Burgers of Bar Luca | Sydney CBD

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)

Bar Luca Sydney

(9-13/Nov/2015) Holy guacamole – wagyu patty ????, 2x cheddar, lime & tabasco aioli, guac and yes – a friggen jalapeno & cheese fritter.

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

Bar Luca Sydney

(2-6/Nov/2015) The Black & Blue – wagyu patty, whipped blue cheese, streaky bacon, blackberry jam, caramelised onion & baby spinach.

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!

Bar Luca Sydney

The Juan Mac’n’Ro – 200g wagyu pattie, double American cheddar, house made Spanish BBQ sauce, chipotle aioli, mac ‘n’ cheese & chorizo ($16, $14 FBAS)

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.

Bar Luca Sydney

Why yes, there is actually beef involved

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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 😀

The Good:

  • 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 Bad:

  • 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

The Ugly:

  • 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
7.5/10 Caesars

Bar Luca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

16 comments on “Burgers of Bar Luca | Sydney CBD”

  1. Roberto Rigutto Reply

    Ive been doing the Burger taste test around town for a few years and BL burgers are the winners by far , so far the best burgers in town and I am pretty critical . If they had a loyalty program id probably eat there more often .LOVE there weekly specials too .

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Hi James, could you elaborate on how the burger is delicious? I see that you’re representing the actual cafe, and thus can appreciate that I am somewhat cautious of any potential bias here.

      More importantly though, you’re in Brisbane – a little too far for me to hit up 🙂

    • Michael Shen Reply

      They definitely do take away, but I’m not so sure about pram access – even the entrance can be a little bit tight. Don’t bring your pram if you can help it!

  2. samanthawxlow Reply

    Incidentally I went to Bar Luca for the first time ever last Friday! I got the karaage which wasn’t as saucy as yours was. There was a liberal amount of it but not so much that I would have to scoop it off. It was tasty but I think Mary’s is still king (or queen) when it comes to chicken burgers. Blame Canada was rad from the bits I had off my dining companion. The special that week was What a Jerk which had pickled okra in it.. so we didn’t get it. Anyway top review as always!

    • Michael Shen Reply

      It might also be because mine was a double, but even then the amount that was smeared onto the bun was oh so much. Still, a good chicken burger and yes I would say Mary’s trumps Bar Luca on this one. Though my current favourite is the Manny P from DoD 😛

      I didn’t have the pickled okra burger either – surprising to hear, but I’m not actually at Bar Luca every day hahahahaha.

      As usual, thank you for reading!

  3. jack Reply

    the instagram embedded photos didnt load well for me :/

    hoping this isnt going to be a trend for future posts?

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Hi Jack, sorry to hear that! Are you viewing the post from a work computer, where Instagram may be blocked?

      And no worries, this is a one-off – coincidentally I had all Bar Luca photos on IG, so I just used that this time around. Promise it won’t happen again 🙂

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