Cheers, or is it Chur, Burger for the people
Perfectly cooked oyster ousted by burgers, chur!
The re-alignment in Sydney food continues as high-end establishments defrocks into more casual, and more importantly, more affordable establishments. I wrote about this last year in a Sydney Morning Herald Op-ed. Feted Sydney chef, Warren Turbull who collected a Good Food Guide chef’s hats for Assiette and District Dining, as well as being named one of Time Out’s favourite chefs, is leading the charge. Sydney’s food glitterati poured praise on Turnbull’s Assiette – Fairfax Good Food Guide fawns “It could start classically with an amuse bouche of rich, warm veloute of carrot and fennel seeds, then you’re off and running with seared tuna on a sea of black sesame oyster jelly, with perfectly cooked oyster…”.
High praise for Assiette didn’t translate into high turnover. Sydney diners were eating out more, they just weren’t willing to pay high-end prices. Turnbull replaced Assiette with more relaxed and literal Albion Street Kitchen. As veteran Sydney Morning Herald food critic, Terry Durack observed with laser-like precision “Last year, all main courses at Warren Turnbull’s acclaimed [Assiette] restaurant were $39. Now that he has opened Albion Street Kitchen on the same site, main courses are all $30. All entrees are down $6 to $20, and all desserts are down $2 to $15. That’s a saving of $17 a person, each meal. The plan to ramp down the dining experience is to make it, in Turnbull’s words, less ‘special occasion’, and more ‘comfortable, relaxed and local’.”
Late last year, foodies and food bloggers gasped when Turnbull replaced the other jewel in his hatted crown, District Dining with the Frida Kahlo inspired fiesta fun of Mexico Food and Liquor. While purists shed tears because they can no longer get crispy pigs ears or “creamy smoked-eel pate [that] comes piled into a sardine can branded ‘District Dining’ “, Turnbull’s probably cracking a wide grin. It’s a smart commercial move, Mexico Food and Liqour, riding the Mexican-tsunami, is a successful formula imported from NZ, the emphasis on liquor, with greater margins, does wonders for the bottom line.
But the casualisation of Turnbull establishments still had one more iteration – a catalyst of an unfortunate fire in March this year. It temporarily closed Albion Street Kitchen and Chur Burger which was already operating behind it. Post the fire, only Chur Burger emerged, phoenix-like from the ashes. It’s an ironic twist, more affordable Albion Street Kitchen replaced the relatively high-end Assiette, only to be replaced by a more “relaxed” (read affordable) Chur Burger – a thus-far successful partnership between Warren Turnbull and Grant Astle. They’re not the only feted chefs going down the tasty but affordable burger path, The Burger Shed with Justin North as ‘creative director’ has recently opened in Mosman (more to come on that next week).
Seems like both Turnbull and North are heading the local and overseas burger trends (yes, apparently there’s such a thing).
Cheeky Chur Burger has been an instant hit with critics and bloggers although this one also has the vote of the punters. Noodlies, Sydney food blog visited just prior to noon on a Thursday. When we arrive, it was relatively relaxed (read empty) but within 10 minutes the joint was full and by the time we leave around 12.30pm a small queue had formed. It’s an airy, open space with plenty of natural light, compact furniture creates more room rather than clutter. The first impression is pleasant, a friendly face greets new punters at the door and points you to a table where the simple A4 laser-printed menus are found, while explaining orders can be made at a small counter immediately to the right of the entrance. Today, there are still plenty of newbies to keep staff busy. The second impression, which follows promptly after the first, is the smoky aroma of grilling patties coming from the open kitchen which occupy most of the back wall, you can see smoke disappearing up the large exhaust system, though obviously not all – something to bear in mind if you’re a suit with a business meeting later.
But what about the Chur burgers?
Chur is NZ slang for ‘awesome’ or the parting goodbye version of ‘cheers’ - take your pick. My beef burger is tall and pretty with plenty of colour. The squishy brioche bun contains a colourful combination of tastes and textures: grilled beef, cheese, rich red tomato jam a light mustard mayo and, for me, the prettiest component: pickle cut length-wise – not too sour and still crunchy. Substantial but balanced, it doesn’t leave me feeling bloated or burping.
there’s a lot of pork in that bun!
My lunch mate, Jo exclaims “there’s a lot of pork in that bun” after the first bite of his pulled pork burger which contains generous pork, runny bbq sauce, ‘red slaw’ and fennel mayo. It’s so tall he resorts to fork and knife. I sneak a little bite, where my beef burger feels light (for a burger), Chur’s pork burger is a substantial mouthful. Other burger choices include: grilled chicken with hot mayo, lamb with feta and mint sauce, fish with lemon mayo and chickpea fritter with honey labne for the vegos.
We’re particularly fond of the chips with chilli salt – not for the chilli spice, but the extra salty chips, there’s a fair shake of the salt shaker at play here and we love it. The thick cut chips are tight and dry, very more-ish and easy to swallow.
I complete the experience with a salted caramel milkshake which also feels light (for a milkshake). I down the medium sized paper cup in two sips. It’s a little pricey at $8, but if you like a cooling ale with your bun, a beer and burger combo is $15.
Just remember it’s a popular spot and it is fast food so don’t expect to to lounge around after your feed, the efficient staff quickly whisk away your plate and cutlery in a not-so-subtle hint. Besides the stark square space is noisy when full – not ideal for that romantic rendezvous.
Chur Burgers is a great bite at a decent price – at $10 it’s not cheap, but given the quality produce and execution, it is great value.
48 Albion St, Surry Hills