April 29, 2015

Horse 1884 - A Restaurant Review

I was asked by someone "wouldn't it be fun to write a restaurant review?" and I suppose that yes, it would be fun to write a restaurant review. The problem is that I almost never go to restaurants and when I do, they're certainly not of the sort that you might read about in the Sydney Morning Herald's "Good Food" section. 
I lieu of that, I have written a restaurant review; of an establishment not far away from where I work in Cremorne.

I'm seated in an kind of alcove in this establishment in a sort of semicircular booth, with the tannoy playing top 40 music at a subdued background level; being somewhat curmudgeony, I have no idea who any of these artists are. Lighting is provided mainly by fluorescent tubes which have been tucked away, so that they give forth reflected and diffused light. The coffee sitting in front of me is adequate but not brilliant and I have ample space to casually flick through the newspaper. The walls are varying shades of brown but with those sharp architectural beams as accents which are so prevalent in places that are trying to look hyper modern.

From the outset this is a burger joint but it doesn't have any of the haphazard charm of a roadside diner. The ordering process is followed by a wait off to one side where staff call out your number, which means that it is quite efficient.

The burger itself comes wrapped in a branded proprietary piece of greaseproof paper and the accompanying chips are of the shoestring variety; being cut so thinly that they do not require twice flash frying. The chips are crisp and snap in half, rather than being soggy and because they come in a small box, are allowed to breathe, thus ensuing their continued crispness. The chips are slightly oversalted to my taste but they're catering for a wider public whose tolerance for salt greatly exceeds mine.
The burger is slightly taller than one's fist but not so tall as to need a toothpick or other such device to hold it together. It is small enough to bite cleanly through though and the bun whilst far too sweet, benefits from either being toasted or warmed directly on the contact grill (I can't tell which).

Sometimes the beef in a burger is juicy and at other times the proprietors have their own unique spice mix but this is neither juicy or spicy. As far as the meat is concerned, the tastiest parts are the bits around the edge where a faint char has lent some semblance of flavour. Granted that the meat does fall apart but that's by virtue of it being pulverised and minced beyond all reasonable recognition. If this were the centre of a boxed chocolate, it could be flavoured with peppermint, strawberry, cherry or nuts and still be acceptable and that's truly bizarre for a meat patty. I don't think that if this was made available in the frozen food section of your local supermarket, that it would be a terribly popular line. For a component which lends its name to an entire industry, this particular meat patty named after a German city, is singularly underwhelming.

Iceberg lettuce is the 'go to' lettuce if you want to add crunch to a salad without adding any competing flavours. In this burger, it's used for technical reasons, to separate warm from the cooler components of pickles and onion pieces no bigger than what might come out of a hole punch. In consequence, the poor iceberg lettuce wilts inside the burger; being made to suffer a fate of humiliation. The very thinnest parts of the lettuce, that is those parts of the leaf which are right at the very end, have taken on a sort of slimy consistency; similar to what you'd expect if you decided to lick a piece of cling film.

I'm not sure about the sauce either. The sauce is pleasant enough, it's just that it is suffering from an identity crisis and doesn't know what kind of sauce it is. Most hamburgers will use either tomato ketchup or barbeque sauce and some more adventurous establishments might offer chilli or sweet chilli. This appears to be some sort of mayonnaise which has been added to by bits of gherkin and possibly vinegar. It's not a Dijonaise and nor is it a Perinaise. It's a couple of shades darker than Heinz Sandwich Spread and tastes similar but it doesn't have any of the textured chunky bits that Sandwich Spread does.

The cheese that's on this burger is a tortured soul, just yelling to be heard but failing limply. The cheese is sliced rather than grated and because it was obviously added as a component during the construction process rather than being left to melt on top of the patty on the grill, parts of the cheese in direct contact with the warm meat have changed several shades lighter and melted; whilst those parts of the cheese which hang out the sides, have taken on the form of still malleable thermoplastic. This isn't to say that this is unpleasant; it does mean that it like the burger is blander than a white Toyota Camry parked out the front of 24 Bland St in the electorate of Bland.

Someone somewhere has worked out exactly how to marry up every component in this burger, to render it as inoffensive to as many people as possible. In doing so, all of the punch, all of the wow, and all of the sense of dancing upon your palette have been toned down and eliminated. Yet this place remains vastly popular because they can control and standardise everything to the nth degree.
A burger bought yesterday will practically taste identical to one bought four years ago or one in four years time and whilst this doesn't represent the best value for money, it does ensure a reliable consistent product; this is the reason why it is popular. That and the fact that this particular restaurant has outlets everywhere, an aggressive marketing campaign and one of the most iconic logos in the world.

I am of course, reviewing the Big Mac; something I suspect hasn't been done in a newspaper in well over 40 years.

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