St Andrews Beach Brewery – St Andrews Beach – Sunday 18 March 2018 – Lunch

I still find a tear in my eye when I watch a replay of the 2005 Melbourne Cup when Makybe Diva became the first horse in history to win three Melbourne Cups. It is quite remarkable watching the gap open up on the turn as if the will of everyone in Australia parted the sea of horses, and she did the rest.

Here at St Andrews Beach Brewery, the Melbourne Cup is honoured with each old stable being allocated to one of the greats, including my favourite. Previously the luxurious stables of Lee Freedman, whoever decided to combine my love of beer, food and horses had a masterstroke.

It is blowing an absolute gale; pelting down with rain; and the place is pretty much packed full at midday. I’ve done the husbandly thing and dropped Catherine at the door to secure a table and now I’m stuck in the second “emergency” carpark deciding whether to brave the conditions now or wait a few minutes. The rain subsides long enough for a Bolt-like sprint up and down the hill and into the stables as if I have lost my strapper and am running home.

This stables turned brewery is huge, with outside (but undercover) stables for larger groups nicely heated, and inside polished concrete and a nice long bar are featured amongst high light-filled ceilings and a motley of tables. In the middle is a grassed area perfect for a cleansing ale (if it wasn’t freezing outside).

Pork sausage pizza

The food offerings are sensible for a place that must be putting out a huge number of meals. Pizzas are popular and with good reason. As with most purpose built pizza focussed restaurants it isn’t an afterthought that doesn’t have the necessary means (a big super hot oven). This is good news if pizza and beer are your thing.

On the beers, there are not tens available, but there is a good selection. Today somehow the American pale ale is not available, but the others including a pale ale, pilsner, golden ale and lager are all on. I tried a few including the golden ale and pale ale and I thought they are both great without being noticeable unique.

Pulled pork burger

The pulled pork is satisfactorily good without being anything special. We had some sweet potato chips to share and the chips are good too.

Even in this terrible weather, the drive out to St Andrews beach near Rye is worth it to enjoy some nice beers and food in a terrific setting. Those with places nearby, or securing a holiday house, will surely be there several times in a week, especially over summer. And I did notice as we walked out the TVs are set to the racing channel which is very cool for an enthusiast!

St Andrews Beach Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Thanks Albert – Mornington – Saturday 15 April 2017 – Dinner

Being reasonably familiar with the Mornington strip, it seems there is a period of renaissance down the Main Street strip. Breaking the habit of going to DOC is difficult, but tonight I felt like trying Thanks Albert, whose burgers have been held in good regard for several months.

It is a nice looking, unassuming space, that is casual enough for families to dine comfortably, but also for a slightly more intimate setting too. There couldn’t be more than thirty seats inside, and outside tonight is out of the question, the autumn chill taking hold over this Easter break.

We are here for burgers, and I’ve always thought the best indication of quality comes from the house burger. If you are going to name a burger after the establishment, it better be one of the better choices. Also after simplicity, Catherine orders the Thanks Albert too, something we don’t often do. Chips are obligatory, of course.

Thanks Albert burger

The main surprise is the quality and diversity of the drinks list. There are several choices for local, Australian and International beers, and the wine list has some nice choices. We settle on a glass of the Margaret River chardonnay on offer, and a pinot noir made in the Yarra Valley. Service, whilst in a very casual place, is actually great, our waitperson taking more time than normal to go through the specials, and some tips for beginners here.

One of those specials was a very reasonable offer of two burgers, and the Easter dessert special. We didn’t go for it, only because there was an earlier agreement for Tutti Frutti gelato afterwards, which is a fantastic, off-strip, gelateria.

When the burger arrived, our already eager appetite grew stronger. The patty, cooked medium, is doused in cheese, with good looking pickles, in a brioche bun. We had earlier commented on the number of great looking pickle jars on the wall used as a display, and were glad the signature burger included several thickly sliced ones. The first few bites, with our hunger at its peak, were probably the better ones, but it is good quality, and a generous serving. The crinkle cut chips with paprika dusting were excellent, filling up any last gap in our appetite!

As we walked off our burgers, going up and down the strip, we quickly realised it is not just Thanks Albert that is making a more recent positive impact on the quality of dining in Mornington. There are several great looking options and we must go more out of our way to try them. Two that looked particularly appealing were Mr Jackson, and Play the Fool. Thanks Albert must be a welcome addition for locals and tourists alike. Next time we’ll need to sample a few more of the beverages on offer too.

Thanks Albert Burger Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Denis the Menace – Cremorne – Friday 13 November 2015 – Lunch

Chicken burger

Chicken burger

One sure fire way of making an immediate impact is to have a clever, and most of all good looking, fit out. This is one thing that even the most nonchalant diner can see straight away.

A good looking venue provides immediate attraction but is only a small piece of the puzzle. There is obviously a lot more to it, but this is one ingredient that should be easy to do, yet is often not well executed. At Denis the Menace in Cremorne, the airy and open warehouse ticks the first box.

This is your traditional café, but with a Thai accent. The menu is filled with all-day breakfast options and has an extensive lunch menu too. We have no trouble finding something enticing.

Pulled pork bun

Pulled pork bun

It was a very busy Friday lunch period and we were lucky to secure one of the last tables, but there is decent turnover. You can tell that with the busy lunch rush the waitstaff are under pressure. That pressure did lead to some mistakes being made, including Catherine’s glass of wine being missed. Once we realised it was not coming, and asked, we got a speedy rectification, and an apology which makes all the difference.

While waiting for our drinks, I ordered the chicken burger which comes in a light bun with pickled vegetables. Catherine ordered the pulled pork roll which comes in a nice soft long bun, topped with plenty of chipotle mayo. The chicken burger was fantastic, flavoursome with the right amount of spiciness, all ingredients working well together. Equally good was the pulled pork in a soft roll, although Catherine will ask for a touch less chipotle mayo next time around. And there will be a next time.

There is a huge amount of potential here. Denis the Menace is still settling down having opened five months ago in an area that is more of an office worker hotspot, than a foodie haven. The food is smart, reasonably priced, and packed full of flavour. Success seems to be assured as long as Denis doesn’t go off the rails like its name sake!

Denis The Menace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mr Scruff’s – Collingwood – Sunday 18 October 2015 – Lunch

Mr Scruff's Beef Burger

Mr Scruff’s Beef Burger

Something that will never go out of fashion is burgers and burger joints. It has been said of many things; but even the worst burger is still good.

These days, there is not enough time for average burgers, meaning any visit needs to be planned and coordinated effectively. This means our net is not cast wide often.

Today we’ve taken a chance on Mr Scruff’s on Smith Street in Collingwood. While it looks small from the front, walking through you quickly realise there is another room, plus a medium sized area downstairs out the back. In fact, given it is lunch, this place is jumping!

Downstairs there are more enjoying a drink in the sun, than digging into the burgers on offer. Inside, the disco ball and extensive DJ setup is getting a rest, and burgers are the go. Both of us order the simple Beef Burger with American cheese, cos, pickles, onions, and Mr Scruff’s special sauce.

There’s no frills; just the way I like it. A delicious medium rare patty that is balanced in its size, with a good helping of melted cheese, and pickles, in a bun that provides that sweetness you need whilst also maintaining a sound structure. The onion rings accompanying the burger make for an even more indulgent meal. Catherine’s first comment was “Big Mac, but good!”

Going back to the bar for another beer I hear the barperson proudly tell a customer that Mr Scruff’s has one of Melbourne’s best burgers. She also then tells me that on Friday and Saturday nights the disco ball is in full swing to the very early hours. It is always a difficult task to rank burger joints, especially on one sitting. What is clear to me is that Mr Scruff’s do a great burger and one that is not outshone by Huxtaburger further down the road which is one of my favourites.

Mr Scruff's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Grand Trailer Park Taverna – Melbourne, City – Saturday 25 July 2015 – Lunch

KSA and Mac and Cheese Croquette

KSA and Mac and Cheese Croquette

Hype is a wonderful thing. It does not come out of nowhere and is a sign of something worth trying, but it does set expectations higher.

At Grand Trailer Park Taverna you can smell the hype. In one of the most random refurbished upstairs locations in the city there is now a sanctuary for burger lovers overlooking the intersection of Exhibition and Bourke Streets.

I’m not sure how they got the trailers up there but it is a great look. The strong crowd is not a surprise but gladly the space, whether in caravan booths, on more usual tables, or benches with stools, is nice and comfortable. Here you order at the counter so after a quick assessment of the menu I decide on the Ivan Drago, Catherine on the KSA, and we also share some chips and a mac and cheese croquette.

The Ivan Drago and Hand Cut Chips

The Ivan Drago and Hand Cut Chips

My Ivan Drago has an Aussie beef pattie, cheddar cheese, black Russian tomato, streaky bacon, beetroot, McDowell sauce and comes in a brioche bun. The classic Aussie inclusion of beetroot is great and I’m guessing its name comes as a result of the Russian tomato. Everything works and the pattie is high on flavour. Catherine’s KSA has the same beef and cheese in a brioche bun, with normal tomato and butter lettuce, special burger sauce and American mustard. Again it is a delicious burger and a good option if you don’t want too many flavours in each bite.

The mac and cheese croquette is just indulgent comfort in a perfect little package. It is huge so the decision to share one with Catherine works for us. The chips are terrific but that is to be expected.

With a good selection of drinks available, there is plenty to quench your thirst and offset all that grease. It is not out of the question to see out an afternoon over a few courses and a few drinks but today we have Melbourne’s Open House to get involved in. The pie of the day will have to wait until next time.

Click to add a blog post for The Grand Trailer Park Taverna on Zomato

Bottle of Milk – Lorne – Monday 16 March 2015 – Lunch

IMG_3541On our way to the Twelve Apostles I’d been given strong instructions by an Aireys Inlet regular that there are three main places to stop on the way. The first, A La Grecque, I knew about as it has been acclaimed for some time, but was not the quick lunch we were looking for. The third, The Wye River General Store, was a bit far for the time of the day we were looking for. The second was just right!

I hadn’t been to Bottle of Milk on previous trips to Lorne and I have no idea why? It is a good looking, broad fronted burger joint, with Seven Seeds coffee. I can only imagine it has changed over time or I was blind!
In any case, it was the perfect place for lunch today. The menu is displayed at the entrance on large signage and once ready you order at the counter. The burgers are true to both the countryside and 2008 when it opened. Nice big juicy patties, traditional sourdough buns and tasty trimmings including lettuce, tomato, onion, house made mayo and homemade tomato relish. Obviously our cheeseburger contained a further key ingredient. The chips on the side were terrific with the caveat that the four of us could have shared one instead of two.

The Seven Seeds espresso I tried was well made for a burger joint too. Something that particularly surprised me was how busy it was on a Monday for lunch. Even so the wait time for burgers at the height of lunch was more than reasonable, and the chips came first which is a nice touch when you’re hungry.

Bottle of Milk is a top place to have a quick feed and the next time I’m in Lorne for a holiday I’m sure there will be multiple encounters.

The Bottle Of Milk on Urbanspoon

Rockpool Bar – Melbourne City – 28 February 2014 – Lunch

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!

Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon