Grand lesson in life tend to come from trusted sources of wisdom. My parents? Fair enough – they’ve got years of experience on me. My teachers? Same deal. My boss? Yeah, I’m seeing a pattern here. A burger joint – wait, what?
And yet, a profound lesson is exactly what I received from Neil Perry’s Burger Project. Unfortunately, it was an education at his expense: don’t visit a new establishment in its first month of operation. Ouch, but true. The details are in the second part of this post, but suffice to say – I was not a fan of Burger Project when it opened late in last 2014. It was a 5/10 experience (using current scoring), and I saw very little reason to return. Those milkshakes sadly did not bring me to the yard.
Time passed, and I recently caught wind about Burger Project’s plans to expand to Martin Place (MLC food court), five stores in Melbourne, and even internationally. Positive feedback from burger fiends had been accumulating at some length now. Staff had begun to listen, and before I knew it, here was a phoenix of a burger joint before me. Burger Project has been reborn, so here I stand, in its yard once more.
Date Last Visited: 25/8/15 (four extra visits)
Address: (TBC – November 2015) MLC Centre, King St & Castlereagh St, Sydney NSW 2000 | Shop 1106 644 George St Sydney, NSW 2000 (adjacent to DTF)
Recommended Dish(es): the double, the bacon project, spicy fried chicken burger
My first visit to Burger Project was in November 2014. It was just over a month old at that time – a baby in the world of burgers, even if it is backed by the culinary genius that is Neil Perry. My latest series of revisits (all four of them, in fact) were between July and August 2015. It’s been quite the set of revisit experiences – Burger Project’s all grown up :’)
Many items have changed on the menu, with most from the original review no longer present. Recently, they’ve kept a similar selection of burgers for awhile, so there’s reason to believe it will stay like this for some time yet. Let’s see just how well Burger Project has aged.
Now if you’re going to name a burger the Bacon Project then you’ve taken $13.9 of my money easier than it is to take candy from a baby.
Before I get into the specifics of this porky sandwich, I have to remark on a change that’s apparent across all the burgers at BP since my last visit: the buns. If you take a trip down memory lane below, you’ll notice that the burger’s buns back in 2014 looked quite different. Indeed, they tasted very different too – far too bready, dry, and akin to a cheap supermarket bun which should be your final port of call, rather than what a Neil Perry product ought to be.
I’m very glad to say that we’re getting proper, squishy milk buns here. Sure, supermarket buns aren’t bad per se, but these are just so much better – they don’t fall apart with sauce, they taste better (higher butter/sugar content), and they’re fluffier. This applies to all four burgers I’ve tried – very happy about that!
As for the burger itself, you’d be forgiven to think there’s a bit of bacon in there (uh-huh). Indeed, there’s 2-3 layers of the stuff, rounded out with Burger Project’s fantastic Cape Grim patty (although those have always been good) and a smoky-sweet BBQ sauce. The bacon itself is cut thinly, chewy on the inside, extending out to crispy & crunchy outer areas. There’s enough bacon to position itself as the dominant flavour behind the burger, which overpowers even the wagyu patty. I’m not so sure that’s how I’d prefer it as the patty should be the hero, but the copious amounts of bacon definitely give the burger’s name justice. As for the cheese? Gooey, soft, and does a great job at tying everything together. I felt an extra slice would have gone a long way, but I can’t have everything now, can I?
N.B. all Burger Project burgers use the same cheese – as far as I’ve tried.
The pickles are cut wide, thin and crunchy, with a bit of a mustard kick. However, some pickles had a bit of a plasticky taste to them, which I couldn’t quite explain – it was only for some pickles, not all, and only for this burger – not the others. Curious.
Overall? A solid presence on the menu that already outshines any of Burger Project’s previous attempts at a burger.
If you prefer a burger where the beef patty is actually the star, but would still like to appreciate that extra zing only bacon can provide, give the cheese & bacon burger a try. Heck, it’s cheaper too, and that change could go towards fries.
In this burger, it’s the same great toasted bun (I can’t get over how much better they are!), but with a much saner, single layer of bacon. The patty and cheese remain the same. Oh, there’s greens and tomato, which add some extra wateriness and crunch, but some of you may prefer a burger in its “pure” form – i.e. devoid of anything remotely healthy 😛
Maybe it’s just me, but I found that the single layer of bacon packed a whoppingly powerful smokiness. It’s the only burger for which its bacon gives this impression, and it’s quite enjoyable – if smoked meats is your thing. This is cut back by the tart pickles and the gooeyness of the melted cheese. The patty exhibits a much more assertive presence here – I was actually able to taste the beefiness and fattiness of that delicious Cape Grim cut – an area in which Neil never floundered.
A solid burger and highly recommended to anyone new to Burger Project!
I’m going to get this out there: I love my chicken, but the miracle bird will always play second fiddle when it comes to patty choice in a burger. Chicken simply lacks that fattiness and juiciness that a properly ground, apportioned beef patty elucidates.
But then again variety for variety’s sake, right?
While I was a little apprehensive in trying the spicy fried chicken burger, all my fears were allayed when I beheld it for the first time in person. Look at the size of that chicken breast. Do you even see the bottom bun? Goddamn, this thing’s sizable. Don’t get me wrong, the whole burger is still an easy eat, but proportionally speaking, there’s just so much chicken. In fact, there’s actually two pieces – one piece takes the backstage pass.
Now double the shock factor in terms of taste and you have Burger Project’s fried chicken burger. The chicken is crumbed and fried so well it’s like biting into crisps – the batter alone is worthy of starring in its own burger. Not only is it texturally perfect, it’s also very flavoursome – full of spiciness and – I’ll say it – that “chicken salt” flavour. The chicken itself is predictably a little dry, but the patty isn’t particularly thick, so that was quite acceptable. Further, the cheese & mayonnaise (nope, couldn’t taste any rose) helped to juice the chicken up somewhat, though the sauce did need to be more evenly spread around the burger. It was clumped up at several places in my particular burg.
As for the spiciness – that comes from the jalapeno peppers, which thankfully come mashed rather than in whole pieces. A clever move, as doing it that way would make the burger more difficult to eat – you don’t want to gulp down a whole piece of jalapeno when you only wanted biteable tidbits at a time. That kind of cut belongs on pizzas, not burgers. Ultimately, I’d still have preferred a spicy mayo over jalapenos, but it’s nice to see something different – and I don’t really take much issue with it anyway.
This is a pretty nice bird if I don’t say so myself – one of the better chicken burgers out there.
This is it. The creme de la creme of the menu. The Double has existed since the ye olde days when Burger Project was still a baby trying to figure out how to do a good burger, and now it’s all grown up and clearly has gone on a powerlifting regime – it kicks ass.
There are no surprises here, no curveballs – this is my favourite burger at Burger Project, and the reason is everything you see in the picture above. Two of Burger Project’s “damn good” patties, double of that gooey cheese (finally), and some of that green & red food which my food eats. No bacon – but that’s not even necessary. A 2nd patty beats the pants off bacon (though admittedly, a 2nd patty + bacon is better still). For me, unless the patty is rather large, say at Neil Perry’s other burger joint, then I find that two patties provides the optimal ratio between buns, patties, sauces and cheese. It’s my own personal golden ratio.
Oh man, just go spend that $14. Spend it now, spend it here, and eat your heart out. This is double the fun, double the trouble. Burger Project’s best burger yet.
While I believe everyone deserves a second chance, it’s rare that they’re actually given. I’m glad I gave Burger Project not only a second, but a third, fourth and fifth chance. Each time, it’s shown just how much of an improvement it’s made since nine months earlier, and I couldn’t be happier. Sure, it’s unlikely to replace local favourites such as Barrio Cellar or Bar Luca for me on a regular basis, but at least when Burger Project moves to Martin Place – I can say another good burger joint has joined our ranks.
Burgers have never been more alive.
- The legend of the phoenix is real
- The burgers are better at Burger Project (vs before)
- There is still a strong selection of sides, drinks and desserts for a complete package
- The cheese and sometimes bacon are still not quite up to scracth
- Plasticky pickles are a no-go zone
- Consistency will be key to Burger Project’s franchise prospects. Time will tell!
November 2013 Visit
When Rockpool Group legend Neil Perry announced The Burger Project earlier in 2014, I may have wet my pants. Just a little. When a chef known for some of Australia’s best fine dining announces plans to put out a casual burger joint, questions beg to be asked. Will it be a thing of beauty, or not foodporn-worthy at all? Will there be twists to the traditional burger? Will it be cheap? Will I be able to get a bear hug from Neil Perry?
Before answering any of this though, I needed to make sure I took on this challenge with a partner-in-crime worthy of my love for burgers. When I heard that Isaac from iFat is as good with burgers as he is with the ladies, I knew I was onto someone special.
Yeah, I’m Still Fat’s back.
Part of what excited me about the Burger Project so much was my experience with Neil Perry’s full-blood Blackmore wagyu burger served at Rockpool Bar. At $24, it’s not cheap, but it was legitimately the best burger I’ve had. Call me this; call me that, but that’s my honest opinion of the heavenly sandwich. I did not expect the same level of quality from Burger Project, but I did anticipate something off the beaten track – something that makes it…Neil Perry.
There is no expense spared on the outfitting. I can’t bear to think how much it all cost, including rental at such a convenient location, but I’m glad Burger Project possesses an ample presence. It needs all the pizzaz it can get, especially if it’s to compete with Din Tai Fung right next door, and Grill’d beneath on ground level.
Clearly, Burger Project is aptly named – the level of work put reflects handsomely in the final result. The restaurant seats 100 people which is definitely above-and-beyond your usual burger joint. Not being able to find seating would be a definitive testament to the popularity of the place.
iFat and I did manage to get a glimpse of Mr Perry today – he’s the one at the very end to the left. But, I have already failed on my mission to get a selfie with the man. I’ll have to settle with an indirect method.
Hint: it involves a lot of burgers, and a lot of eating of said burgers.
If Neil Perry embarks on a burger project, our stomachs must do it justice. And you wonder why I’m Still Fat?
I’m immediately a bit concerned with the overall look of the burgers (this is how they came in their grease bags). Still, looks are only so important when it comes to food. Let’s dig in.
I’ve noticed that the simpler and more ubiquitous the food, the more vocal and picky people can get. “if it doesn’t have white sauce, it’s not a burger”; “if it’s got lettuce, then I’m staying away from it with a 10-ft pole”.
Well…that just means more of the cheese and bacon burger for me. Green is a great splash of colour for burgers – I could eat it with almost any burger.
The Burger Project doesn’t use any fancy buns – no brioche or sweet buns or any of that stuff. White, fluffy buns are as complicated as it gets. I’ll be happy to admit a bit of pretentiousness because I actually, truly like brioche buns, especially when toasted. Their buttery sweetness is pretty much crack in a bun. Thus, I do feel a slight twinge of sadness that the buns used for Burger Project are so simple – to each their own though! There is no disparaging here, just preferences.
All the beef is 36-month grass-fed Cape Grim beef. Said beef is ground on-site and you can see the process happening in the open kitchen.
That last part is important – true burger aficionados know a large piece of the burger puzzle comes in grounding the beef yourself, as you control all the aspects of the patty mix. I’ve tried it myself at home, and the results were sensational, even by my standards.
The results mostly speak for themselves – it’s a pretty decent burger, with a good mix of vegetables, meat and cheese. Two slices are always better than one! However, this is where the rosiness ends.
There were two major letdowns, which seem to be reflected in both beef-based burgers we’ve had: the patties themselves were quite bland – the bacon was enough to offset the bun and patty. That should never happen. Further, the buns themselves, while tasting quite nice, had a very “Maccas”-like feel to them – flat, a bit spongy and a bit “aged”, and not like wine either.
You can sort of see all of this in the group-burger picture, really. For sub-$10 pricing, this is alright by me, but having already seen comparisons to Maccas on review sites, I feel that there’s some fine tuning that could be done.
That said, Mr Perry’s philosophy of an unpretentious, straightforward offering is solid, and it does show. With tweaking, it can be the substance of greatness. Shake Shack didn’t get to where it is now by being fanciful – it’s just a good product!
My favourite burger of the lot is the spicy pork belly burger.
You know what’s awesome? That they incorporated pork crackling into the burger. If my texture-seeking buttons weren’t already being pushed, they’re certainly on overdrive now. Don’t be mistaken though – the crunch can be quite hard, and may be jarring if you’re not prepared for it. It’s also not consistent – you’ve been warned! The pork itself is tender and juicy enough, quite enjoyable.
The second part of this burger’s win can be attributed to the pickled slaw that comes with the burger. It’s very much reminiscent of Vietnamese slaw that you sometimes get with banh mi. It was chopped up finely, which does great things for the burger’s mouthfeel. There’s a hint of sweet chilli, as well as the sour hit that’s to be expected of pickling. It marries with the pork quite well – well enough that it beats any other burger I’ve had here.
I hate to say this, but The Korean Burger is a big, big letdown. For all the talk about Burger Project’s beef, the patty in this one was shoddy to a surprisingly underwhelming degree. It was very dry, quite thin (almost as thin as a patty from a McDonald’s burger), and mostly flavourless. There wasn’t much kimchi in there either, and the little that was there packed little to no punch. The construction was also a bit of a downer – the patty stuck out quite egregiously, requiring iFat to put it back together manually.
I like giving the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll chalk this one to rushed service and potential teething problems. That said, there was plenty of feedback on this from their soft launch, as well as their grand opening. Perhaps a few days later isn’t enough time for issues to be sorted out.
The spicy chicken burger was more on point. The chicken was cooked unexpectedly well. That sounds like a bash, but better to exceed than undershoot expectations, right? This burger had a similar slaw to the pork burger that drums up its taste – I’d say it is virtually essential.
I’m just going to go out and say it – these thrice cooked chips are the bomb. Super crunchy, but retaining their hearty centres, well-seasoned, but not overly so. These chips are some of the best I’ve had. Don’t skip these because counting calories is just not worth the memories these will impart on you.
Next time, I’m getting them with chipotle chilli (yes, that is totally an option).
Burger Project aims to peddle more than just burgers – there’s a menu for ice cream, for cakes, and for shakes. You could have an entire meal here from entree to dessert.
We decided to opt for the Valrhona chocolate shake (+ added malt for 50c extra) & dulce de leche shake.
I could barely taste the malt in iFat’s chocolate shake, so it was really just a chocolate shake. I don’t think my taste buds are qualified to discern Valhrona chocolate; suffice it to say, it was along the average of other chocolate shakes.
My dulce de leche shake was, in my slightly biased opinion, quite a bit better. The sweetened milk was very pleasant, and not too overpowering. I prefer shakes to be less subtle with their sweetness, and this one was perfect, allowing its milkiness to shine through. Delicious and refreshing – a great complement to the burgers themselves without completely sugarcoating your palate!
Dear reader, if you’ve read this post in its entirety, you could probably tell that my opinions on Burger Project are a bit conflicted. On the one hand, we have Neil Perry, a star in Australian cooking, the man behind the most enjoyable burger I’ve ever had.
On the other hand, there were some obvious faults with more than just one of the burgers we ordered.
Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by burgers with higher-quality construction and ingredients. Perhaps I’ve become pretentious, but my feelings are what they are. I think Burger Project’s best days are still ahead of it, given how early we went. I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses based on all the feedback it gets. Given the accessible pricing, I would be more than happy to try out more of the menu as the clock ticks down the line.
You might want to ask “is this better than Grill’d? Maccas? Insert_your_burger_chain_here?” Well the answer is probably a lot of yeses, but followed by as many no’s. Ranking a burger is almost like asking ten different people to describe the colour blue – it just can’t be done.
Try it for yourself, if you believe in Mr Perry. In the end, you are your own best critic.
One last thing – how is it that every meat burger, including the double patty option, be under $10 while the sole vegetarian option – the Magic Mushrooms burger, be priced at $12.5? That is beyond me – perhaps there really is something magical about those mushrooms.
What’s the best burger you’ve ever had? I’d love to hear your diverse thoughts on the matter. I’d like to hear your fave in Sydney, as well as the best you’ve had anywhere.
OLD SCORES & CRITIQUE
- Particularly good tasting pork & chicken burgers
- Asian-themed slaw was a hit – lots of flavour
- Pricing is reasonable
Not so Awesome:
- Construction issues abound with some burgers
- The Korean doesn’t have enough patty to fill out the bun. It’s also too thin and overcooked
- There is nothing fancy-schmancy going on here – but you could say that’s also a good thing – decide whether this is a pro or a con for you