Bianca: My never-ending burger quest brought me to ‘Publife Kitchen’ in Ultimo, the first visit with fellow bad-arse burger lover and Melbournite instagrammer @YESITSKARINA. The second visit with my work partner in crime and all around comic book nerd Mark (Job Dun) a third visit with my gal posse and a fourth visit with the lovely ladies behind @TWOGIRLSONEFORK.
Quite frankly it was a crime it took me so long to visit in the first place. I had been admiring the burgers through social media and knew I was going to be in for a treat. Publife has made the Lord Wolseley Hotel its home for almost a year now, sitting towards the rear of the establishment on a narrow one way street. It is a fairly small and cosy space, I loved the seating on the upper level bathed in whatever this crazy Sydney weather has been producing of late. I’m already planning my future, big people, birthday burger party up there, with hats and all.
My first visit was a general gauge for me to ascertain the quality level so I went with the basic ‘Cheeseburger’ – House ground beef, jack cheese x 2, red onions, pickles, tomato sauce and mustard + bacon. $17. This was no basic burger, it looks fairly unassuming but it rates as one of the best burgers I’ve had the pleasure of eating. The patty initially looked a little pink for my liking, so I was a bit apprehensive taking that first bite as it was seeping a bit of blood. Ideally I would have liked a slightly longer cook. But Flavour wise I couldn’t fault it, it was both juicy and tender. High marks for the exceptionally soft squishy bun, I’ve rarely encountered such large raw Spanish onions in a burger and thought they would be overpowering. Happy to report that this wasn’t the case. It really was a perfect harmony of flavourful meat, strong sturdy bun, thick piquant slices of pickle and the flawless smattering of mustard and tomato sauce. Really the only let-down of the day was the fact I had to eat it in public and maintain the façade of decency. Fries (which are served alongside the burg) are also top-notch, so much so, I’d be sticking these somewhere up the top in Sydney. Both of my two visits resulted in a paltry dent in my fry serving, I always get too swept up in the burger. For my Facebook Fatties/ FBAS – I’d give it a 4.4/5 pickles. Chips easily get a 5/5 spuds.
My second visit I veered away from my usual trustworthy beef route and had ‘The Bird’ –Dorito crusted fried chicken, slaw, jack cheese and mayo $17. Now, I had a few bites of this initially on my first visit and was blown away. My second visit, not so much. It looked flawless when it was brought to the table, a behemoth that took up a sizeable chunk of the serving tray. Allow me to get into the nitty-gritty, firstly the bun – major structural issues. It simply got lost amongst the thick thigh fillet, ratios were way off. The chicken with the slaw overpowered the bun and turned it into a soppy mess. Forcing me to commit the cardinal burger sin, eating with a knife and fork. It hurt my heart trust me guys. I found the chicken particularly oily on my second visit it become quite heavy and sickly. If only I could eternal sunshine my brain and take myself back to my very first visit, savouring that first bite. I would get this again but I wouldn’t have a whole one to myself, definitely one to go halfsies. FBAS score = 3.6/5 pickles. This has now been replaced by the TLC.
My Work wife, Mark (sorry, I had to) had ‘The O.G’ – House ground beef patty, jack cheese, onion jam, tomato, iceberg lettuce, roast garlic & lime aoli w/bacon. $18. Essentially he didn’t pick this either, it was more of an “I’m getting the chicken burger and you’re getting the O.G burger scenario”. For the most part he’s fairly compliant. Another solid burger, this time around the patty was cooked to a juicy medium rare with a slight bit of pinkage, no blood seepage. Again this had major structural issues, in the end the lettuce was tossed aside. Furthering my point that foliage has no place on burgs. The bun was lost amongst all the elements and it did turn a bit mushy half way through. The bacon helped to add that textural crunch. FBAS score = 4/5 pickles.
We decided to round out the meal with a serving of the ‘Cheesey polenta chips’ w/ jalapeno mayo. $8. A delightful cute presentation of 6 large rectangular polenta chips, crispy on the outside with a molten hot core. There may or may not have been loud swearing after that first mouthful. There was a bit of a kick. I found myself favouring the tomato sauce over the jalapeno mayo though. I love the stuff. Tasty but I would probably skip these next time to save precious stomach space for the main event.
I was keen on doing a bit of burger experimenting after the new menu was announced, so I organised a lady meal with my gal-friends on State of Origin night. Happy to avoid the football and eat a burger with me, they’re a bunch of legends! I was intrigued by the cheese patty on the vegetable burger and noticed it could now be added to burgers. I’m not going to lie, the cheese patty was basically the whole premise of my return visit. I had the ‘Cheeseburger’ w/bacon and the added Cheese patty $22. Breathing became a bit of an issue mid-meal and directly afterwards, I can’t say it was my finest moment. But while I ate it, it was glorious! I was a little disappointed when I realised it was just a block of cheese coated and fried. I was hoping for a mac n cheese croquette type action ala Melbs. But not to be. I asked for the bacon to be cooked crispy and it was rather limp. And after initially bringing me my burger with the chicken patty instead of the beef, I didn’t want to be an A-hole and send it back again. Minus the bacon issue (which I ended up removing) this was a rather delightful concoction. 4.3/5 heart attacks, ahh pickles.
My fourth visit was with the ladies behind @TWOGIRLSONEFORK – I had in mind, a creation that both excited and induced a strong sense of dread. I had some backup from the meat-eating portion of the duo and we both committed to the monstrosity that was the ‘Cheeseburger $17W/ A PIECE OF FRIED CHICKEN $4. The waitress that took our order seemed mildly impressed so I was instantly re-assured. It came out looking a little less intimidating than I thought it was going to be, I was able to smoosh it down into a slightly flatter pancake so it would fit into the gob whilst still looking like a respectable lady. The fried chicken thigh was a little dry and not as juicy as its previous incarnation, the beef patty also seemed a lot thicker than my other two visits as well as being cooked to a medium with a slight pink centre, it was however, rather juicy. I don’t think the chicken added much in terms of flavour so I would probably still stick to my regular cheeseburgers. On this occasion, I found the buns way too thin and they didn’t hold up too well against the proteins. But I just had to give this a try, for the novelty factor. A 3.9/5 pickles.
We were also brought out some complimentary ‘Hot N Sticky Chicken Wings’ $10 which were gloriously crispy and moreish, the delectably thick rich sauce was giving me major McDonalds sweet and sour sauce vibes.
The lovely vegetarian half of @TWOGIRLSONEFORK had the ‘Vego Delight’ -Panko fried cheese patty, cranberry jam, slaw, pickles, jalapeno mayo $16. She was mostly very happy with her offering but found the cranberry jam a little overpowering and far too sweet, there were also cries of “more jalapeno mayo” – give the lady what she wants!!
Cool staff, damn tasty burgers. And might I add, loving Jovan’s work in ‘Foraged’.