In the red corner we have our Challenger, Bar Luca! Tossing their hat into the ring for consideration as Sydney’s Best Burger Joint!
We didn’t know what to expect, everyone knows Mary’s, Betty’s, and Burger Project as trending Burger joints, but I’m not sure if everyone knows all about Bar Luca? (I definitely didn’t). Only open on a Saturday evening for weekend trade (closed Saturday day and Sundays) we had to flip our routine around to dine at Bar Luca. *Shock-horror*. And hey! It wasn’t a bad change at all! There is definitely a different vibe in the city as soon as the sun goes down and walking down George street in the evening, it was nice. There was a cool breeze on this otherwise warm summer’s day, and with parts of George street now pedestrianised, it felt like Melbourne with live performers doing their thang on each block. Real nice, can’t wait until the Light Rail is finally up-and-running!
Bar Luca is located on Phillip Street which is closer to the Circular Quay end of the CBD, and it’s a pumping place situated on an otherwise quiet street in the evenings. We rocked up at 8pm, and it was only a short 10 minute wait before a table freed up for us. We had dressed up a little bit nicer, as we were going out to a ‘bar’ in the ‘evening’ but it turns out that Bar Luca is pretty casual; we got the impression from the maitre d’ who was in t-shirt and shorts (and why shouldn’t he, it was a hot summer’s day). And when we were seated and taking in the surrounds, Bar Luca was essentially a typical Sydney pub, interesting how the use of ‘bar’ had conjured up mental-images of sophistication and class, compared to say being named ‘Hotel Luca’ or something equally pubby. But for us, we felt even more at home knowing that it was just a relaxed venue which happened to be located in the posh end of town.
In terms of our orders, during our brief wait outside the venue we studied their menu and decided on The Blame Canada burger- $17 (of course), as it seems all first-timers end-up ordering their signature burger. For me, I went with the Mr T-ruffle burger- $17 which was essentially the same as the Blame Canada, but I instead had truffle aioli sauce (instead of Maple aioli) and truffle infused mushrooms. And as a share dish we ordered a plate of Potato scallops- $7, for the simple fact that you rarely see a restaurant serve up the humble deep fried potato oval!
The other burger options which caught our eye were the BL Burger, Bar Luca’s own take on the humble BLT; The Lot, a whole heap of stuff stuffed into a burger including a fried egg; the Flame Canada, basically the Blame Canada with jalapeños and a spicier sauce; and there was a chicken version of the Blame Canada. And many many share dishes to choose from, and for a few extra bucks you can basically shove any side into your burger and customise the heck out of your bun stack.
Taking in the atmosphere, it was very much a pub/bar/hotel scene; heavy wooden tables, heavy wooden chairs, high stools and sports being played on the large screen TVs. The venue was pretty packed, not like a usual pub where people are free to stand and mingle wherever they pleased, but it was more like a restaurant where people took their seats and kept to their own groups (entry to the venue as an example, you were only allowed entry into the venue when tables became free, rather than a free-for-all at your neighbourhood pub). So it was very civilised, and the whole place was buzzing with people all chatting happily, which was enough to create atmosphere making the music a moot point (more so just for background music than to get people out of their seats and dancing).
After making your orders at the bar, our food was delivered to our table and my first impression was that the burgers were kind of small?
Perhaps the small plate on which it came added to the feeling that you weren’t getting much for your money? As after 2 burgers and one side (no drinks), it already added up to $41, which is a reasonable amount of cash to fork out (at first I thought I’ll be going home hungry again).
But first bite! OMG! I was triumphant in getting all of the burger elements into one big bite and it was so tasty! The first thing which hit the taste buds was how tasty and well-seasoned the beef patty was! It was so flavoursome, not due to spices or the sauce, but it was just the natural taste of good beef, the smoky taste of being flame grilled, seasoned well, and it was just a very thick and substantial meat patty. Mmmmm. Then the next thing you register was the super crispy bacon which had been pan-fried to a brittle crisp (glazed with maple syrup), and it was only in subsequent bites did my taste buds locate the truffle flavours (they were definitely there from the beginning). But the beef patty and the bacon were the two clear standouts, and it was later when your tastebuds got familiar with the smoky beef and the sweet bacon, did the truffle flavour come through, which came from the truffle aioli sauce, and the truffle infused mushrooms. And even later on, I and my tastebuds found the cheese and the shallots in there, so as you can see there were many many elements which contributed to the creation of this memorable bun-stack. And oh yeah! I almost forgot, the milk bun was real nice and soft as well, and held together throughout the meal although there were so many big personalities to restrain within its fluffiness. To be completely unbiased, the only negative comment I had was that as soon as the burger sat for a few minutes, the bacon lost its crispiness; so my advice is to smash out your burger first and worry about the sides at the end.
My wife was equally satisfied with her Blame Canada burger, it was a taller stack than mine so she had some trouble keeping it all together and getting her teeth around the top and bottom buns. In the end she had to raise the white flag and surrender to the Canucks; admitting that she was so full after her burger, that she didn’t have the stomach space for her share of the potato scallops. The only knock on her meal was the lack of veg/greens, do we blame Canada for this? Or do we blame the kitchen? And considering how I thought that we weren’t getting much food for our money, our burgers initially sitting there all alone looking small on its small little plate? Yeah, I had to admit that I was wrong and looks were deceiving, as in the end I was super full as well and was unable to take it for the team and eat my wife’s portion of her potato scallops (it’s been a while since we weren’t able to finish our meals). **Side note: The scallops were good- nice and crispy and generously covered in chicken salt; although it was the memories which these little babies brought back for me; memories of primary school and waiting for the train at Strathfield station and pulling out coins to buy a single potato scallop at the platform Kiosk for 50c, those Bar Luca Potato scallops brought back all those old repressed memories. Love how food can take you back in time!
Our end verdict! Bar Luca held its own in the ring, exchanging punches with the more well-known heavy hitters in the Burger scene; and at this point in our travels to try all the Trending Burger joints in Syd, Bar Luca has taken the top spot!!!! Dethroning Z-Pickle from its position top of the stack. So the anticipation has now been turned right up! As we look forward to the eventual day when we circle round to Mary’s (people’s usual response when asked “where are the best burgers at?”). This makes for a very very interesting showdown! Is Bar Luca our modern day Rocky Balboa? The relative unknown who is going to stick it to Mary’s? Check-out the Burger Vs Burger scorecard to see how Bar Luca edged-out Z-Pickle for the title of ‘No. 1 Contender’
We score Bar Luca 4.5 Stars from 5 (3 from 3 for food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service, everyone who we interacted with were real friendly; 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere, who needs blaring music when you have 100+ happy chatting patrons; and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money, it has been the most expensive Burger joint we’ve eaten at thus far). We’ll definitely be singing Bar Luca’s praises to friends until it’s on the tip of everyone’s’ tongues when they think of tasty burgers; and we’ll definitely be coming back, even if it’s only for the final show-down between the top ranking burger joints! In a final Cheese Burger and Chicken Burger Taste Test Tournament! Call it the big CBCBTTT! Haaha.
Bar Luca- Saturday 12 January (4.5 Stars)
PH: (02) 9247 9700
52 Phillip Street, Sydney NSW
Mon-Tues 11am – 10pm
Wed-Fri 11am – 12midnight
Sat 5pm – 12midnight
**Booking is advised.
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