One of my defining food experiences remains my burger feats of last year - eating, and writing up, and then co-judging some 25 (out of more than 60!) burgers for Wellington On A Plate. It was, as I said in summing it up, an extraordinary insight into standards of service, food and presentation in the capital.
The burger "journey" began when I met, oh you know - only cook/ writer/ caterer extraordinaire Ruth Pretty, just quietly, like you do - to eat Rex Morgan's T Rex burger at the Boulcott Street Bistro. You know, the old "journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". I had already resisted the request that I give the burgers scores out of five and so on - I felt like it would be tough to know where "the bar" was.
Because, as it turned out, despite some fabulous efforts from, in particular, Café Polo, Shinobi Sushi Lounge (RIP), The Larder and The Tasting Room - the T Rex was a winner from the get go. A champion burger. One who would not be surpassed, perhaps made all the more special by the fact that when WOAP ended - it would be gone, just a distant, fond memory. I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't meet its like again, and realised that that was probably for the best, and for the betterment of my belt notches.
Only, except, this month, for the whole of lunchtimes in July, Boulcott Street announced that they would be making it available again. O God. Could I? Should I? Would I?
Oh, don't be bloody daft - of course I could! And should, and would! And this time I would take with me an assortment of my finest wingmen, to ensure that no bone went unturned. The T Rex, you see, features a patty made of ground chuck steak, served medium rare, with some braised short rib, a celery mayo and smoked tomato sauce, and is then served up on a huge slab of bone, with some of those "jenga" chips, and more of that delicious smoked tomato sauce.
At first it was going to be just me and my trusty compadres Adan Tjerina and Duke Carvell's Lorenzo Bresolin - they both hit it last year (along with quite a few others - 16 was Enzo's count I think), and were happy to go back for more. Then Ben Lenart, bossman at the marvelous Milk Crate joined us, making us a cosy four.
And then Adan brought with him delightfully food-fixated Orchestra Wellington music director Marc Taddei, and Enzo informed us he was bringing "a brewer". And boy, have I ever been so pleased to see a man (and his dogs!) turn up clutching a six-pack as I was to see Garage Project brewer Jos Ruffell - yes, the now nearly mythical canned craft beer, of the Pils'n'Thrills variety! Oy vey! I have been dying to try it - I think it is great on so many levels - less exposure to light, more recyclable, more space for their distinctive artwork, more beer less packaging when it comes to transporting. Plus, of course, the memory of crafty swigs at the park as a youngster...
So we park it up, and the burgers arrive. Marc, impressively, has actually already had lunch, but gets stuck in anyway - second lunch - why not? Lordie, it's good to see this burger again. It is indeed a handsome specimen. But surely it can only be a disappointment now, right? Almost a year down the track, so many burgers consumed since...
Actually, it is not, at all. It's wonderful. Watching these fellas eat, I am reminded of Lady Ruth's storming effort with it last year - she is as sharp as a tack, and she knows good eating when it's right in front of her - as do these guys. Graciously, Rex allows us to drink the "hot off the canning machine" beer Jos has bought (it is icy cold).
Now is probably as good a time as ever to test out something that the Garage Project are doing for Wellington On A Plate, that I will be involved in the judging of - burger-beer matching; dream gig, huh?!
The beer (which gets poured into glasses - even we are not uncouth enough to swig out of cans in a nice gaff like this...) is nicely fizzy, has a gorgeous golden colour and bright, hoppy aroma, and produces an appealing head. Concerns that it may taste "metallic" are resolutely unfounded, and while I would think that GP's Smoke and Mirrors, a bock styled beer with smoky notes, would probably be the ideal match for the T Rex, it's still pretty damned fine.
And the T Rex; the lovely, lovely, Burger Wellington 2012 winning T Rex. Still entirely magnificent - and I reckon a bloody bargain at $20. Cooked perfectly medium rare, and simply oozing with luscious "burger juice". The best burger in town, still, I would wager. And I can't wait to see what Burger Wellington 2013 turns up - and to eat the best of them, washed down with beer from a can. What could be better?
Wellington burger lovers - you have just under a week to sample (or re-sample) the delights of the T Rex at Boulcott Street. It's a classic.
You owe it to yourself.
The T Rex - did you have it last year, or this July? Your thoughts? Burger Wellington entries this year that tickle your fancy? And beer in cans - you dig?
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