Friday, August 26, 2016


As part of my Toastmastering duties, I had been co-opted onto a judging panel for the Table Topics contest at another club on Thursday lunchtime. This would drastically reduce my burgering opportunities, as I wouldn’t have time to travel out to a far-flung destination like Cuba Street. I had been intending to try Five & Dime’s tartare offering, Baby I  Like It Raw, but in Dixon Street it was too far away. (Although there probably wouldn’t have been much of a wait for it…no cooking!)

As it was, I settled for old favourite Trade Kitchen, being en route from the contest venue. They can usually be relied on to produce a decent burger. They were being relatively unadventurous with a beef burger called AppleMac, described like this on the Burger Wellington website:

AppleMac PrimeStar beef patty with applewood smoked bacon, Waimea Dairy cheese, chopped cherry peppers and barbeque sauce in a housemade brioche bun. The Garage Project beer match was Orange Summer, which I’ve had at one place before. It’s a tasty citrus-flavoured wheat beer.

It looked like this:

First off, you’ll have noticed the foliage. This was quite a wet burger, with lettuce, tomato, peppers and barbecue sauce inside, so after an initial valiant effort at hand-holding, I gave up and attacked it with cutlery. The burger was cooked through inside, which was a shame, but the sauce and peppers were nice and spicy, and added a bit of bite to the burger. The chips were unadventurous, and served with a dish containing both tomato sauce and aioli, which I felt was a bit non-committal on their part. If you’re doing a burger in a competition, make up your mind what the accompaniments are, and have the confidence to offer them.

Not a bad burger, but there’s a reason it didn’t make my original short list. However, needs must and all that. I scored this a 7.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Friar Tuck

Today’s adventure took me to a venue up Cuba Street, Olive. This is a small café mainly catering for the hipsters, vegetarians and soy-latte drinkers that litter Cuba Street, but their Burger Wellington offering for this year is heavily meat-based. One of their USPs is a garden bar out the back, which substantially increases its capacity. Given the popularity of the place, it was full on a Wednesday lunchtime, but they were able to seat me in the garden. It’s under cover and they have heaters, so it was OK. Wouldn’t want to be out there if it was windy or rainy, which fortunately it wasn’t. The waitress told me there was a bit of a wait on food, so I ordered my burger and Garage Project beer match (Hakituri. Again.) to get it straight into the kitchen, then settled down and waited.

And waited. What the waitress hadn’t said was “there’s a wait on your beer as well”. I don’t know what the problem was*, but I collared another wait staff and he brought the beer pronto.

The FriarTuck Burger is described like this:

Randwick Meats housemade beef patty with Zany Zeus smoked brinza, Haewai Meadery honey mead and plum ketchup, and Scotty’s Meats bacon in an Arobake pain de mie bun, with pork crackling.

The burger, when it arrived, looked like this:

“That’s a pretty tasty-looking burger”, I hear you say, and you’d be right. All the components were there, and it was well-proportioned. The bacon was crispy, the bun was toasted, and the patty cooked medium rare. Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the bane of my burgering life – extraneous foliage sticking out from the bottom of the patty – but I was able to contain this fairly well. One of the many issues I have with putting lettuce in a  burger is the unintended additional wetness it brings, as the leaves are rarely dried after washing. This water combines with the juices from the burger and condiments, and spills out onto your plate, and clothes if you’re unlucky. But that aside, my only other cavil (it’s a great word, cavil) is the lack of deep-fried thinly-cut potatoes. Yes, there’s a curl of crackling accompanying the burger, but I need chips as well. But for this, we would have been into 10 territory. As it is, it scores a 9.

* But I guess she forgot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Four Burgers In One Day

We haven’t really done much with the Dine Wellington menus this year – I’ve been eating burgers, mostly. However, on Tuesday, we thought we’d give one a try, as we usually get dinner before going dancing. Most of the Dine Wellington menus on offer do seem to be for a good evening meal, and too heavy for dancing afterwards. An exception, however, appeared to be that offered by The Library, an upstairs cocktail and music venue in Courtenay Place. I’ve been there once or twice before, but not in a long while. We chatted to the waiter and he was happy for us to break up the menu and just have the main courses, so we did that. I had the fillet steak and Nicola went for the tuna. They looked like this:

And damn tasty they were, too…however there wasn’t quite as much as much of it as we’d have liked, so we decided to go back to the menu for more. Nicola went for the coconut-coated halloumi, and I decided to throw caution to the winds and try their Burger Wellington offering, which is Sweet Slider Surprise – a trio of small, sweet burgers. There’s no actual description of what will be in them, which presumably gives them licence to change it up if they want to, or if something’s not working as expected. They looked like this:

The first was a double macaroon filled with a sugary paste. The taste sensation of this was just sugar, with no other flavours coming through….a bit of a disappointment. The second was a brioche bun containing what I thought was chocolate icecream, but turned out to be a mini choc-ice. This suffered when I bit into it, and I nearly lost all the filling. It was better than the first, though. The third was a shortbread biscuit with a chocolate fondant patty and mint-flavoured “lettuce”. Flavour-wise, this was the best combo, but the shortbread was a bit heavy going. So really, we had three near misses here, and I scored it (I was feeling generous at the time) an 8.

OK so calling this "four burgers in one day" is a bit of a cheat, as three of them were quite small. And not real burgers. Nevertheless, I'm going to contact Neil Finn  and see if he can write me a song about it.

Lasagna Topper

Having failed to get into Hideaway on Monday, I thought I’d give it another try. But the door was still shut, and a check on their website shows that they should be open. I think they’ve closed permanently. That’s the problem with a  bar like Hideaway – no-one can find it. It’s tucked so far up a back alley that if you don’t know it’s there, you’re not going to stumble on it. Not a great business model.

So I was again stumped for a lunchtime venue, and decided, as it was such a nice sunny day, to go for a walk down Cuba Street to old fave, Scopa. Their Burger Wellington offering is the Lasagna Topper, described thus:

Aged Wairarapa beef with Kāpiti mozzarella, lettuce, tomato and gherkin sandwiched between two pomodoro lasagna toppers.
The Garage Project beer match was Hāpi Daze.

It looks like this:

Lasagna toppers are a thing now, apparently. So is saying "such and such is a thing, now". It's a breadcrumbed, fried slice of lasagna. Unlike a lasagna you might make at home, it needs to be more pasta-heavy and the meat almost dry for this to work. The toppers are used instead of a bun. Being quite carb-heavy, the burger is presented without chips. The tomato sauce inside is an Italian-style sauce, and there’s mozzarella on top of the burger.

This is an interesting experiment in the “how far can you change a burger until it’s no longer a burger” concept. However, I found the actual burger, which should be the star of this meal, quite tough and chewy, which was a bit of a let-down. The toppers were OK, but I wouldn’t choose them ordinarily. Overall, a bit disappointing from Scopa, who are usually up there with the best when it comes to burger competitions – in fact, I seem to recall they produced my favourite burger of the competition in 2014. I scored this a 6.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sterling Burger

I had a plan to go and warm myself up on this cold and drizzly Wellington lunchtime with the Hot Blooded Burger from The Hideaway. But, like those of mice and men, my plan went aglay. The Hideaway, it transpires, is not open on Mondays. Fortunately I’d been perusing my burger list shortly before setting out, and had noted down another nearby venue for a possible visit before the week was out, so I promoted that to the top of my list, and headed up The Terrace to new bar, Sterling.

Sterling is the latest incarnation of the site at 101 The Terrace, formerly home to The Pub, a somewhat down-at-heel boozer. I visited it several years ago – we even quizzed there for a short while – but I was generally unimpressed by it. The new bar has tidied the place up and generally moved upmarket. Their burger offering is the imaginatively-named Sterling Burger.

It’s described on the Burger Wellington website like so:

Awatoru venison burger with beetroot relish, housesmoked cheese, juniper pickled celeriac and Sterling secret sauce, with truffled shoestrings.

They’re not participating in the Garage Project beer match, so I selected a Hop Federation red IPA.

It looked like this:

I think you’ll agree, it looks pretty tasty. And by golly, it is! The housesmoked cheese was both cheesy and smoky. The celeriac and secret sauce was a kind of slaw, but they’d not made the schoolboy error of overloading the burger with it; it didn’t overpower, nor make the burger too wet. The bun was a fairly standard bread bun, but with the absorbency to soak up the beetroot and slaw, so the whole think was manageable, and burger integrity was 100% to the end. The shoestring fries were good, although evidence of truffling would require a finer palate than mine. My only minor cavil is the thickness of the patty: it was a bit on the mean side, and a couple more millimetres of thickness could have made this a perfect burger. As it is, I’m awarding it 9.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Beef Pattie "Wellington"

After a hard morning’s shopping at Briscoes and Bunnings, we decided to go for a burger lunch at Spruce Goose. Unfortunately, an inordinate number of other people had had the same idea, and there was a queue for a table. This place is massively popular, but as we’ve never been able to get a seat there, I don’t understand why. Yes, it’s handy for the surfers in Lyall Bay, but surely there aren’t that many of them? Anyway, we drove back to Miramar and went to Park Kitchen instead. They, too, were very busy, and they always seem to be completely disorganised when we go there. We took a seat and finally attracted the attention of a wait person. We ordered burgers immediately, as there's no guarantee the wait staff will return.

Their Burger Wellington entry is called Beef Pattie “Wellington”, and it is attempting to be a beef wellington in burger form. It’s described thus:

Randwick Meats premium beef mince patty with smoked beetroot, smoked provolone and bacon and egg aioli in a brioche bun, with chunky fries. The Garage Project beer match is a new one on me, Orange Sunshine.

It looked like this:

You may be forgiven, looking at that picture, for thinking that they’ve forgotten the meat and the bottom half of the bun. This is where the “wellington” part comes into play: what they’ve done, you see, is to make a burger, then completely enclose it (with bacon, cheese, and beetroot) in a brioche dough; and then bake the whole thing into a single, large bun. Clever eh? I bet that’s what they were thinking too.

What’s not so clever, from my point of view, is that this gives you a lot of bread. All the volume of a regular burger that would be taken up by fresh air is now taken up by bready brioche. Yup, the breadiness of this burger was too much, and I ended up cutting it up and eating burger to bun in a correct proportion. Another issue, although one that lessened as time went on, is that it’s served fresh from the oven, and is too hot to pick up comfortably at the beginning. Finally, (I do go on, don’t I?) to be truly a “wellington” the beef needs to be medium rare, and this was well done. So nice idea, but not really a winning burger. I scored it a 6.

Mansfield’s Saucy Story

The Thistle Inn on Mulgrave Street in Thorndon has long had an association with Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand’s premier dead female author. It also claims to be New Zealand’s oldest surviving pub operating from its original site. Mansfield was a regular guest, and wrote one of her stories set there. Apparently it involved a lesbian affair, and is a bit of a saucy story.

After Saturday morning’s dance lesson, we nipped around the corner to the Thistle Inn to try their Mansfield’s Saucy Story entry in the Burger Wellington competition. It’s described like this:

Lamb burger with Zany Zeus yoghurt, zucchini, cucumber, kaffir lime, mint dollop and rocket in an Old Bakehouse bun. The Garage Project beer match is – you guessed it – Hakituri.

It looked like this:

What strikes you about this burger? For me, it was the sauce. Yes, I was able to eat it like a burger, but it was a messy business. The sauce was very runny, and quite a lot of it got distributed around the board on which it was served. The chips (not mentioned above) were in fact kumara crisps. Plus points: it was an actual burger, and despite the messiness, held together until the end. Minus points: the mess. Yes, I do want to look reasonably respectable after eating my lunch, not like I’ve been foraging in a trough. It was tasty, though, with the promised cucumber and mint “dollop” providing some refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the lamb burger. But it didn’t have the wow factor – it was a good, ordinary burger. I’m scoring it 7.