Greg Bruce goes in search of Auckland's best burger.
549 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn
In the way of any enterprise seriously pursuing the artisanally minded, significantly incomed Grey Lynn classes, Tiger Burger take great care to establish credibility with their ingredients: "custom bun", "signature-blend aged Taupō beef", "aged cheddar", etc. But when it comes to this, their signature burger, is there any point? In the presence of this quantity of kimchi, it's hard to look past the kimchi. I guess that's the point? This review, though, is about reviewing burgers hierarchically, starting with meat and descending rapidly in importance from there. I tried breaking off some beef and eating it without the kimchi. It was all right.
225B Dominion Rd, Mount Eden
Ralph's Cheese Burger
On my first bite, a lake's worth of liquid gushed out. The burger was heavily pickled and tangy. The meat was thick and not unpleasant. On leaving, I noticed a large glob of cheese had spilled on my pants. These were my main takeaways from Ralph's.
Queen's Rise, 125 Queen St, Auckland
No burger in this review and, therefore, in Auckland is closer in flavour to a Big Mac than Lowbrow's cheekily named and presumably legally precarious MacDaddy. It's a high salt-content burger, served with the suggestively titled "mac sauce" - which is listed on the menu without further explanation - shredded lettuce, American cheese and a sesame seed bun. The bun is oblong though.
175 Symonds St, Eden Terrace
In times like these it's easy to google the words "Maillard reaction" and explain them to wide-eyed customers who love to pay a premium for food served with a side of science. Given that, it's surprising Burger Geek is one of the few places in Auckland to so boldly advertise their purveyance of smashed patties. It's a power move from a place that knows a thing or two about power moves: their menus both online and in-store advertise the patties as "angus and wagyu". The meat is good, the bun is good, the experience is good. The burger names are stupid.
424 New North Rd, Kingsland, Auckland
A few hours before I arrived at Citizen Park, Canvas and Viva fashion director Dan Ahwa had sent me an email which contained the line: "Simon Wilson is always wearing a nice blazer," followed up by: "Pretty sure he was wearing a mustard-coloured corduroy blazer the other week." I know Wilson is an old fox with an abundance of style but I had no idea he was a blazer maven. He and I work in the same office but at different ends of it and see each other once a month at most. Imagine how freaked out I was, then, not two hours later, when I finished my burger at Citizen Park in Kingsland, 3.2km from my office and walked outside to see Wilson, like a character from my own personal Truman Show, wearing a mustard-coloured corduroy blazer. Citizen Park's burgers also come with mustard.
Sylvia Park, 286 Mount Wellington Highway
After being denounced by Jesse Mulligan in a vicious review in Viva five years ago, when he declared their competition to be McDonalds, Better Burger have apparently chosen to not improve. Their double cheeseburger looked pretty and the absurdly large volume of vegetables at least served to distract from the quality of the meat, which was dismal. This burger looked so good and tasted so sad. The gap between expectation and fulfilment has never been wider. The advertising at Better Burger boasts "fresh never frozen". Maybe they should try frozen.
4/95 Ponsonby Rd, Grey Lynn
Beef Cheese Burger Grande
It was lunchtime in Ponsonby and I was the only one in Murder Burger. The smell was forthright but not unpleasant. The burger arrived with a little toothpick through it. Since the toothpick needed to be taken out to eat the burger and the burger did not fall apart when this was done, the only rational explanation was that they wanted me to believe the burger was bigger than it really was. There are many things I look for in a burger joint but insecurity is not one of them. There was too much lettuce, the cheese was pale and gluey but the meat wasn't terrible.
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395 Mount Eden Rd, Mount Eden, Auckland
The meat was rich and deep and complex on the nose. Of the outlets listed here, only Burger Burger offered a better patty. The top varnish on the bun cracked nicely, the pickle was light and delicate. The lettuce bed was too thick, the tomato irrelevant but much can be forgiven in a burger that gets its beef right.
354 West Coast Rd, Glen Eden
From experience, I know that if you don't want your email inbox to become a rage repository, you include West Auckland outlets in your food reviews. Rosier Burgers don't give two s***s about the imaging, optics and branding that beset the burger outlets of inner Auckland and leave a greasy film of unease on the roof of one's mouth, but they do give two s***s about quality. Their sourdough bun was muscular in the mouth and the meat could easily have flown solo. It was blackened, occasionally crunchy, stuffed with flavour. The staff were friendly but didn't give two s***s about upselling. I took out the thick slab of beetroot but I liked the lack of two s***s given about the opinions of self-appointed burger elites implied by its inclusion.
Commercial Bay, 21 Queen St, Auckland CBD
Beef & Cheese Burger
In the hand, it had a simultaneous heft and lightness, which would have felt supernatural if it didn't feel so spiritual. The top of the bun had a varnish, as if to reflect back at me the glory of my decision to eat it. The aesthetic was excess: glistening meat, asymmetrically oozing cheese. Its world was thick and dark, brooding and atmospheric. As good as it was to look at, it was better to consume. This is meat to eat alone, in both senses of the word - it needs neither accoutrements nor company. No friend has ever been so comforting. The meat is high-grade and high-moisture. The pickles are cool, the bun structurally magnificent. The overarching feeling is one of consonance.
Days later I was still talking about the Burger Burger experience with friends and family who were not really interested. I wanted to go back and do it again and again and again. I didn't though. My wife, who has been against these reviews from the start, was worried about my health. That was probably for the best. Relationships of passion are rarely good for you.