if he wants to continue to bring his paying guests along to the wineries for free. Apparently some of the wineries have started charging for tastings… I wonder why?!

The next day I went out on a mission to find THE perfect Chardonnay. My visit to Howard Park winery achieved this goal. This was a big site that clearly had invested heavily in their Margaret River operation – a vast space for tasting, bottling and cellaring amongst their acres of vines. They have vineyards in many of WA’s popular growing regions, and use this to their advantage to create some amazing wines. I chose the Howard Park Chardonnay from the Margaret River property, as well as a Howard Park Flint Rock Chardonnay, produced from their cooler climate vineyards in the south-east of WA.

IMG_6923[1]

There are definitely some impressive wineries in Margaret River, but the true attraction for me was the beaches and the flawless weather. The coastline is long, and the countless bays and beaches are simply breathtaking. Cue obligatory beach vista image… now.

IMG_6900[1]

IMG_6925[1]

Read more "Margaret River Wine Tour"