My beef with boards

I am a burger lover from way back. Not the global-fast-food-chain type of burger but full, messy fish-and-chip-shop burgers.

Long sun-kissed days on the beaches of my childhood and adolescence in Australia – Bribie Island and Caloundra just north of Brisbane; Mills, Seaford and Point Leo beaches in Victoria – were regularly rounded off with a visit to the fish and chip shop on the way home. For me, despite all of the feverish battering of frankfurters, fish fillets and potato cakes behind the counter, the hamburger always reigned supreme as the most satisfying of post-beach eating. Watching the staff flip and griddle in the searing heat before cramming that soft white bun chock full of scrumptious stuff – lettuce, cheese, tomato, fried onion, streaky bacon, a fried egg, beetroot and a beef patty – was a joy to behold.

(My mouth is watering even as I type this.)

Aussie beetroot burger

Back then, my burger would come wrapped in a piece of something like thin baking paper and was then tucked and folded into a white paper bag. My portion of hot salty chips came separately wrapped in butcher’s paper and my fingers would have eagerly poked a chip-sized hole in the parcel before I’d even left the shop.

Anyway, back to the burger.

Preparing myself to take that first luscious bite, I’d lean forward and peel back the top of the bag. Holding the burger with both hands and squeezing it from the top and bottom – to ensure it fitted into my mouth – I’d take a huge bite to get the full medley of delicious flavours.

(Mouth is continuing to water.)

Wrapped snugly in its white paper bag, any renegade hamburger juice (I think you call this fat) would dribble back into the bag, leaving my hands relatively clean. And keeping a firm hold on the burger with one hand, with the other I’d pick out the smaller crunchier chips to munch on while shoving the longer, fatter chips into the burger.

Don’t knock it peeps, it’s an art form. And it’s bloody delicious.

Then burgers got a bit specialist with the advent of the American diner craze. Johnny Rockets was big for a while when I lived in Melbourne and other like-minded establishments flourished with their flashing jukeboxes and dancing waitstaff, their shakes and sodas and their baskets and bags – baskets for burgers and bags for chips.

So burgers became a dine-in experience but still with a hands-on approach

Fat Bobs

Currently Fat Bob’s in Melbourne, Australia serves their mouth-wateringly amazing burgers wrapped in foil (retains the heat – clever!) in baskets with the fries alongside. Yes, I travelled across the world for this and it was worth every jet-lagged minute.

Then burgers went gourmet. They came on plates, with knives and forks, and with  buckets for the chips and special dipping sauces.

GBKburger+fries+onionrings

GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) in the UK is one of my favourite places to eat over here. The burgers are really delicious: a wide range to choose from – which is fantastic now that I don’t eat red meat – and full of great ingredients. (Loads more than the usual offering of some shredded lettuce and a wisp of tomato sauce on a sad white bap that falls apart as soon as you look at it but that’s a rant for another time.)

But I find it impossible to pick the burger up. And in the unlikely event that I manage this, I can never manage to a) squash it enough to take a proper bite and b) avoid the ingredients spilling out.

So a knife and fork are a necessary evil here but happily, the burgers come on plates that are big enough for me to decimate my burger and to tip my chips out of their bucket to join the general melee.

But things go awry when burgers come on boards.

Six months ago, my favourite local restaurant starting serving their burgers on long narrow boards with the burger on one end and a metal bucket with chips in it on the other. Even if I take the chip bucket off, there is not enough room to cut into my burger – which is definitely a knife-and-fork job – and tip a decent amount of chips onto the board. And let’s not forget the ‘thoughtful’ paper – that which lines the chip bucket (why?) and that which lies beneath the burger. After much knife-and-fork wielding, the latter is at best, in the way or at worst, in shreds.

And they are not alone…I found loads of pictures on the internet like the one below.

Burger on a board 1

I mean, what is the point of this? A board is not a nice thing to eat from – no matter what Jamie Oliver and the like profess. And what’s with that stupid salad garnish stack – it’s taking up valuable room and unlike the mug (again, why?) of chips and the condiments pots, it cannot be shifted onto the table.

Interestingly, when I mentioned my frustration to the owner at my local restaurant (I know them well) and requested a plate, he was completely surprised. They had decided to change it, he told me, because they thought it would look nicer for customers. More a case of overthinking the style and completely screwing up the customer experience of eating it methinks!

I wonder when the last time they ate their burger and fries on the board – rather than a plate – was. I suspect they haven’t – or maybe other customers are not as incensed / vocal about this – because when I popped in last weekend, my roasted vegetable and goats cheese burger came out…on a  board.

So much for the voice of the [lone] customer. I’m tempted to persist because it does really irritate me. But can I be bothered? Perhaps I need to let it go, to chalk this up to a small and insignificant battle that’s not worth getting het up about.

Hmmmm…

In the meantime, would someone please get me a plate?

When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By night

I spent two and a half weeks in Melbourne (the one in Australia not Florida – just to be clear) over the Christmas-New Year period visiting family and catching up with a few friends. It was hot – much hotter than I’m used to even in the warmer parts of Europe – but that did not stop me from doing loads and eating even more.

Last time I tap-tap-tapped away about the high points of our daytime eating adventures and promised to follow up with the same for our culinary exploits after dark. So here it is, post number two.

Fat Bob’s Bar & Grill – Moorabbin

For at least three years, my loved ones have been Facebook posting about Fat Bob’s and when I arrived for a visit two years ago, I was sadly informed that Fat Bob’s was closed until the day after I was due to fly back to the UK. This time Lil Chicky was on the case – Fat Bob’s would be closed from Christmas Eve so nine hours after I got off the plane on December 23rd, we were scoffing amazing burgers, more-ish fries and some super scrumptious fried apple dumplings.

fat-bobs

Tucked away in an industrial estate in Moorabbin, once you walk through the gate there are vintage signs everywhere you look.

fat-bobs-food

There’s a good range of craft brews and ciders to pair with your burger. My White Rabbit Dark Ale was smooth and easy (too easy?) to drink and my Victa burger – a crumbed chicken fillet with Asian slaw, Japanese mayo and BBQ sauce – was completely scoff-worthy

It’s a fabulously unpretentious place and was definitely worth the wait. The food was served in plastic baskets with the burgers wrapped in foil (helps to stop the drips as you hoe in) and cutlery was kind of optional frowned upon. If you love a dirty burger and a retro approach to decorating, get yourself to Fat Bob’s…and leave your tiara at home.

Mexico City – Bentleigh

The original Mexico City restaurant opened in 2011 around the corner from where I used to live in Elsternwick but I’ve been away since 2004 so when Lil Chicky told me that there was a new one in Bentleigh, it seemed the perfect place to stop for a pre-cinema dinner. It’s quite a small place and as we were only two people and didn’t have a booking, we had a choice of sitting at the bar or at the window. We chose the latter and ordered a couple of Moscow Mules to sip with our complimentary corn chips and salsa before our meals arrived. I loved my vegetarian burrito and Lil Chicky enjoyed her Mexican trio. But be warned – the portions are huge so if you want to have more than one course, I’d suggest sharing.

Favorite Noodle & Dumpling Restaurant – Moorabbin

This is a family-run business right across the highway from Moorabbin train station. It’s a large restaurant with an extensive menu of dumplings and Chinese stir fries. Mum, Licensed-To-Grill and Lil Chicky all raved about the dumplings so that was what I chose. They were soft and melt-in-the-mouth delicious – definitely the best I’ve had. I’d been eating elsewhere in the day so couldn’t fit anything else in but again I was gobsmacked by how big everyone else’s portions were.

It got really busy while we were there and the service, while still friendly, did suffer a bit as a result. There was also a little lost in translation moment when pea-hater Lil Chicky asked whether there were peas in the fried rice. (We were absolutely assured there were no peas, just beans, only for Lil Chicky to be faced with picking out all the peas when it did arrive.)  But it’s cheap and cheerful and if I lived there, I’d probably be doing a dumpling run at least once a week.

Bad Frankie – Fitzroy

I was reading one of the daily newspapers at Lil Chicky’s in turns marvelling at how clueless I am about Australian celebrities nowadays and checking out all of the things-to-do recommendations. It was the word ‘jaffles’ that caught my eye – these were the mainstay of many a Sunday night dinner growing up and were crammed full of things like baked beans, ham, tuna, tomato and savoury mince but always with loads of gooey melted cheese. I managed to convince some friends to have a jaffle-themed catch-up…and what a catch-up it was!

bad-frankie

Top row: Look out for the sign when you turn off Smith Street into Greeve Street; Quirky decor  Bottom row: Retro cocktail glassware; the traditional ham and cheese jaffle with a side of tomato chutney; the infamous lamington jaffle – there are no words – you’ve got to experience it for yourself!

Bad Frankie specialises in Australian spirits and the drinks list is pages and pages long (who knew we Aussies were so prolific outside wine and a bit of boutique beer) so we went with cocktails served in the types of glassware you might find at the back of your Mum’s kitchen cupboard. We chose a range of savoury jaffles to begin with – which were yum – then tackled the lamington jaffle. Chocolate sponge filled with jam and rolled in coconut was served warm from the jaffle maker with cream on the side – it was scrumptious and VERY rich, making us all glad we had decided to share. The others also tried the ANZAC Bikkie jaffle (brioche toasted with rolled oats and golden syrup) which they reported tasted faithfully of its namesake.

To my mind Bad Frankie was an absolute find. The decor is quirky and cosy and everything is very laid-back. We’d been in the City in the afternoon and the promise of jaffles and boozing did take us out of our way but it was a chilled and convivial evening with an easy tram ride at either end. Just go!

Okami – Hampton Street

Okami is a chain of five Japanese restaurants across Melbourne and on my last night, we decided to tackle the All-You-Can-Eat offer at the Hampton Street branch. You get a two-hour sitting, a menu and then you just keep ordering dishes until you can’t eat any more. We shared many great dishes but stand outs for me were the Chicken Karaage and the Teriyaki Chicken Skewer. We also tried the Octopus Ball – which turned out to be balls of octopus meat versus something akin to a Bush Tucker Trial – better served with soy sauce than the mayonnaise they came with I thought.

okami-1-441x640

Domo arigato for a job well done! 

We managed to find a small space at the end for some cold vanilla ice-cream (it was 38C that day – that’s really hot!) and pretty much rolled out the door. And all of this for less than $30 (approx. £18) each.

And that peeps ends the culinary tour. The next day I boarded a plane for the long trek home with an underweight suitcase (believe me, it took careful packing to manage this with the amount of shopping I did). However I cannot say the same for yours truly and I must admit to my comfy travelling trousers feeling slightly snugger than when I arrived two and half weeks earlier. But what are holidays for, I ask you?

I hope this has whet the appetite of those of you  living in or travelling to Melbourne…if you are a glutton for punishment and want more or missed the partner post on daytime eating in my hometown, you’ll find it here so in the words of my childhood dinners…

Two four six eight

Dig in. Don’t wait!