I’ve had my fair share of burgers locally and overseas, and while there were some definite stand outs, many have been just… well, ordinary. So last week when I was asked along to sample some of the highlights of the refreshed menu at The Royal Hotel in Randwick, I was wondering whether I would be genuinely impressed. I was happily surprised when this tasting experience actually made me sit up and pay attention to burgers again. And I’m happy to report that they are not just the stand-in fillers for when I can’t find something better. The burger bar has been raised! These burgers (together with their well matched sides) were innovative, full of flavour… and I’ve been back twice in a few days!
The Royal Hotel Randwick is a heritage listed institution in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. It has recently undergone a refurbishment and exudes touches of opulence and class together with casual comfort. It is conveniently located within a short 10 minute drive from Sydney’s CBD and has family friendly areas so the whole clan can enjoy it.
I like how the refurbished interiors are not to matchy-matchy and prescribed. Instead, there are classic fixtures coupled with modern touches. The ornate ceiling mouldings are a part of the Victorian era past, yet these timeless elements are allowed to shine in their own right when coupled with a contrasting modern fixture – this contrast is a great design feature when used in the right way like it is here. The lighting is striking throughout and acts to define the different zones across the hotel – bar, bistro, function rooms and accommodation. (These accommodation pictures courtesy of Wasamedia)
Indigenous artworks are featured throughout the space and add a warm, tribal touch.
The courtyard is a great space… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s something special about dining under trees strewn with a canopy of lights. Greenery in large, rustic pots contrasts with the fresh, blank canvas of the light paved floor. The tables in the courtyard have a weathered wood top (I don’t know if this was an intentional effect or it’s just aged and weathered from being exposed to the elements, but if it was intentional then the detail wasn’t lost on me!).
There is also accommodation available and the rooms have been refurbished to a very high standard. It was evident on first glance that this was a much more sophisticated affair than most would expect. It was tempting to know there was a plush bed upstairs considering the food coma I later found myself in at the end of the night.
And they have an open kitchen with happy chefs! Everyone wins when there are happy chefs.
Now back to the topic on hand, the burger-fest. Here’s the run down…
There are a range of burgers on offer at the hotel. They have burgers specials that last for around two weeks and keep on some of the most popular. The price point is very reasonable for around $16 (with sides) considering all the burgers are gourmet with fresh, quality ingredients. The changing burger menu means you can visit regularly and get to sample a great range. Oh, and I know this is secondary (if rate-able at all) for most of you, but there is a lot of attention to the plating up and I love the rustic platters and boards that the burger creations are served on.
As starters, the chef brought out some share plates of
- Lamb ribs – they that had been slow cooked, then crisped up in the oven and served with a homemade BBQ sauce.
- Salt and pepper calamari with lime, chilli and coriander
- Roast pumpkin, parmesan and basil arancini with aioli.
Grrr! I figured they would bring out some mini slider type burgers after these starters… I was wrong.
So here are my favourite burgers, in order of preference:
This burger had delicate and mouthwatering thick, fatty pieces of pork belly and not the thin slithers that some places serve up. The Italian slaw was a great flavour and textural contrast, the double fried chips were thick cut and full of crunch, and what’s not to love about a pile of crackling. In fact, for me it’s all about the crackling.
Once, a friend (who wouldn’t want to be named) and I had a whole meal of just crackling. Yep. And that’s why I have a bi-annual heart health check up – so far so good, so keep the cracklin’ comin’ I say! And so do many of the locals who protested in the streets and formed an angry mob (proverbially) when this burger was no longer the special. So it looks like it’s going to live a little longer on the menu and maybe get a permanent spot.
A chilli chicken burger with asian greens (nam jin style) and served with a chilli dressing. The side of chips had lime, coriander, fried onion and lemongrass. The aroma of the burger wafting through the air before it even got to the table was an indication of the flavours. The strength of all the components balanced out well considering the punchy Asian flavours. Highly recommend this one for anyone that is a fan of Thai food – none of the authentic Thai flavours are lost, despite it being in the burger form.
This Royal Wagyu Cheese Burger is a permanent favourite on their menu and I can understand why. It takes it’s cue from the traditional Aussie burger but pushes it up a few notches with a tender wagyu patty and perfectly melted cheese. I find a lot of places get the cheese melt level wrong – it’s either not melted enough or too melted and runny. On this occasion it was a gooey glove over the patty, just how I like my cheese in a burger.
I got the secret to the beef patty from Head Consultant Chef, Danny Russo… so I guess the secret is out. When the mince is being grated, the finer mincer is taken off so that it is a coarsely grated mince. Once seasoned and formed into a patty, it is partly cooked on the grill first (using a similar method to cooking steaks) and then finished off on the BBQ for that flame grilled flavour and crisping up of the outside.
I love lamb and I’m always disappointed that there are hardly enough lamb burgers around. So I was pleasantly surprised to find one in their mix. Caramelised onion, rocket and a side of the crispiest sweet potato wedges and beetroot relish. There was something homely in the flavours of this burger combo. It reminded me of a traditional Sunday lamb roast made by Granny, but in burger form.
I felt a little bad for the Haloumi burger because for one, we were all just a tad over-full at that point to truly appreciate this one. However it was a very fulfilling burger with some great flavour contrasts from the salty, well grilled haloumi and the tzatziki filling.
To compliment the burgers, we sampled some elderflower cider and I’ve been hooked ever since. Plus it’s also only 4% alcohol, so it almost falls into the soft drink category instead *grin*. Its spritziness served me well as a palate cleanser during this burger degustation. It kind of tasted like how the fairy lights looked (if that makes any sense at all).
Now is a great time to visit them during balmy Summer dinners after work or on weekends.
If you get the chance to sample these highly recommended burgers (or any new ones) form their changing specials menu, then please do share your feedback with us by leaving your comments below.