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: 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: The Lord Gladstone, Chippendale NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Fried Chicken Burger
Price: $24 AUD (with a beer)
Squawk: When we asked locals where the best chicken burger in the neighborhood was, the answer was unanimous. So we went straight over to the Lord Gladstone with high hopes. The chicken is very, very nice. Fried, but not too crunchy or oily and the white meat was moist and tender. We enjoyed the string fries and the plain paper chip holder they came in.
Buaawk: Sadly the Happy Rock wasn’t as much a winner as we’d hoped. But it could be some of that was just bad luck. For example, while the chicken was good, and the portion generous, we felt it needed more complimentary flavours – it was light on slaw and the Sriracha mayo was non-existent so overall it was dry and bland. We also were told they had Franks Hot Sauce which could have given this one a serious nudge, but we only found out after we’d finished. To their credit, Sriracha was on offer, but given the choice, this burger begs for Franks. They make sort of a big deal about the bread calling it an “New York style soft bun,” but it was pretty plain, and very sweet. For now we’re calling it low, but we will go back – to give the kitchen another chance to find the slaw and for us to find the Franks.
Note: Look for our other review of their special KFC Korean kimchee chicken burger coming soon.
Purveyor: The Paddington Inn, Paddington NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Charred Chicken Burger
Price: $19 AUD
Squawk: This is an underrated pub in all sorts of ways. Its unassuming street presence belies its modern and vast interior with various rooms, nooks and chill-out areas. The music isn’t awful and it’s not too loud and the candle light creates accost atmosphere. But you, you would sit on a cold rock, surrounded by stacks of speakers and Drum & Bass pill fiends if it meant you could enjoy a ten out of ten chicken burger, and that’s why we love you. The Paddo does quite a few things right on this burger. For starters the brioche is amongst the best we’ve seen with the perfect amount of char. And they put bacon on it – yay! But like most places in Australia, left all the fat on – boo! The meat itself was actually quite bland – relying on the “surrounds” to do the heavy flavour lifting, sadly they don’t. But hey, they got great beers and friendly staff and you can always reach in and peel that bacon fat off.
Buaawk: The sauce on this one was… um… we forgot, because it was forgettable. But they almost make up for it by plonking a bottle of Sriracha on the table when we ask what they have with kick. The fries are fine, but not worth writing about. But what really irks us, and The Paddo isn’t alone in this regard is cooks who leave all the fat on bacon. Trim it!
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.