Healthier, more sustainable, and possessing social conscience, how does Grill’d stack-up against the heavy hitters of the Sydney burger scene?
Since embarking on this search for Sydney’s best burger joint, we’ve eaten quite a few burgers and I’ve read quite a few lists in the past months (differing opinions of Sydney’s best burger joints). However from all the lists I’ve perused, I haven’t seen Grill’d appear on any burger roll-call.
The first time we tried Grill’d, I think the burger landscape was a lot different from how it is today. Gourmet burgers with premium produce wasn’t easy to find back then, at that time the burgersphere was still dominated by the big 2 American burger chain stores. And I remember Grill’d was a breath of fresh air, burgers which were more unique, made to order, it was clear that thought was placed into the ingredient/flavour pairings, and who didn’t like the concept of dropping a bottle cap into 1 of 3 huge jars to place your support/vote towards a local charity/initiative. But much has changed in the intervening years, and many have caught up and surpassed Grill’d…but by how much?
Back to the present day, and knowing what we know and having tasted so many burgers over the last few months, I think I’m a more astute Burgerite – how would a Grill’d burger compare to our current top-three (Bar Luca, Z-Pickle, and Down N’ Out)?
To be fair, we chose from the Grill’d Specialty burger range (3 Wagyu and 2 Pork Belly options), thinking that if we based the comparison on the premium end of their Grill’d menu, then they’d stand more of a chance to keep-up with the big boys.
I ordered the Bonfire BBQ ($15.90) – Premium wagyu patty with native Davidson plum barbeque sauce, crispy bacon, Dijon mustard, pickle, aged cheddar, Spanish onion & egg mayo.
While my wife ordered the Pork & Pine ($15.90) – Slow cooked marinated pork belly with avocado, charred pineapple, salad & smoky chipotle mayo.
At point of sale, we were both given the option of what bun we’d like, and we both chose the sour dough bun (they lost me at ‘sour dough’, as soon as I heard those words I stopped listening to the other options).
And to make our burgers a meal, we ordered a side of Zucchini fries to share ($8.90) and an apple juice ($4.50). Our total bill amounting to slightly over $45.
On this day, we ate at the World Square Grill’d store.
And after a short wait (proving that burgers are made to order), our food was brought out to us on plates.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but my pet-hate when consuming burgers is when the bun is soggy when you first pick it up due to the sauce being applied too liberally or it being too runny. This time the bottom bun wasn’t soggy, but a lot of sauce had already leaked out so that after first contact with the burger my fingers were already sticky with sauce (which got considerably worse as we went along). The big bite test? Full marks, as the stack was tall but still easy enough to get all of the ingredients into one single bite after compressing the bun slightly. The first element which stood out was the pickle- it was unique because it was sliced quite thin, but it was a large square probably 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch and one side was all pickle skin (which was quite firm , like apple skin). And all subsequent pickles were consistently the same, it was like they were sheering just the skin off pickles and serving it; when you’d might do the opposite and discard the skin. But that was unusual and gave it a sour element, and a textural change-up. However that was the only unique taste and texture which stood out, unfortunately the BBQ sauce was applied so generously that all I could taste was the BBQ sauce. I couldn’t tell if the beef patty was Wagyu as all beef flavours were masked by the overpowering BBQ sauce, the only difference I noticed was that the meat patty seemed more … Um…. Mushy? Like it was cooked rare? But I think I need to do more reading up on Wagyu beef, to better understand its characteristics and know what I’m sensing for. And unfortunately I couldn’t taste the sour flavour from the sour dough bun, or the cheese, or the mayo, or Spanish onion, as my palate was owned by the BBQ sauce, and so were my hands by the end.
On the other hand (a much cleaner hand), my wife liked her Pork belly burger, the grill’d pineapple the stand-out. And the Zucchini chips were good at first, as it was thickly coated in a crunchy batter that delighted us at first bite! However we had ordered the Zucchini chips thinking that we’d choose a more healthy option, than straight potato fries. But as the batter was coated so thickly and the shreds of Zucchini so thin, it was like just eating batter. So it didn’t feel much healthier as we were probably consuming just as much carbs as potato fries and this feeling settled in our minds as we ate and in the end we didn’t finish them. At the time the meal prompted a discussion about whether or not we should detox for a few weeks, and give the Burger Vs Burger taste test a rest as well, for the sake of our health. Haaha. But I’m one who has a short memory with oaths, I’m sure we’ll be back handling burgers in a fortnight’s time. *Smile*.
Our end verdict, 3.5 Stars from 5 (2 from 3 stars for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the youngsters at Grill’d are always friendly); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (they had a pop/R&B playlist going on); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (as $45+ is starting to get into the big boy burger pricing territory).
In conclusion, we love what Grill’d stands for, a more healthy take on burgers; a more sustainable approach to doing business and reducing/eliminating their impact on the environment (banning straws and sourcing from responsible producers); and making donating to local charities their ongoing mission! Yeah, their burgers aren’t in the same league as our top 3 burger joints, and unfortunately Grill’d offering when put through the Burger Scorecard only scored a 10 from 20, not high enough to be added to our Burger Vs Burger list (probs many before me also came to this same conclusion).
In the end, can a chain store compete with a bar or a restaurant where the boss and creatives behind the menu are still on the grills? And/or still influence the every-day running of the restaurant and the food that they serve up? I think it’s not the same nor a fair comparison when you’re a guy/gal on the grills 5-6 layers removed from the people who create the menu, and the totality of your interaction with the leaders of your company is probably the odd pump-up email, or monthly e-newsletter. But Grill’d is still a good burger option, it has the right motivations and I’ll still go back now-and-again. Next time I’ll stick to the regular burger options, so my expectation/anticipation can be lowered, so it won’t be horribly shattered again.
Grill’d World Square- Sun 27 January (3.5 Stars)
PH: (02) 9261 4900
Shop 10.58 Ground Level, 58/680 George Street, Sydney NSW
Mon-Thurs 11am – 10pm
Fri 11am – 11pm
Sat 11am – 10pm
Sun 11am – 9.30pm