Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Neil Perry’s Burger Project opened just a couple of days ago at World Square on George Street, right upstairs from Grill’d. I’m not really sure what the idea behind it is, but I get the feeling that he’s trying to recreate the atmosphere of the classic milk bar at the end of the street.
Perry is quoted in Good Food as saying he wants to “make the Australian burger I remember before McDonald’s came to this country.” Thing is, McDonald’s came to Australia in 1971, so the burger he’s thinking of predates any experience I’ve had with Aussie milk bars by several years. Perry himself is also 57 years of age – an age at which most people would probably think twice before indulging in a fatty burger. I honestly don’t know who he thinks he’s targeting.
On second thought I do: he’s targeting Koreans. Or, at least, the people who are riding the current wave of popularity in Korean food. To whit, there’s ‘The Korean’ (a burger with kim chi) and the K-Dog (a hot dog with kim chi. Also, incidentally, an unfortunate nickname I had to live with some years ago).
In keeping with the milk bar concept, I decided to go with something classic – the ‘Classic’, a straight-up beef burger with pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce and “secret sauce”.
It was pretty bland.
I also had the Spicy Chicken, made with thigh fillet (which will please Asian diners) and an interesting pickled coleslaw with chilli and coriander (also pleasing to the Asian palate). This one was quite nice, and I suspect the Spicy Pork Belly burger will be just as good since it’s essentially the same burger with a different animal in it.
For sides, we went with two servings of House Made Chips, one with salt and vinegar, the other with chipotle chilli salt. Apart from being largely indistinguishable, both servings of chips were dry, limp, and a complete waste of money.
Although the eating experience is average, it’s worth noting that it’s not enormously expensive. The Classic is just $7.90. The most expensive burger, Magic Mushrooms (the only vegetarian option) is $12.50. The burgers are actually pretty good value for money, especially compared with Grill’d downstairs – but that’s assuming you accept that $10 is a completely normal price for a burger. I made a mental note to check the price of the burgers at my local chicken shop before writing this (which I forgot) but I’m pretty sure it’s not.
There were a lot of other nice-sounding extras that I passed on – passion pop sodas, rhubarb pie, pavlova, lamingtons with Valrhona chocolate ice-cream… definitely very milk bar-like, but also very expensive. The $6.50 Valhrona chocolate milkshake is the unchocolatiest chocolate shake I’ve ever had.
And if we’re going to treat this as a serious foodie conversation, this place is frankly no match for Jazz City Diner, which for me remains the gold standard of milk bar-style eating.
In fact, all The Burger Project seems to have done is remind me that I’m due pay Jazz City Diner a visit.