St Heliers Bay Cafe and Bistro

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My second burger adventure in Auckland. The recommendation came from a website claiming a definitive list of the best burgers here. There was some pressure with this pick. I was at a trade show, where I was talking up my burger knowledge with a fellow exhibitor. Best way to get a burger eating companion when travelling OS alone. We headed out with much anticipation.

He – like many others – doesn’t see the point in travelling far and wide for a burger, or any kind of good food. Something about my burger passion must have sparked his curiosity though, as he eagerly followed my lead.

St Heliers Cafe is in a beautiful Auckland location, overlooking the bay. It provided plenty of natural drama, with the sun setting over the bay, glowing against the sails of the boats enjoying the evening on the water. A comfortable and casual environment wins the day here. Cafe windows welcomed the balmy Autumn air into the dining area. The liberal use of wood echoes the buzz of the crowd, adding to the casual feel. A beautiful kitchen bar overlooks the entire area, with the skills of the kitchen on show for all to see.

The burger almost seems out of place on this menu – it’s a commoner surrounded by fancy. But then, this burger is a little bit fancy itself. A deliciously soft, buttery bun with a onion jam/puree that was packed full of umami. The patty itself was a good one. Nothing amazing, but a nice meaty flavour all the same. The cheese struggled to stand out in this flavour profile. A little disappointing for a “cheeseburger,” but there is a lot going on here. The salad inside was simple, yet a little too fancy for a burger at the same time.

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Loved this place. Had a great feel, in a great location, and the burger was a tasty little number. But, in the end I would return here to try the other dishes on the menu. There is clearly some talent in the kitchen. And I’m the last person to say that talent shouldn’t be used to create a great burger. But, this particular talent seemed to want to take the burger to a place it doesn’t really need to go. Let’s keep the burger a straightforward number. We don’t need fussy burgers.

St Heliers Bay Cafe & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Burger Burger (Auckland)

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Work trip to Auckland? Yes, I think I need to hunt down some of the best burgers available. Burger Burger is regularly mentioned online as one of the finest in Auckland. My first night here, I decided to visit the Newmarket venue. All I can say is wow! The venue is on point. Loved the way they decorated the place. Tells the story perfectly: “WE SELL GOOD BURGERS HERE!” Consequently, my last day here I went to their Ponsonby store to sample more of their wares. Unfortunately, that venue and food was not as good. Nowhere near as good.

Back to Newmarket, fast efficient service brought a smile to my dial. The menu was no fuss, but there was plenty there to have me interested. Of course, I went for a beef burger (for the record the others on the menu are “sandwiches,” not burgers!) and added a few other items for the sake of research… and gluttony.

The fried chicken arrived first. Oh my god, it is that good. Crispy and crunchy pieces of thigh meat – off the bone – that were doused with cumin and had aioli on the side. Taking into account that I loved this chicken, I have two complaints: the cumin became overpowering towards the end, and not enough aioli. Despite this, I highly recommend it.

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The burger arrived next, along with the broccoli side dish. I ordered the broccoli because I had heard it specifically mentioned in an online review. If there is love for broccoli in an “Auckland’s 10 best burgers” post, then I gotta try it. They were not wrong. Heady hit of garlic, lots of almonds and a char on the broccoli that really complemented the sweetness of the vegetable. Very nice veg side dish.

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The burger was a pretty good effort, but lacked in a few key areas. There was just not enough going on in here to be a great burger. The meat flavour dominated. Some may say this is a good thing. But it was a little too much. The pickles and mayo were trapped in the centre of the bun, and didn’t make their presence known to me until half way through. The tomato relish had a great flavour, but it struggled to counter my impression that this whole burger was a little dry. This was the fault of the bun. Tasty, but dry. This burger needed something more.

After visiting a few different burger places in Auckland, I am impressed how the best bits of hipster (burgers and beers) have really taken off here, but without any of the cliche beards, tattoos, etc. Burger Burger has a good vibe. Or should I say Burger Burger Newmarket has a good vibe. Skip the Ponsonby store, it’s just nowhere near as good.

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

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Changz Canteen

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Changz Canteen has strong game in the presentation department. There is no doubt what these guys are about once you walk inside and view the spread. Lots of wood… check. Bearded man… check. Beer in tins… check. Fried chicken… check. Burgers and fries… check. Apparently this place was opened as a result of their hot sauce becoming almost ubiquitous in burger joints across Melbourne. Why not get in on the action?

There is a lot to like here. The vibe was on point. There is no “what would you like?” at Changz. They prefer”wot u feel?” The menu has everything that is gonna keep me happy. Burgers, fried chicken, fries, beer. There are of course other choices, but who cares really?

I was “feelin” a burger of course. But first, why not a little fried chicken to get things going? Yes please! Crispy and delicious, with a fresh flavour coming from the aioli. Just a hint of citrus that made my mouth water. Oh, I was sure the burger was going to be good based on this.

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Looks like they prefer to keep it simple here, with only a few menu choices. Just the way I like it. I went with the cheeseburger, and added tomato and lettuce in line with standard practice; the rules. The bun was oh so good. Perfectly soft, and probably a match made in heaven with this cheeseburger. I say probably, because after finishing this I decided  I’d made a big mistake adding salad. This burger was never designed to have salad in it. Although the fault is not entirely mine. The lettuce was cut – big mistake. And there was just too much of it. In the end, there was no single taste that stood up, smacked me in the face and said: “damn, if this ain’t the best burger I ever ate!”

Ultimately, I probably should have taken their sauce and poured it inside the burger. That may have been the kick that it needed. However, another rule says after you pick it up, never put the burger back down. So no go there. The cheeky lunchtime beer of choice was a French lager. Nice compliment to a burger, and at $5 for a tin, perfectly priced. I will come here again and let the menu do the talking.

Changz Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Assembly

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The hankering for a burger hit hard at lunchtime today. There are a number of go-to places in the near vicinity of my work, but I really wanted to go somewhere new. This can lead to something good… or not so good.

In this instance, I would have to say that my desperation to go somewhere new overtook my common sense and led me down a garden path to The Assembly. First impressions were of a hipster inspired burger place. No name on the sign out the front. It just said: “Burgers and Parmas.” Perhaps a step forward for Clayton, but could they back it up with a decent burger?

It really does annoy me, that someone would open up a burger place, and not know how to make a decent burger! To not even take the time to even come close to something worthy of the title is unforgivable. Yes, there was a patty, and a bun. But seriously; wrong on so many levels. The bun was just plain uninteresting. No big deal. Seen this before. The patty, whilst tasting “ok” was falling apart with every mouthful. I had to eat fast just to keep it sort of within the confines of the bun. Just cause you also sell Parma’s, doesn’t mean you can get away with putting mozzarella cheese on a burger. Wrong. And avocado. No. Lucky they seem to have forgotten to put the advertised tomato relish on the burger, or I might have had something else to complain about.

The only saving grace was that my burger looked better than the grilled chicken burger my workmate had. The Assembly is really just taking the piss by calling these burgers. Shame. Oh, and no coffee on offer at lunchtime – the agony. The lesson to learn here, is for me to trust my intuition and only go where I think good burgers are made. This was just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Assembly Food & Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer

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You could be forgiven for asking yourself: what the hell is going on at this place? They have a burger night on Thursday only. They offer a 300gm dry aged patty, amongst some other delicious ingredients, in a pretty good burger, for only $10. It’s been rated by some popular blogs, and yet the place was empty. Dead empty. Some locals were there. A couple of people came and went in a hurry after scoffing the burger.

Therein lies the answer… Or, several answers in fact. Walk inside, and there is no hint of a burger night. No sign, nothing written on the board. I had to go to the bar and ask! Nothing on the website either. And only some vague mentions on their Facebook page. The place was empty at 7pm, which is always a major concern when I walk into a place. It is “just a pub,” and it could perhaps be a surprise that they might have a good burger offering, but just have a go at selling the bloody thing. Sign on the board? Blackboard out the front. Just something!

So, on to the burger. Wow, this thing is massive. On paper it looks good. 300gm dry aged beef patty, cheese sauce, bacon, onion ring inside the brioche bun, all with some fresh salad and quality pickles to top it off. Sounds to me like a recipe for success.

Unfortunately, whilst delicious, it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. The bun was a little dry; like it had been left under a really low grill for ages. Or worse still, pre-cut and left on the bench in a warm kitchen. The combination of flavours was good, but the burger is just too big. And a patty that size needs to be perfect not to ruin the burger. There is a reason that you never see a patty this big. It just doesn’t work. This one was dry-ish and overcooked. The juices came pouring out when you took the first tentative bite, but there were none left inside the burger. Just dry. If this is an advertisement for dry-aged beef, I ain’t buying it!

Given that they had a couple of decent craft beer options on tap, I gotta say that this pub isn’t too bad. They have a “roadkill” night on Wednesday’s, which would be interesting to see. Although, I do worry about how quiet they were on their burger night! For $10, you really can’t complain. But that right there is a sad indictment of a burger that could have been.

The Royal Mail Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tuck Shop Takeaway

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It’s been a while since I came to Tuck Shop, and I have always considered this to be the gold standard by which all burgers would be judged. It was time to put this theory to the test, and see if it stands up to the fine offerings from new entrants to the burger market.

Interestingly, this follows directly on from one of the better burger experiences I have had on my journey. It was also an opportunity to share my Dad’s first proper burger experience. Seemed like the gold standard was the way to go.

There is so much to admire here. Everything is made from scratch. Believe me, this approach takes some effort, and does not go unnoticed by me. Gotta love that kind of dedication. I finally got my hands on one of their Redskin brownies and it was just SO delicious! Every other time I’ve been here, they have been sold out. It was worth the wait. I will be attempting to replicate this on the weekend…

The burger is just so right. A nice balance of everything, it just makes me so happy. Although, I felt my love for it waning on this third visit. The flavour was there, but it didn’t blow me away this time. Too much lettuce – and chopped lettuce at that! Visually, the take away option just kills the experience. I tried to get a good photo, but it was just not possible. They do allow eating in, but in the cramped space there were some loud people sharing a 4 patty burger and taking endless photos, patting themselves on the back. Who does that – orders a 4 patty beast; takes 30 photos of it; then cuts it in half and shares it with someone? Completely ridiculous. If you can’t eat the stupid sized burger, don’t order it.

Anyway, back on point: I love this place, and it remains one of my favorites. I wish they would open a bigger place, with more seats and a dining atmosphere. This would complete the picture for me. I have resisted in the past, but this visit I must take off points for the presentation. But, burger lovers, come here at least once. This you will not regret!

Tuck Shop Take Away Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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