I was quite excited to write this post, not because it’s about burgers or that it’s a Neil Perry initiative, even though both are fantastic. It’s mainly because its one of the few times that I’ve been able to hit up a place while the hype train is still going strong, so this is definitely a new experience for me! Most times when a new place opens up, I kind of hear about it, and make plans to go, and then get really lazy, and then the time slips and well…ok yeah so it might be obvious that I don’t really have a good reason for this. I guess I’m just not very good at this whole eating food thing. Anyway, this time, this time I got there! So I’m pretty excited about this.
I wasn’t planning to visit The Burger Project during my recent trip to Sydney. I was actually down to hang out with my sister who recently finished her HSC and we decided to head out to the city for some dinner and dessert. Having no plan and no booking and being there just on 5PM, I was looking for a place to eat and realised that The Burger Project had opened not too long ago! It was new, hip and figured that there shouldn’t be a line since it was only 5PM! Well, I was wrong. So wrong. We got there at 5.10PM and I couldn’t believe it, there was a line out the door.
The crew at The Burger Project were getting us to order prior to seating down, which was pretty smart of them, since I can’t imagine the kind of riot that would break out if you get to the front of the line, and then don’t know what you’re ordering. Though I must say, I noticed when we were leaving at around 7PM, The Burger Project was much quieter, there was no real line, and people were able to sit down, study the menus and then order at the counter. It looks like we were all trying to avoid the rush by getting in early, but by doing so we created our own rush! So note for interested burger goers, leave it to 7PM, you’ll be fine! We went on a Saturday as well. Note: I accept no responsibility if The Burger Project is busy at 7pm.
Alrightie, thats sufficient rambling for now (don’t worry, there’s always more rambling to come) but time to mix it in with some food talk.
Being a non meat eater, I went for the only non meat option on the menu, the Magic mushroom burger ($12.50) with grilled confit mushrooms, cheese, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and secret sauce. I’m not sure if I’m going crazy or something here but here at The Burger Project, the vegetarian option was the most expensive item on the menu, it was almost $5 more expensive than the standard beef burger and a little more expensive than the double meat burger too. I thought that was strange, I normally find that the veggie version is as expensive if not cheaper than the meat options but who knows, with this whole clean eating, hipster craze and what not going on, maybe mushrooms are in heavy demand now!
When this burger popped out in front of me, I initially thought this was the meat burger! It looks so meaty and well, just like a standard burger, I let my expectations get the better of me, but nope its two slices of large mushrooms that slightly overlap in the middle. When I looked back at the menu, this burger had the exact same fillings as the beef and cheese burger except instead of a meat patty, there was a big brown mushroom.
The buns used at The Burger Project remind me of McDonald cheeseburger buns which depending on how fancy you like burgers, could be a good thing or a bad thing. For me? I absolutely love those buns. They’re light and fluffy with that little bit of crunch and a little bit charred on the inside. Though I should mention, I’ve never been a huge fan of super rich brioche bun burgers, and the trend towards it was always a bit upsetting to me. To me, a burger needs to have at the very least, structural integrity. I’ve got to be able to hold onto that thing and eat it, brioche buns just constantly fall apart, and I feel really silly going at a burger with a knife and fork. It’s just not a burger!
Anyway, there was a good amount of filling with plenty of fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomato which counterbalanced the stronger flavours and savouriness of the cheese, pickles and confit mushrooms. The crew at The Burger Project were really generous with the cheese, with two slices and plenty of mushroom too, this kind of helped ensure that the burger didn’t feel like a salad. One slight issue with this decision however, was that the mushrooms got extremely salty as you munch your way through it. I may have a lower salt tolerance than most, but it was really difficult to work my way through this burger in just one sitting due to how salty it got. I’m usually a bit wary whenever a place advertises a secret sauce without some sort of adjective (chilli secret sauce, or chipotle secret sauce) but this was a pretty enjoyable sauce and rewarded my bravery. The secret sauce was really creamy and had a smokiness to it.
Overall, this burger kind of reminded me of a Big Mac but vegetarian which is awesome!! Because I absolutely love Big Mac sauce and sometimes get a Big Mac with fish patties instead of beef to try and limit the beefiness. So in that respect, this was a big win!
Our second burger for the night was the Spicy pork belly burger ($9.90) with crispy pork belly, salted chilli, pickles, pickled slaw and lettuce. I did notice that there was quite an Asian/Korean theme throughout the menu, I’m pretty sure there’s a Korean burger and dog which has kimchi in it. This burger was kind of in between the two, with elements of both Western burgers and hints of Asian influences here and there. Like the veggie mushroom burger, the spicy pork belly burger also uses the same bun, I’m guessing all the burgers do and I won’t bore you again with how much it reminds me Mcdonalds.
The Asian elements in this burger are strong and pretty delicious. There was plenty of pickled shredded carrots, radish and cucumbers which brought a lot of tanginess to the burger, it also helped to offset the fattiness of the pork belly. Again like the pickled veggies the pork belly was quite Asian. I find Western pork bellies tend to focus on the softness and moistness of the meat, whereas Asian pork bellies are all about the crispiness and crunchiness of the skin. The pork belly at The Burger Project was just that, super crispy and really crunchy. As you bite in to your burger, you hit crunch after crunch after crunch. Its like having crackling as a topping or an added filling. The pork itself wasn’t too strong in flavour so the taste of the pork didn’t really come through in the burger. It kind of was overcome by the strong pickled flavours of the carrots and radish.
I can definitely see where The Burger Project was going with this burger and it was a fantastic idea, though I really did wish the pork flavours where just a little bit stronger since I really couldn’t taste it much, outside of the crunchy texture. I also noticed, the way the meat is laid, if you somehow start eating from the wrong side, you end up with parts with no awesome fatty pork belly and then parts just full of fat. In hindsight that may have been my fault. I did take the burger out to take a picture then just placed it back in. Maybe the crew at The Burger Project place it into the pouches on the perfect side which ensure you get pork and fat at the same time. So maybe! (Don’t take pictures of your burger like I did, you might ruin it for yourself!)
To turn it into a meal, we got a side of House made chips ($4.90), thrice cooked chip with chipotle chilli. I think this is my first time trying out this whole cooking your chips multiple ways to make them crunchier concept. I have no idea how they do it at The Burger Project but my understanding of the whole thrice cooked thing is that you boil the potatoes until they start falling apart and then you bake or fry them or something like that, then you freeze it and do it again. This way you end up with more surface area to fry up hence your chips get really crispy and crunchy, which everyone loves.
With that said, I’m not sure how I feel about these, like I said, I’ve never had thrice cooked chips before so I have no idea if these were right or wrong but I didn’t absolutely love them. I found the chips quite dry, so imagine my disappointment when I realised that chipotle chilli did not involve sauce of any kind, and was in fact a powder. These chips were fine for $4.80, I don’t feel gypped or anything so no hard feelings. The chipotle chilli flavour wasn’t that spicy, it had a little bit of heat to it but nothing compared to what we ended up with later on in the night.
Again, I don’t really know how thrice cooked chips are meant to taste, but they honestly felt a bit…stale? The outside was definitely crunchy enough, the inside felt dried and hollowed out though, and it just wasn’t extremely enjoyable for me. I will definitely need to come back and try these fries on a better day and give them a fighting chance because I feel like I might be a bit hard on them. Next time chips, next time.
Onwards to some refreshments, first up the Mandarin house made soda ($4.50). So there were two house made sodas to pick from, this mandarin one and a passion pop one which I assumed is passion fruit flavour. For some reason I opted for the mandarin flavour even though I’ve never really enjoyed mandarins when cooked up or turned into juices. I absolutely love the fresh fruits but I find when they’re used to make things, they just give everything a slightly bitter taste. That might be just me though.
I enjoyed this drink as much as anyone who dislikes mandarins can. It was really refreshing and perfect for the warm Spring weather that we’re having right now. I found that it had quite a lot of fizz to it, which I assume most people will enjoy. I didn’t but I’m also known to buy soft drinks and shake out all the fizz before I drink them because I find it makes my mouth all numb and then I can’t taste anything. For this drink though, the mandarin flavour and the sweetness of this drink was quite strong and it cut right through the fizziness. I guess, I kind of picked the wrong drink here, it just had some elements that I didn’t like but I should have known that before ordering it. For any mandarin and fizzy drink lovers out there. This will be perfect for you.
Our last treat for the night, the Salted dulce de leche shake ($6.50). This drink, I actually liked a lot. I should probably just stick to milkshakes from now on, because at least I know, I’m always going to love a milkshake. This was a great little treat. It was super creamy and delicious but didn’t have that super strong vanilla ice cream taste to it that most milkshakes do. The dulce de leche flavours were really mild, only really coming through as an after taste rather than hitting you as you take each sip. This may sound like a bad thing but I actually ended up preferring it way more. By having the caramel flavour quite mild, I found every sip of this drink enjoyable. I normally find classic ducle de leche or caramel like shakes way too overwhelming and sweet, leading me to give up on it half way through. Here, I enjoyed every last drop. Outside of the salted dulce de leche flavour, the remaining flavours were quite traditional but I’m sure they’re just as delicious.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at The Burger Project. I mean it wasn’t perfect but I feel like it was so much easier to dislike this place than to like it. I mean, for one I accidentally picked some bad choices that I honestly knew I wasn’t going to love, which is completely my fault. Plus, I feel like because The Burger Project has Neil Perry’s name attached to it, everyone’s expectations are just heightened or through the roof. Plus, I broke one of my first rules of restaurant eating, ‘never visit a place when it first opens up, give it a month or so to get on its feet and really know how to do things’. I will have to go back to The Burger Project next time when I’m in Sydney for Christmas and give it a second go by then, hopefully they’ll have everything together. Plus, I’ll definitely be more careful to pick dishes that I actually normally enjoy like the ice cream!