Right now, Bar Luca is possibly one of the hottest names in Sydney burger scene. Once upon a time, it was JAB – Just Another Bar. More so, JAB in Sydney’s CBD. It’s a crowded market. One day, it got the attention of a group known as the Fatties Burger Appreciation Society, which itself grew from a mere handful of members to over 20,000 as of this week (congrats guys!). This group has burger clout, and definitely has an influence on Sydney burgerdom. The rest is as they say – AN EXPLOSION OF POPULARITY.
Here’s a true story: I’ve been to Bar Luca for burgers more than I have been to any other burger joint in my life. No Maccas, you don’t count. The thing is, head chef & owner Sarah Robbins knows how to flip a darn good piece of meat and put it between buns. The burgers at Bar Luca are one of Sydney’s standouts, and it’s only an eight minute walk from where I work. Suffice it to say, I’m not going to be burning off those burger calories on the way there.
How many times have I been, you ask? Try twelve. The holy trinity of quality, proximity, and BURGERS. Let’s deep dive.
Date Last Visited: 11/11/15
Address: 52 Phillip Street, CBD, Sydney,NSW
Recommended Dish(es): usually the special of the week, else the cheeseburger/wagyu beef burger
Bar Luca’s secret in getting me to revisit again and again is a powerful force known as “The Special”. That’s right, every week without fail, Bar Luca will bring out a special burger for that week only. It’s definitely the cure for I’m Still Hungry, but it might force me to change my blog’s name to “I’m Still Fat”. Not a problem, yo.
For Bar Luca’s traditional burgers, scroll past the below section. But of course, you’re not going to do that, right?
Special of the Week (ending 13/Nov/15)
This is a pretty crazy burger. Take Bar Luca’s strong fundamentals, chuck in a hot, fluffy on the inside & crispy on the outside jalapeno & cheese fritter, zing things up with a bit of tabasco & lime aioli and you’re in business. While I personally didn’t think the spicy elements were hot at all, I did appreciate the almost gooey-consistency of the innards of that fritter. The guac also helps “cream things up”, livening the texture but not to the point where everything tastes soft and mushy. A strong special, and definitely in the upper half of what Bar Luca has churned out.
Standard Burgers of Bar Luca
The fact that Bar Luca’s specials get so much attention is actually why I’ve held off blogging the place till now – the post will become irrelevant in less than a week. At least, that was until now – when I’ve finally had the chance to try enough of their burgers that are permanently on the menu to be able to scrape a post together. That said, I still include every other burger I’ve had the pleasure of consuming in this post, because you really need to see just what Sarah & team are capable of – past history may not be indicative of future performance, but here’s one trade you can hedge your bets on.
Blame Canada – Poutine fries, cheese curds, maple aioli, maple bacon. ($15)
Bar Luca’s most famous on-menu burger is the Blame Canada and it’s easy to see why – it’s a freaking poutine burger. Go over that picture/caption again: a poutine burger. If you’re not salivating, it’s because you’ve never tried it, or you’re totally not the target audience for this post. You may move along.
For the rest of you, this is the introduction to Bar Luca, if you’re feeling adventurous. If not, do try the wagyu or cheeseburger (more on them below). With sweet, sweet maple aioli, maple bacon, pungent cheese curds everywhere and fries to boot, Blame Canada is not a burger for the faint-hearted. I’ll mention right now that all beef burgers at Bar Luca are 200g portions, which is sizable. Sarah’s not messing around – it’s gourmet, pub-style burgers all the way. She also prefers to do them on the pinker side – massive respect for that. It’s the only way to treat a thick beef patty right. As for the Blame Canada specifically? Golly, is this a burger whose looks are surpassed only by its taste.
I’ll say this once – it’s for those who are into that little bit of sweetness in their burger. The sugariness of the maple syrup & maple bacon definitely mark their presence, but don’t overwhelm the savouriness of the beef patty. The buns are large, but very airy so only give an illusion of size – they never actually made me feel like I’m eating too much in terms of heavy carb. Ratios are generally good, though the burger is quite large, and proved a little difficult to eat. Not a problem – it still did not require a knife and fork (thank goodness), and the flavour explosion more than makes up for it. While personally I could see the burger do away with the chips (they didn’t add much for me), I appreciate why they’re there – for the “holeh moleh” factor.
If I have one major gripe, it’s that the bacon is still quite chewy and rindy, which meant that you could accidentally deconstruct your entire burger from a stubborn piece of bacon. Either ask for your bacon to be extra crispy, or take it out and eat it separately. I’d go the former route – I don’t like rindy bacon, and I prefer it crispy by default. When all’s said and done – Blame Canada’s a big-ass burger, and requires a big-ass appetite to go with it. It’s difficult to do better, and you could definitely do a lot, lot worse.
For the traditionalist who may not be inclined to eat burgers with chips and maple syrup in them (you’re forgiven), Bar Luca’s definitely not short of classic burgers, and what else is more representative than the tried-and-true cheeseburger ($12)? In the picture above, I opted for a second patty (+$5), which I felt was a pretty darn smart addition. See, the cheeseburger is about as reserved as Sarah gets in terms of garnishings. Nothing fancy here – just good ol cheese, beef and pickles. As such, this is the only Bar Luca burger I’d recommend doubling up on. You already know what to expect here – it’s a tasty, tasty cheeseburger. The beef is still a well-executed rare, the flavours are strongly bovine, and there’s just oh so much cheesy goodness to go around. The pickles make a bigger impact than they do in other cheeseburgers, so you should already be a pickle-lover before picking this one up. I particularly like how even the single patty comes with two slices of cheese per beef patty. It’s truly a cheeseburger that lives up to the name *hands on chest*.
Yes, the caption is true – it was only on my twelfth visit that I finally managed to have Bar Luca’s default burger – the original wagyu beef burger. This is the reference burger, so to speak – Sarah’s wagyu pattie, streaky bacon, American cheddar, aioli, house ketchup and something that’s apparently known as salad. As far as the order of this post goes, this is the hat trick burger. Three for three, no disappointments. That beef is as good as ever, the buns are the same, and the same streaky bacon is all part of the package. Strangely enough, I didn’t get the same chewiness issues I experienced with the Blame Canada. Awesome!
What’s great about the beef burger is that it’s just that – a well-made, classic beef burg. Given how good the specials are, it’s no surprise Sarah’s got the fundamentals down pat. This is a safe introduction to Bar Luca’s burger reign, and always a solid choice if the week’s special isn’t your cup of tea.
Before you get a heart attack, take comfort in the fact that this is a karaage chicken burger sporting an extra fried chicken patty (+$5). I do not recommend this, as for the first time, I had to deconstruct the burger first. Yeah, I know, I deserve this for my folly. Then again, what a tasty source of protein. Or should I say…sauce of protein? The terrible pun is explained by the copious amount of wasabi aioli used in the burger. That’s not actually a compliment – it’s honestly far too much. There’s already enough base flavour in the chicken, the aioli should really only be there to add a little bit of zing, creaminess and provide a subtle hint of wasabi aftertaste. I scooped out over half of it and still felt there was more than enough to go around.
As for the chicken itself, it’s “joooooocy”, as today’s teens would describe it. I found the skin to be too heavily salted, but the meat within is truly tenderly cooked. Going further, the skin is crispy on the edges, while becoming far soggier going inwards – that’s the aioli talking. I felt that if the aioli was lessened, much more of the skin would be crispy, which would be a nice outcome. Halve (or even 1/3) the aioli, drop the salinity of the chicken skin and you’ve got a smashing karaage burger!
I’m going to stop now, because describing Bar Luca’s previous specials and knowing you can’t get them is a punishment I dare not deliver. But then, there are pictures, and that may almost be as bad…find the conclusion at the end!
Previous Bar Luca Specials
One of the weaker Bar Luca specials, the blackberry jam was a little too sweet for me and didn’t balance out with the blue cheese. Nonetheless, solid foundations for bun, patty & cheddar as always!
By normal burger joint standards, this is a doozy of a burger. If you’re a Bar Luca newbie, you’ll be shocked to read that this is not outlandish by Bar Luca standards. In fact, it’s almost expected. Such is their reputation for producing kooky burgers that seasoned vets won’t even bat an eyelid.
That said, the Juan Mac’n’Ro is not burger to be dismissed if you’re a fan of mac ‘n’ cheese. This literally comes as described – a classic cheeseburger with the addition of easy mac & chorizo. Oh, it’s glorious. The first thing I noticed was actually not the mac, but the sweet & smoky Spanish BBQ sauce on the bottom. Of the many Bar Luca burgs I’ve downed, I haven’t had a BBQ sauce quite so sweet. It complements the burger quite well, as a foil to the extra cheesiness that comes from the mac. The pasta itself is smooth and creamy, naturally quite cheesy and brings a lot of texture to the table. I would still say it’s more of a gimmick-type addition rather than a purely functional one, but that’s not really an issue when it comes to Bar Luca – that’s what the special is, after all. If you want a normal burger, Bar Luca certainly provides.
On top of this, the chorizo and chipotle aioli add a decidedly spicy touch, which balances well with the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. As a spice lover in general, I’m more than welcoming.
Is it worth a try? Absolutely – the creaminess and chewiness of the macaroni pasta and extra cheesiness it provides is undoubtedly a nice addition to have. Further, that sweet BBQ sauce and thick, eggy aioli is artery-cloggingly good. Bonus: this is probably the most well-constructed Bar Luca burger I’ve ever eaten – almost no sauce dripping or soiled hands! That said, a ritualistic hand washing with soap is still recommended after consuming any Bar Luca burger.
Don’t be surprised when you fall asleep at your 3pm meeting in the afternoon.
/ @barlucasydney / triple-smoked ham, pulled pork, wagyu patty, Swiss cheese & oregano aioli. Have you had your cheat meal yet? #???? A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / Spread it like peanut butter jelly…Throwback to one of the best burgers I’ve ever had at Bar Luca – fitting that it was my 10th! #???? A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / shoutouts to the time when I asked for some beef and bread with my cheese patty ???? // the cheezus is gone, but Bar Luca have a pizza burger special on this week! Get in there! ???? A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / I used to shoot waterfalls… Now I shoot cheese falls // #tb to Bar Luca’s special – featuring a deep fried triple cheese patty. Cheezus #kanyehandlethis #???? A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / the greatest burger I’ve had from Bar Luca yet – the cheezus. Wagyu patty, 2x American cheddar, streaky bacon, deep fried 3-cheese patty (Aussie jack mozzarella & parmesan), jalapeno relish & hot sauce. // I have seen the light… ????♔ A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / last day for this week’s Bar Luca special – the Limp Brisket: 14-hr smoked beef brisket BBQ pit beans, fried onion. I’ve been eating pretty well over the last few months but boy is Bar Luca trying it’s best to change that up! ???? #???? #ycfood A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / this week’s special – the Ducking Hipster. Smoked duck bacon, pecorino cheese, crunchy kale, sweet potato crisps & maple aioli. // on for this week only! Who said the hipster is a dying breed… #???? #ycfood A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ @barlucasydney / farewelling this week’s special at Bar Luca – the Cereal Killer: crunchy nut cornflake crumbed chicken, bacon, coral lettuce, liquid cheese, cereal milk mayo & suicide sauce. // you’d be mad not to snap this up before it ends today but be warned – the sauce packs some serious heat! ???? ???? #???? #ycfood A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ Bar Luca / Viva La France – wagyu patty, portobello mushroom, baby spinach, pickled onions, vintage cheddar, French onion aioli & cheese beignet popper. // If these guys keep coming out with weekly specials, I’m going to have to call this the Aqua S of burger joints. Haw Haw Haw ???? A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
/ Bar Luca / yo dawg, I heard you liked burgers…last week’s special at Bar Luca – frankfurts, onion rings, a baby slider, your usual beef, cheese & lettuce suspects. It’s taken me long enough to discover this hidden gem. Get on top of it – like that slider! #biggiesmalls #???? A photo posted by Michael Shen ???????? (@imstillhungry_) on
Bar Luca’s burgers are not perfect, and like most places, have its fair share of faults. However, tell me to rattle off a list of my favourite burger joints in Sydney and this little CBD joint will always be part of the conversation – sitting alongside established institutions like Mister Gee Burger Truck and Rockpool.
By the way, pro-tip: join the Fatties Burger Appreciation Society. Bar Luca, as well as many other burger businesses regularly provide special pricing or hidden extras for FBAS members. Thank me later – I’ll probably see you at Bar Luca 😉
This post is based on twelve independently paid-for visits to Bar Luca and one paid-for visit from winning Bar Luca’s Instagram Competition
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀
- I’ve never had a bad burger at Bar Luca
- The weekly specials are just crazy awesome, even when they don’t necessarily work
- The bacon could use a little more work – namely less chewy, more crispy
- The karaage chicken burger has a ton of aioli and is more salty than it needs to be
- It’s a shame they don’t have a loyalty program 😛
- You will die young on a Bar Luca diet
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F7.5 | S3 | A3