WHAT a great tour of duty: travelling the world in search of the best gourmet burgers. Florie and Gerry Mustafa headed to high-end burger bars in Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles and New Zealand on a fact-finding mission that inspired the menu at their gourmet Burger Lounge on Eltham's main drag.
Here, the beef is certified organic; the sourdough buns are from La Madre; the chicken is free-range; there are fresh fillets of rockling or Tasmanian salmon on the fish burgers; vegetarians have five offerings; and there's a low-carb burger served in a lettuce cup.
The Mustafas' original shop is the well-regarded Charcoal Chicken on Bolton Street, one of the first chicken shops to sell Lilydale free-range chicken. There they realised many locals wanted superior takeaway.
The Burger Lounge site is the old TAB (a few bamboozled punters rocked up to place bets after it opened), now transformed into a slick diner with comfy booth seating, groovy wallpaper and Italian marble floors. That was 11 months ago and it's been flat-out ever since.
Handmade onion rings are excellent; the onion cut thick enough so it's still juicy and the crunchy, crumbed coating just right. Shoestring fries are crunchy and golden; the fatter chips are beer-battered and tossed in a tasty mix of sea salt, oregano and rosemary.
But let's talk burgers. Of the five sampled, all were drippy and juicy with good coverage of fillings, many of them gluten-free and around the $12 mark. The original beef patty is like something you'd find in Austin, Texas: smoky, with chopped onion, fresh herbs and bugger-all else - the meat does all the talking. In the Grande - tall but not too tall to squash down and wrap your gob around - there was avocado, Swiss cheese, fresh salad, relish and aioli, and the best bit: sticky caramelised pineapple.
The panko-crumbed fish burger was OK but a bit overwhelmed by a green olive salsa. The chicken breast in the satay burger was lovely and tender with shredded carrot and awesome pickled cucumber, and the Greek burger was a mint lamb patty with rich olive tapenade, crumbed eggplant, feta, relish, rocket, tomato and pickled cucumber.
Perhaps an influence from the US is the terrific number of options. House-made sauces: garlic aioli, beetroot relish mayo and more. Extras: from dill pickle to haloumi.
Ice-creams: each flavour decorated with one of its ingredients, from a can of Red Bull to Oreos. ''Pepoula'' references the Mustafas' Albanian heritage, and the hot doughnuts come with honey and pistachio, couverture chocolate or butterscotch caramel. Toppings were a bit sparse and they took more than 20 minutes to make, but they were good.
The Burger Lounge is a prime pitstop on a jaunt to Kinglake or the Hills.
Where 902 Main Road, Eltham, 9431 4500
Prices Burgers $9.50-$13.50; desserts $3.90-$18
Cards MC V AE Eftpos
Open Mon-Thurs, 10am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-10pm; Sun, 10am-9pm
- 9431 4500
- Prices - Burgers $9.50-$13.50; desserts $3.90-$18
- Cards accepted - Mastercard, Visa, AMEX, EFTPOS
- Opening Hours - Mon-Thurs, 10am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-10pm; Sun, 10am-9pm
- Author - Nina Rousseau