Hard Rock Café Sydney- Darling Harbour

An aging concept which is better suited to the 90s, but out of place in the 19s …..the 2019s, that is.

When you’re in the States, you see Hard Rock Cafes in prominent locations in all the major cities, and Sydney’s Hard Rock Café is also located in a prominent spot at Harbourside Shopping Centre (well known for overpriced and underwhelming food designed to fleece unknowing tourists). But 5 years ago we had an amazing experience at the Hard Rock Café! And we’ve been looking for reasons to go back ever since!

I can’t remember why we decided to dine at the Hard Rock café that first and only time all those years ago.  Perhaps we were just curious to see what the hype was all about, but I still remember it was a public holiday as well, as we also got slapped with the 10% surcharge. But that first time was so memorable- from the American waiter who had loads of character that when he was taking our orders he even pulled up a chair and sat with us, making us laugh all the while!; that time they had a ‘Burgers of the World’ menu, where you could order a signature burger from 10 different countries, I remember there was a Hong Kong burger which was served with a sweet & sour pork patty; I remember the option of paying extra money for your thick-shake, so that you could keep the Hard Rock Café branded milkshake glass when you were done with it; and I even remember going around and checking out the celebrity memorabilia they had on display, and being impressed by what they had on show. It was such a memorable experience that I’ve been pining to go back ever since, and  on several occasions over the past 5 years we had tried but the queues for a table were too long and we often talk ourselves out of it as the food was overpriced.

But now it’s the 2019s, we’ve been eating at overpriced Sydney restaurants on a weekly basis- so we’re more immune to overpriced burgers, thinking that we were inoculated against ex-yness. But we found out that we still weren’t completely resistant against feeling ripped-off.

This time, at lunch time on Easter Monday we were able to walk right in and be seen to a table for 2 right away, no long queues anymore. We were given a table with a nice view overlooking the temporary Pixar Putt Putt Golf range.

Their staff were attentive but a bit too insistent for our liking, in a span of 10 minutes or so, she came back 3 times asking us if we were ready, and in that time period a second waitress also came to take our orders. Which is levels of customer service unheard of in Sydney, but something we’re not use to and we felt more embarrassed that we hadn’t made up our minds yet. And when she came back for the 4th time, we could hear it in her tone of voice “Are you guys ready yet?”

But our hold-up was my fault, I was trying to get over the fact that the ‘Burgers of the World’ menu was no longer there, one of the main driving forces for my return! Noooo! My wife felt that perhaps last time we had lucked on a limited duration offer, and I had specifically come today to see if the Hard Rock Café’s international line-up of burgers could contend for the title in the Burger Vs Burger competition. But now that they only had local entrants to the challenge, it was looking pretty bleak for the Hard Rock Café. We ended up ordering the Java Burger (beef patty, jack cheese, bacon, onions, mayo, the point of difference being a whole roasted jalapeno) while I ordered a Texan, which was categorised as a sandwich but it was essentially a burger (pulled pork, bacon, jack cheese, onions etc.), the total amount for 2 burgers without any drinks totalled $55 (when rounded to the nearest dollar after the 10% Public Holiday surcharge). Ouch!

The offer for thick-shake and the choice to purchase the drink with a branded Hard Rock Café milkshake glass to go was still on the menu, but oddly I thought $12 would do it if I wanted to keep the glass. But alas it was now $18.50! Which is ex-y enough that we had to say “Get out of here!” So we elected to just sip on our complementary table waters.

The atmosphere was ok, staying true to their theme they only played ‘rock’ songs, and after a 15 minute wait or so our burgers arrived.

My wife’s burger was the one with the steak knife plunged into it, like a kitchen hand had finally lost their patience with an uncooperative burger filling, before plunging a dagger into the top of it in frustration (I wonder if there is a more child-friendly version if the consumer of this burger was aged under 12). While my burger….. I mean sandwich, was the one which had the bun askew; in more classy circles they call it an open sandwich, me? I call it a bun askew.

My bun stack was interesting enough, the main surprise being the onions, they were 2 inch slithers which had been fried to a crisp, so it was smokey, and caramelised to an inch of its life!; the pulled pork was a large generous piece, but it definitely needed the dousing of BBQ sauce to give it flavour and moisture; the bacon bits were crispy little squares; while the bun was a soft fluffy brioche bun which I liked. So all in all it was good. As sides, I had 2 little tubs, one contained a fresh coleslaw, the other was a hot (temperature) & spicy beans, and a cup of fries (which were dry and tasteless until we covered it in tomato and American mustard sauce). I found my meal to be passable and I pretty much finished my whole plate of food.

Meanwhile, my wife first commented that her beef patty was a large generously-sized thick piece, but as the meal went on she found it to be too much, lacking flavour and dry. So she ended up only finishing half of her burger- not all that impressed by it.

And after making our payments we walked around a bit checking out the memorabilia on display, and the only interesting pieces were Sting’s guitar and some lyrics penned by Kurt Cobain, in the stairwell on the way down to the gift shop.

Needless to say, Hard Rock Café’s burgers didn’t compare against the offerings from the major players in the Sydney burger scene, thus not worthy to be put through the Burger score-card. But as an overall dining experience the Sydney Hard Rock Café scored a total of 2.5 Stars from 5.0 Stars from us (1.5 from 3 for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (our waitress was friendly but perhaps a little bit too insistent , checking up on us another 3 times after we had received our meals); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (it wasn’t as pumping as the first time, but at least they maintained a good playlist); and 0 from 1 for Value for money ($55, even $50 without the surcharge is a bit too steep for 2 burgers without drinks)).

I think any positive memories of Hard Rock Café from our first visit has been wiped clean by this most recent experience, just from my take I’m surprised that the dining concept still exists after all these years! It’s basically an overpriced American style diner (of which there are plenty now in Sydney- serving up much better food for much less) and just having a few celebrity items and playing rock music- it doesn’t make for a compelling venue to dine at. Needless to say, we won’t be back any time soon.

Hard Rock Café Sydney- 22 April (2.5 Stars)

https://www.Hard Rock.com/cafes/Sydney/

PH: (02) 9280 0077

Level 2, Harbourside Shopping Centre, 2-10 Darling Drive, Sydney

Mon-Sun 11am – 11pm

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