Menu Item: We’re calling it the VB Burger, for Very Beautiful.
Price: All we know is that longneck makes it a great value. Full stop.
Squawk: Do you have to ask?
Buaawk: Nothing. There is nothing not good about this.
Purveyor: Ze Pickle, Foveaux St. Surry Hills NSW, Australia
Menu Item: The Southern Hick
Price: $16.50 AUD
Squawk: First of all, the Worldwide Holy-Cluck Reviewer Team prides itself on knowing about all things chicken burger, so when our friend and famous actress, Kristin Sweeney, popped into Sydney for a visit and told us she thought she’d stumbled across a solid nine or ten at place we’d never heard of, we were all like, whaaaaaa? Turns out homegirl was right. Ze Pickle was literally entering its second week of business when she dragged us back for her second burger in a row. (On two consecutive days, not the same day. Don’t be gross). Before we even got inside, we liked it. The interior is wide open and welcoming, with great decor done by the owners themselves. It mainly consists of walls comprised of marijuana sacks and black drawers (possibly full of weed), and a lone PacMan neon light. They have a great beer list, that changes frequently so you can try new things each time you go back, and the service is attentive and on-point. Adam, the friendly Owner, told us he interviewed over 300 people for 20 positions and it’s clear he chose well. And not just in the front of the house, but in the back too, because the burger we had was off the chook. (Sorry. Hook.)
There are TWO chicken burgers on the menu, so we’ll be back to review the other one soon, but for now we settled on The Southern Hick. It comes with maple smoked bacon, jack cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and ZP’s own secret sauce but it was the smoked jalapeños that really put this one over the top. (Note: they come standard on the other burger, but we asked for them on the Southern Hick because SMOKED JALAPEÑOS! Even without those, the maple smoked bacon is the best we’ve had in Australia and it adds a unique sweetness that we haven’t enjoyed anywhere else. Speaking of sweetness, these knuckleheads have created a dessert called the “Oreogasm” – two Oreo cookies deep fried in doughnut batter with toffee caramel ice cream and topped with liquid Nutella and a cherry. Proceed at your own risk.
Overall we were very impressed with what Ze Pickle has to offer, they are onto a winning formula and we can’t wait to go back to try chicken burger number two. Factor in the usual teething pains most restaurants suffer through during their first few months of business, and the fact that these guys get so much right, right out of the gate is even more impressive. If they keep it up, they could well be on their way to a Best Burger Award this year.
Buaawk: There are a couple easy points to deduct from this nearly perfect burger. For starters, chips are extra. At $16.50 you’d expect at least a small portion to be included. Our general feeling at HC is that charging for chips with a burger is un-Australian, un-American, un-Everything. Unless they’re amazing chips. We didn’t order any, so we’ll report back when we review that second dirty bird burger on the menu. The bread roll isn’t anything special – normally we like a nice brioche or sometimes a toasted rye bread, but in this instance the rye would have looked out of place, and sweetness of the brioche along with the sweetness from the maple bacon would have made the whole thing too sugary. The fact that the Chef knew this gets them a 7, but the roll itself is a 5. If you’re a regular reader of Holy-Cluck then you know we love our sauces. Ze Pickle have a special ZP sauce, but we have no idea what it is and it wasn’t apparent on the burger. Asking for other sauces got us a small ramekin of Cholula, a great choice, but bring the bloody bottle so we can slather at will, and more options is more better.
UPDATE: We went back. Brought some friends. This burger stacks up. Solid nines and 9.5’s all around. And this time we ordered the beer cheese sauce and maple bacon fries. All we can say is they’re super tasty and we’re gonna need bigger pants. We still think chips should come with the burgers as opposed to being an add-on, but as far as add-on’s go, these are the goods.
Purveyor: Charing Cross Hotel, Waverly NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Fried Chicken Burger
Price: $19 AUD (+$3 for Chips/Fries)
Squawk: This pub used to be dire. Gross, dirty and full of professional drunks. So when a friend we hadn’t seen in a while suggested we meet there and that food is good, we we’re to say the least, surprised. And slightly worried about our friend. Turns out all that worry, like most worry, wasn’t worth the energy. The “Charo” has been renovated, and for the most part, very nicely. We loved the outdoor seating area, that as far as we could tell, didn’t cater to smokers who seem to have ruined outdoor seating at every other pub in Australia. We were sad when we got kicked out at 5:30pm when the outdoor area magically becomes part of their fine dining experience. Inside the thoughtful renovation continues with the highlight being a vintage game room with some great old arcade games.
But we digress. We know why you’re here and it ain’t to hear about vintage video games. The Charo’s fired chicken burger sounds good on the menu and our Waitress thoughtfully suggested we order it with bacon to which we (always) readily agree. A nice surprise was that when the burger arrived, not only was the bacon perfectly crispy, but someone in the kitchen had the brains to trim the fat off it. Seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how many places get this simple thing wrong. Another nice touch was the oversized, fresh leaf of Iceberg Lettuce which added a some additional crunch. We also appreciated the condiment shelf which had all the usual suspects along with some new sauces we hadn’t seen before from Lillie’s. They are all mostly for red meat (BBQ), but still, being the sauce aficionado’s we are (and with our Founder having gone to school in North Carolina, aka BBQ Country) it was a welcome surprise to see some new sauces on the shelf.
Buaawk: First the burger: The roll was way too sweet, more like a marshmallow than a brioche. We like sweet buns on our women, not our burgers, and this one bummed us out. The chicken was fried thigh meat and was supremely neutral in flavour, texture and appearance. There’s no special attention here to the batter or spices and its a major flaw. Also the portion of meat was on the small side, and there wasn’t enough bird to fill the bun. We later discovered this wasn’t always the case as a late arrival’s burger was much better proportioned. So they lose points for inconsistency.
Now the venue. While the new renovation is great, two things bring it down. One is the noise. Even with the few acoustic tiles in the ceiling the place is annoying loud which turns mealtime conversation with friends into a shouting match. Add in the multiple TV’s and plethora of wobbly, aforementioned, professional (loud mouthed) drunks and it almost makes us not want to come back. The second thing is the staff. Jeez, they act like they’re doing you a huge favour when you order. Anything. Get over yourselves.
Bonus Points: Beer selection, vintage game room, nice renovation to what used to be a crap pub.
Purveyor: Bondi Hardware, Bondi NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Spiced Chicken Sliders
Price: 4 for $20 AUD
Squawk: Nice venue. Good beer list. Friendly Staff. But you just want to know if four of those tiny lil sliders are worth $20 right? Short answer: No. Long answer: No. (See below)
Buaawk: The tiny bits of chicken were so deeply fried that they resembled bits of Karagi you might find in a Japanese place – which would be good if they were nice and moist, but they were mostly dry. The bacon jam sounded like a bad idea, and it was, but you can’t go wrong with Sriracha slaw, which is the saving grace for these overpriced, undersized burgers. Oh and they don’t come with fries/chips either. Those you have to order separately which just seems so totally out of the sprit of chicken burgering (we made that word up) that if it wasn’t for the delicious beers and sunny outdoor tables, we’d call in the burger police.
Purveyor: Keg & Brew, 26 Foveaux St. Surry Hills NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Diablo Chicken Burger
Price: $16 AUD ($9.90 on Mondays)
Squawk: The smokey cheese was the only highlight of this burger – that, and it looked appetising when it landed on my table. How wrong I was.
Buaawk: Where to start? The chicken wasn’t spicy, as advertised. It was, however, overcooked, and had the consistency of chicken you would find in the frozen section of your local supermarket. The brioche tasted a day old. Even the freshest of brioche has no business housing a chicken burger, in my opinion.* I think it had coleslaw, but there was so little that I’m struggling to remember.
– Tim B.
*Editor’s Note: This is a subject of much debate here at Holy-Cluck and is largely brioche dependant.