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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My current Melbourne Podium as of July 2012:
1. The Merrywell
2. Beatbox Kitchen
Cnr Clarendon & Crown Riverside