For a long time, Rockpool Bar has been the home of my favourite burger. From the days I was a tourist in Melbourne when it opened, to working across the road, and now as a visitor into the city (from the Inner East), I hold the burger in a very high esteem.
Much has been written about the burger, its components, the way it comes together, and whether to eat with your hands or a knife and fork. I won’t be able to write as eloquently as Gourmet Traveller, or as humourously as many of the burger blogs, so I’ll focus on why it is my favourite burger.
For one it has integrity – structural integrity! You can comfortably use your hands (if you are experienced and willing to sacrifice your white linen napkin) in any company. On this occasion I was meeting up with some of my old work colleagues who are now my advisers. Rockpool is the place you can, and should, proudly use your hands, even if you have the most exquisite knife and fork skills going around.
Each component is of the highest quality. Everything has its little piece of uniqueness. The burger itself is almost always cooked beautifully (medium rare). I’m not a huge fan of having to add the tomato and lettuce (cos) but it does allow the waitperson some leeway in delivery. I guess it also introduces the fact that you need to use your hands at least to add it.
You are dining in a really well thought out restaurant that has tasteful decor, good waitstaff, excellent drinks (Trumer Pils is the beer of my choice) and an air of something that is that little bit better. I first breathed that air when dining at Rockpool Sydney in 2000, not realising I was sitting next to Neil Perry at the time!
All of this is important in establishing a reputation of special quality. Unfortunately, the price follows and has got a bit rich for many. $15 to $18 to $22 to $24 currently. With no sides, the addition of salad and chips ends up costing the diner about $30 plus a couple of beers and it is no longer an every Friday option for lunch. Watch out for the never-ending sparkling water too if you are mainly focussed on drinking beer (from memory it is $8 a person).
It is for this reason that most of my friends no longer rate it as number 1 in Melbourne.
I am different. Price is a factor, of course. But price is not a leading factor. That means if the burger is already high on my list on most factors, price is not going to bring it down much at all. The question is how do I compare my other favourite – Huxtaburger on Smith St (specifically – not so much the other outposts) that is about $8. The answer is that ultimately I have to take price out of the initial question because Rockpool could never win if any weight is given to this factor.
After probably 25-30 burgers, the excitement dies just that little bit each time, but I’ll be back at least another 10 times in the next few years – and it will probably still be right up there!