Bess Richmond

Forgive me

for needing to double take when reading the address for Bess, a gastro-pub that sits nestled firmly in the ‘drunk’ end of Swan St., Richmond.  Usually, when making the trek down this road I am usually semi, or indeed fully inebriated after a hard slog at the footy and the only culinary havens I recalled usually rotated on a ‘gyro’ or were served by the slice. So, when I finally worked out where this incredibly understated pub with a distinctly french twist to decor was, it was an incredible relief.

Stepping in, the surroundings are soft colours with a definite relaxing vibe. I can only guess however (It was a quiet, cold Tuesday night) that when this place fills up it won’t be one for whisper-quiet conversations as the noises definitely reverberate.

Myself, and my buddy J had come here on a distinct mission. The plans had deviated somewhat, however, when we took aim at ‘The Bottom End’ only to be saddened  on arrival by discovering it closes Monday-Tuesday. Bess was next on the bucket list, so off we set. Burgers were on the agenda, and what better way to indulge than on house-grounded Cape Grim patties. To me, Cape Grim dish out some of the finest bovines in the land so we were very excited.

Sitting down, it became apparent Brendan and the crew were going to go that extra mile when we were served our crockery with this

Knife, check. Fork, check. Serviette, wait. What?

A nice  touch a fresh change from the diner-style serviettes of late. We thought we’d start with a refreshing ale and ordered a #realmoretti. I did notice that this was a Lion Nathan job; one can only speculate when they will begin to brew this locally..

Birra Moretti

We both had the Bess Burgers, $22 for the combo with fries, and in about 10 minutes they arrived.

Bess Burger

Crispy brioche bun, cheese, carefully prepared lettuce and that nice hunk of Cape Grim goodness. One thing not to leave out is the addition of bacon of a different kind. Rather than simply tack on supermarket special streaky stuff, Bess carefully slices loin from the porterhouse of the pig and places on top of the patty. By the time it was finished cooking, it’s interestingly semi-fused and marries well without over dominating the palate. The only cause for concern with this burger was in the cook-time. Medium would have allowed this patty to really sing but it tended to the ‘well’ end of the spectrum and as a result let it down a little bit – not taking away from the quality of the beef which was second to none.

The fries were also a treat – shoestrings in a cheeky little brown paper bag that were cooked, seasoned and presented to perfection

Bess Fries

Head down to Bess for  fantastic ambience, attentive staff and some great produce. The burgers are a definite recommendation; while they will come under heavy fire from the myriad competition jostling for Melbourne’s finest, and while it will make a near-miss in my podium places, the Bess Burger none-the-less gets an honourable mention.

Bess Richmond
Bess Richmond on Urbanspoon


The Merrywell


It’s reached a stage, in 2012, where we in Melbourne are very spoilt for choice when it comes to quality buns. One of the relatively new ventures in town is The Merrywell, a collaboration between two American chefs Sammy DeMarco and Grant Macpherson. Now, gourmet burgers in Melbourne are nothing new. Grill’d turned the scene on its head when it was decided that a serious franchise was going to take on the big sharks of the industry such as the big M, and previous attempts (Think Burger Edge et al) were drops in the ocean at best. The problem with Grill’d is that an over reliance on uni kids and cheap labour meant when they moved away from their Hawthorn Mecca their quality seemed to gravitate between very good and seriously questionable.

The resurgence in recent times of good ol’ fashion American burgers is a welcomed one. Huxtaburger came and conquered, and Raph decided he was going to sell burgers out of a truck. We in Australia are blessed with in my opinion the best beef on the planet, so the only thing we needed in being a serious challenger in the burger stakes was simple experience.

That’s where these guys came in. They have developed a split story place in the old Lucky Chan location on the outskirts of Crown Casino. It is something of a Jekyll and Hyde; upstairs aims to be a more formal dining experience but in my opinion downstairs is the balls of the business, and as The Burger Adventure so eloquently put it: “Where the magic happens.”

Now, I had come here with friends before and it smashed it right out of the park. I didn’t want to give it top gong however without at least one more return visit, and arriving after nine last night my expectations certainly were high. Walking in, you’ll notice the requirement to order at the cashier and collect a number prior to sitting down. I actually asked which imported beers they stocked, and, a little smugly, she told me they “have a few” and to “go check the fridge”. Uh oh, I had talked this up to Lydia on the walk across and at 9pm after a day at work with an empty gut this wasn’t the start I was looking for! Nevertheless, after a fruitless visit to the fridge (Honestly, do you expect me to lean over the counter and audit your selection?) I returned to the cashier and was promptly handed a drinks list. We ordered The Merrywell, their signature burger + fries, and in the spirit of things a Brooklyn Lager. The bill came to $64 and with it ends my only gripe for the remainder of the review. $64 for 2 burgers, 2 fries, and 2 beers is probably a tad more than you should be paying but hey – This is Melbourne after all.

A little over a couple of minutes later, and the Green Goblins arrived.

Brooklyn Lager – “Pre-Prohibition Ale”

Was a nice beer. Nothing amazing, but at 5.2% it’s full-bodied style was a great match with the burgers that would arrive no more than 2 minutes later.

The Merrywell Burgers

Impeccable food and beverage service. In about 6 minutes we had completed our order and had our meal in front of us. After a few signature snaps it was time to unwrap and dig in.

Merrywell Burger

Oh, wow. Wow is all I’d managed to muster up for the first 3 or so bites. The amalgamation of melted cheese, crispy bacon, lettuce, pickles and secret sauce created a flavour profile that was simple jaw-dropping. With endorphins in full effect, the grin on Lydia’s face was enough to tell me I had chosen well. For me, a burger is judged on that intangible scale on how gradually more sad you get as your meal progresses. That is to say, that upon nearing completion depression starts to set in for that brief moment in time you wish you could turn back time, if only to take that godly first bite again. The fries were good, if a little overdone, but this was one to remember.

The Merrywell Fries

My only advise is to take caution in the grease proof paper. It’s sole purpose in life is to trap heat, and also burger juice, and seems to possess an uncanny ability to burn your fingers and funnel juice straight into your lap.

I will be very surprised if this place doesn’t manage to take top gong on The Burger Adventures annual awards. Take heed Melbourne; there’s a new Sherrif in town.

Mmmmm is for Merrywell

My current Melbourne Podium as of July 2012:

1. The Merrywell

2. Beatbox Kitchen

3. Huxtaburger

The Merrywell
Cnr Clarendon & Crown Riverside
The Merrywell on Urbanspoon