Bianca: Huddle in close children, for I’m about to share with you where you can get some of the best burgers going around Sydney at the moment. ‘Bar Luca’ in Sydney’s CBD is now probably one of the worst kept secrets in the burger world – virtually exploding onto the scene in the last 4 months or so and rapidly gaining momentum thanks to the Facebook juggernaut that is ‘The Fatties Burger Appreciation Society’ or FBAS as its lovingly referred to.
Known for their cleverly crafted creations with names such as ‘Cereal Killer’, ‘True Blue’ and ‘Biggie Smalls’. The most exciting factor of all, these babies were crafted by bad arse burger flipper and head chef & owner Sarah Robbins and husband James. I’m no staunch feminist but I do slightly swell with pride when a fellow home-girl knocks the boy’s outta the water. I just had to nerd out and ask her a few questions….
*B: Where do you get the inspiration and the names for your devilishly wicked creations? S: It varies, last weeks creation was born out of a dinner at Chiswick, a slow cooked and pulled lamb with eggplant puree. Sometimes the names come first but obviously they have to be kept PG because of the corporate crowd. B: We also discussed some tinkering with a dessert offering, I believe Bacon and Nutella were used in the same sentence. So watch this space!
*B: What’s been your favourite special so far? S: The Ducking Hipster w/house smoked duck bacon. B: Guys you did read that right, duck bacon… My only regret is missing out on the Biggie smalls, with a teeny slider adorning the burger.
*B: How has the Facebook group, The Fatties Burger Appreciation Society affected business? S: Quite a lot, response has been rather amazing – with things really taking off after International burger day with free add-ons. B: With the introduction of specials every week, there is literally something new for ‘fatties’ to try week to week.
*B: Outside of Bar Luca, where do you go for a burger in Sydney? S: To Publife for the classic O.G and Cheekyburger.
*B: Do you think this burger trend will ever end? S: I can’t see it ending anytime soon, I do like to eat burgers when I go out just to see what other places are doing but sometimes I end up a little disappointed. B: And that is because…..Sarah is doing some of the best burgers in Sydney. That is all.
Now the burgers! I made four separate visits to really give an accurate breadth of the quality of the burgers and I’ll apologise first up for the photo quality of the first visit – I have no idea what was going on but I can tell you Alex will not be IMPRESSED!!!
So my first visit I took a dip into the specials menu, with the ‘Viva La France’ – Wagyu patty, roasted Portobello mushroom, baby spinach, pickled onions, vintage cheddar, French onion aioli and topped with a cheese beignet popper $16. I was a little sceptical about the mushroom, as I do like to keep it quite simple and adding even more vegetables is really the antithesis of a burger for me but I was pleasantly surprised. The fun truly began once you took that first bite of the popper, which was almost soufflé like in texture. It wasn’t until I dove right in did the mushroom reveal itself as it was smothered in the aioli, the mushroom was plump yet devoid of that wateriness which can sometimes be a pitfall of cooked mushies. The patty was a beautifully cooked medium and was seasoned well and very tasty. What really made this burger for me was the sauce, thick, rich and the perfect accompaniment to all the ingredients. Can this please make a re-appearance? A strong 4/5 pickles.
The Cheeseburger is still my go-to when I’m eating a burger and it’s also a great way to gauge the quality of the food because in its simplest form there really isn’t much too it but when it’s done well, its magical. So, I just had to try Bar Luca’s ‘Classic Cheese’ – 200g wagyu patty, American cheddar, house made ketchup, mustard & pickles $12 + $2 bacon. This is truly a thing of beauty, easily one of the best looking burgers I’ve had the pleasure of having placed before me. You really can’t hide behind a cheeseburger, it either shows all your faults or makes you fall in love. Fortunately I had the latter, the patty was again a stand-out. With two generous servings of melted cheese and the pinnacle of all that is holy – crispy bacon. One of the better simple cheeseburgers I’ve had. This gets a 4.6/5 pickles and a smile…just cos.
My aversion to chicken burgers has also waned, old age has made me softer and more accepting. So we have the ‘Chicken Karaage Burger’ –w/wasabi aioili, pickled veg, coriander and coral lettuce $14. I shared this and the cheeseburger with a friend my second visit and we both gravitated towards the cheeseburger. I was expecting a crispier piece of chicken, something heavily battered. It was a touch on the dry side as well, I don’t like wasabi/horseradish but luckily the aioli wasn’t that strong. Most divisive of all was the pickled veg (radish?), I happened to think it worked, my friend not so much. There was a strong perfumy smell and taste but it balanced nicely to cut through the heaviness of the chicken. Not my favourite but chicken burg eaters should be satisfied, 3.5/5 pickles.
For ‘research’ purposes we extended our eating quest out to fried things, namely, the ‘Bomb Frites’ – fries topped with pulled pork, cheese, corn, sour cream, coriander & chipotle aioli $12. The Lamborghini of fries! I wouldn’t necessarily think corn kernels would work in this setting but they do, adding popping bursts of sweetness with a bite here and there. The pulled pork lathered in BBQ sauce was juicy and tender. A great side for any chip lover.
Another visit saw me back at Bar Luca with Madre in tow, I shared a few bites of the Blame Canada my first visit but it didn’t leave much of an impression over me – so I felt I needed to give it another whirl.
So, the ‘Blame Canada’ – 200g wagyu beef patty, maple glazed streaky bacon, poutine & maple aioli $15. All I can say is that I’m glad this made its way back into my periphery. The beef patty was cooked to a juicy medium to medium rare with a pink centre. The grind on the patty was particularly noticeable (across all burgers) and has been one of the best I’ve come across in Sydney. There was a distinguishable sweetness from the maple aioli that balanced nicely with the bacon. The star is really the poutine, taking this burger to stratospheric levels, it was a saucy/ cheesy devilish mix and one I would travel for. If there was any criticism or room for improvement it would be a slightly longer toast on the buns to reduce ‘construction’ issues. This gets a 4.7/5 pickles.
Mother went with the ‘Pulled Pork’ – w/coleslaw, coriander & chipotle aioli $14. Pulled pork burgers are rarely successful in my opinion, texturally it all tends to smoosh into one bite and I usually find it has a tuna-ish vibe going on. This one suffered some catastrophic construction issues, with the bottom bun becoming a soggy unpleasant mess before really diving in. A longer toast on the buns could help alleviate this issue somewhat but I do understand it’s the wettest mixture to make an appearance on a burger bun outside of a chilli/mince. But, the actual pulled pork is tasty, with a subtle smoky background hit and the slaw adding some crunch. Mum put this up the top of her list for a favourite pork burger in Sydney but it did lose a lot of points for the sheer wetness factor. Points for the flavour. A 3/5 pickles.
And lastly, the special of the week and one that I hope will make a repeat appearance. The ‘Limp Brisket’ – 14 hour smoked brisket, BBQ pit beans, collard greens, crispy fried onions & smoky BBQ aioli $16. The brisket makes this burger, smoked in-house with the burnt ends being the proverbial jackpot. I’d go out on a limb and say this beats Vic’s Meat Markets brisket burg, with it being super tender and packing a flavour punch. Props also to the Bar Luca team for smoking their own brisket. I was sceptical about the beans, on a burger it just seemed odd. I’m glad to say I was wrong, still with a bit of bite they added another textural element along with the crispy fried onions. The smoky BBQ sauce added some sweetness and the collard greens (which initially gave me the sweats) was actually quite useful in balancing all the elements and creating a sort of vacuum, preventing the bottom bun becoming soggy. I was worried that it’d be a mish-mash of competing ingredients vying for top billing but every ingredient was there for a reason and complemented each other, this was an exceptionally well thought out and executed burger. This gets a very well-earned 4.8/5 pickles.
I was back a few weeks later to try another special. The ‘PBJB Burger’ w/ A Wagyu patty, peanut butter, redcurrant and onion jam, maple bacon, cheddar and maple aioli. Rich and generous in every sense of the word. Crunchy peanut butter sings in the background, with muted whisperings as well as adding little bursts of crunch. Each ingredient had its moment in the sun. With nothing outshining the seemingly endless flavour profiles. But it all worked! The jam was a masterful way to balance and cut through the heaviness and salt factor. With double bacon and double cheese! The cheese was a highlight for me, alongside the maple aioli, which really bumped up the creamy factor. The bacon was super crispy and as always the patty was a med rare to med. Beautiful pinkage. What I liked most of all? Nary a lettuce leaf in sight, as it should be. I am not a generous pickle ‘score-erer’ BUT I have found my burger unicorn. 5/5 PICKLES. It’s all downhill from here.
City office workers, I hope you truly appreciate what a special little gem you have right on your doorstep, Sarah and team keep knocking them out of the park.