It’s a burger-fest that sees some of the city’s top eateries dream up tasty creations using regional produce and is a highlight of the Visa Wellington On a Plate food festival, which runs from August 15 to 31. This year, 69 of the capital’s eateries will battle it out, showcasing their originality when it comes to the humble burger, with beer matches from local craft brewing legends Garage Project also on the menu. The event attracts thousands of ‘burgerians’ and the coveted title of ‘best burger in the city’ is decided by the public. This time round, voters get the chance to opt for their favourite burger and/or their favourite burger/beer match. MiNDFOOD travelled to the capital city to sample six of the burgers on offer, including that of defending champion, Ti Kouka Café.
“NINJA BURGER” from Dragonfly
The star ingredient of Dragonfly’s exotic Ninja Burger is a whole tempura-crusted soft-shell crab.
“I wanted to do something creative and memorable, something that would make an impression and that is fun,” Dragonfly’s head chef Le Minh says. “It also had to have fresh Asian flavours, because that is what we are all about at Dragonfly.” Ingredients include Japanese mayo, spicy Asian slaw and crispy lotus chips, all in a Brooklyn Bakery duo sesame bun.
The burger has been paired with Garage Project’s Tournesol beer, which Dragonfly co-owner Tania Siladi believes is the best match because of its fresh flavours of coriander and lemon peel. She says it’s all about “bringing something different to the table and exciting the customer”.
Dragonfly, 70 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro, Wellington. Ph +64 (0)4 803 3995.
“HOME OF THE WAPITI BURGER” from The Larder
Not many people have heard of wapiti, let alone eaten it, says Jacob Brown, owner and head chef of
The Larder. This is why he has chosen it as the key ingredient of his Burger Wellington offering.
Also known as elk, wapiti are farmed in Wanaka in the South Island and the Wairarapa near Wellington. Brown’s burger comprises a flame-grilled wapiti patty with smoked chipotle peppers, pickles and onion relish made with Garage Project beer. The burger itself is tame compared with what The Larder has plated up for Burger Wellington in past years – Brown admits he was surprised at how many people made the trip to try lamb’s brain and venison liver. However, wapiti is still an animal most people haven’t had a chance to eat before and is something a little bit different, he says.
The Larder, 133 Darlington Rd, Miramar, Wellington. Ph +64 (0)4 891 0354.
“TK DOUBLE BEEF BURGER” from Ti Kouka Café
Ti Kouka hopes to emulate last year’s win, after its “All About Longbush Pork Burger” emerged victorious from the sizzling cook-off finale. The stand-out ingredients of this year’s entry – the TK Double Beef Burger – are two top-quality meat patties. “We have two really good beef suppliers – Rannoch Meats in the Wairarapa and Green Meadows Beef in Taranaki,” says chef Shepherd Elliott. “They raise two different kinds of cattle – Red Devon cattle and purebred Angus. I want to showcase the difference between these two breeds so we are going to make two beef patties, one from each of the different farms.”
Add to that mild, but slightly tangy, Kingsmeade havarti cheese “that melts nicely”, a burger bun from Leeds Street Bakery, caramelised onion, gherkins, mayo, iceberg lettuce and hand-cut shoestring fries.
Ti Kouka Café, 76 Willis St, Wellington. Ph +64 (0)4 472 7682.
“MIGHTY BLUE BOAR BURGER” from The Tasting Room
For this year’s competition, executive chef Len Baldwin wanted to work with bold flavours that weren’t common or expected. He chose wild pork because he “loves the flavour profile”. The Mighty Blue Boar Burger contains a Wairarapa wild boar-and-pork patty, Kapiti Kikorangi blue cheese, wild rocket, Kapiti apples and Pills and Thrills apple chutney. The stand-out factor is the combination of wild pork, which The Tasting Room team mince themselves, with free-range farmed pork to add a bit of fatty flavour.
“It’s created a rich, moist patty – we’re really happy with it,” Baldwin says. “Also, the simplicity of our burger works well. Four bold flavours. Easy as. If I were to take my pick, though, it’s those apples. Such a great addition; they really change the burger into something special.”
The Tasting Room, 2 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro, Wellington. Ph +64 (0)4 384 1159.
“FRIJOLES FODONGAS BURGER” from La Boca Loca
Usually there aren’t many vegetarian options in the burger challenge so Mexican restaurant La Boca Loca wanted to offer one. Pinto beans were the obvious choice but they didn’t want to do just another patty, so they decided to model it after the sloppy joe sandwich, an American classic.
“We import our own organic blue corn masa for tortillas so we will use that for the ‘bun’, but it’s actually a gordita (fat tortilla) that acts a bit like a pita pocket,” La Boca Loca owner and director Lucas Putnam says. The burger is also gluten-free. “Because the beans and corn are a relatively cheaper source of protein and carbs, the price can reflect that. So it’s a win all round, with most of the ingredients being organic, local, GM-free, tasty and good for you.” Another tasty addition is Zany Zeus goat feta.
La Boca Loca, 19 Park Rd, Miramar. Ph 64 (0)4 388 2451.