Mark Wahlberg’s burger joint Wahlburgers has finally made it to New Zealand, offering his Kiwi fans a taste of the all-American venture.
Aotearoa’s first-ever Wahlburgers restaurant opened at Shed 22, the former Euro restaurant site, on Princes Wharf on Wednesday as eager diners queued up to experience the actor and his brothers’ joint venture.
But do the burgers actually live up to the hype - and to the price tag?
The Herald’s resident burger experts decided to put them to the test, choosing to sample chef Paul’s own favourite burger, Our Burger, as well as his nod to Kiwi fans - the Aotea Burger.
As for sides, we chose your classic French fries and chef Paul’s signature dish of crispy fried pickles. And for the drink, we couldn’t go past a strawberry thickshake.
The above items set us back $70 in total - $18 for the Our Burger, $23 for the Aotea Burger, $12 for the fried pickles, $7 for the French fries and $10 for the shake.
The fries don’t come with sauces - if you want aioli, tomato sauce or other condiments they’ll set you back another $1.50 each. And sadly, the Wahl sauce was left off our fried pickles.
In hindsight, we should have picked up some sauces for our fries. They were fairly tasty fries, with a nice crunch and potato skin left on, though they could have done with a tad more salt and the portion size could have been larger for the price.
You’ll want to eat the much-hyped crispy pickles while they’re still piping hot for the optimal experience. We found that the coating overwhelmed the pickle itself, though the team’s fried pickle expert disagreed and said they were ideal for dill lovers.
We then tucked into the Our Burger, stacked with an Angus beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese and their signature Wahl sauce. While the first impression we got was very fast food, it was a pretty good burger overall - juicy and flavoursome.
The Aotea was your classic Kiwi-style burger complete with a fried egg and slice of beetroot - though the addition of pineapple was, in our opinion, a weird choice.
This is the kind of burger you’d slap together at a barbecue or find at your local fish and chip shop - the lyrics of McDonald’s Kiwi Burger song spring to mind. Our taste testers definitely preferred this burger to the Our Burger.
But would we fork out $23 for it when the fast food cravings hit? We’re not so sure.
The strawberry shake, however, was a hit. Not too thick or sweet, with a nice strawberry flavour - it was the perfect way to finish off the meal.
If you’re simply craving a burger meal, there are definitely cheaper options in Auckland with bigger portion sizes. But if you’re after an experience, then make Wahlburgers your next dining destination and head down to Shed 22 on Princes Wharf to try it for yourself.
Mark Wahlberg’s message to Kiwi diners
Earlier this week, the Herald revealed that Mark Wahlberg is looking forward to sharing a burger and a beer with his Kiwi fans at his newest Wahlburgers restaurant when he gets the chance.
The actor told us he’s “proud to say everything at Wahlburgers NZ is all made from your local produce” - including, of course, “your top quality Angus beef and great locally farmed chips”.
So, what’s Wahlberg’s favourite item on the menu? “My brother’s famous fried pickles and his housemade Wahl sauce.”
The Hollywood star founded the burger chain in 2011 with his brothers, actor Donnie and chef Paul. Two more Wahlburgers restaurants are set to open in Tauranga and Queenstown this year.