FOOD/WINE

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front -

The Win­ston’s burg­ers high­light the pub’s Amer­i­canin­spired menu

THE WIN­STON 381 El­iz­a­beth St, North Ho­bart Open daily, 4pm un­til late; kitchen open 5-9.30pm Li­censed. 6231 2299

F ood fash­ions may come and go but the burger craze that be­gan a few years ago seems here to stay. Celebrity chefs have wo­ken up to a strat­egy cou­ture designers have un­der­stood for years: use the brand to sell ready-to-wear to the masses.

In foodie terms, the process is sim­ple enough: take an egal­i­tar­ian co­mestible, loved and un­der­stood by all, pimp it with a bit of cheffie-bling and, to bor­row a term from film di­rec­tor Steven Spielberg, you have the burger “re-imag­ined”.

One of the prob­lems I have with this business model is many chefs can’t leave well enough alone. They as­sume the burger needs the help of the hat­ted chef but, last time I checked, the burger had been around a whole lot longer than them. There’s a rea­son it en­dures, and it’s all about keeping it sim­ple.

An­other is­sue I have is the cost of the chef-en­dorsed burger. A burger – un­like, say, the in­fa­mous smashed av­o­cado – is sup­posed to be a cost-ef­fec­tive way to cram as many calo­ries as pos­si­ble into one­self with­out com­pro­mis­ing house-de­posit sav­ings.

Call me a cynic but celebrity val­i­da­tion boils down to charg­ing more for es­sen­tially the same thing, a meat patty in a roll.

Though the burger is an Amer­i­can con­coc­tion, we have em­braced it whole­heart­edly and em­bel­lished it to the point where the Amer­i­cans may no longer even recog­nise it. The burger is in­dis­putably part of our culi­nary land­scape and here in Ho­bart we have sev­eral fine es­tab­lish­ments de­voted to it.

The Win­ston’s burg­ers at North Ho­bart are right up there with the best. Its pub menu bor­rows heav­ily from the Amer­i­can diner and bar­be­cue-pit school of cook­ery and it car­ries it off con­vinc­ingly. Think burg­ers, pulled pork, smoked brisket, hot dogs and onion rings.

The burg­ers are big, cheesy and loaded with fill­ing. I love the way the meat is crisped on the grill, giv­ing a tex­tu­ral crunch around its edges and that the condi­ment cad­dies are chock­ers with hot sauces arc­ing across the scov­ille spec­trum. The famed Win­ston house­made Caro­line Reaper Sauce is not among the caddy sauces, though, and must be or­dered with the chicken wings. Be warned, it is very hot.

One way I rate a burger is by count­ing how many nap­kins I use while eat­ing it, which tends to equate to how dry, juicy or even sloppy the burger is. A burger with a napkin fac­tor of five is near-per­fect in my book.

For your chin to not re­sem­ble a wax­drib­bled Chi­anti bot­tle on a red ging­ham trat­to­ria table, I sug­gest the Win­ston cheese­burger, with a napkin fac­tor of seven out of 10. You’d be cor­rect in as­sum­ing the burger was a bit sloppy, but that was part of its charm. It boasted smoked Amer­i­can burger-cheese, spe­cial sauce, diced onion and a gen­er­ous amount of gherkins be­tween a com­mer­cial-look­ing bun.

Burg­ers may be the Win­ston’s forte, but the menu also fea­tures fried buf­falo wings, pulled pork, slow-cooked brisket, ribs and a ro­tat­ing list of spe­cials of the south­ern fried va­ri­ety.

There are even two mas­sive meat plat­ters fea­tur­ing pulled this and smoked that, avail­able to the enor­mously hun­gry. Even veg­e­tar­i­ans get their own burg­ers.

There is a froth of beer choices on tap and by the bot­tle with the Win­ston’s beers tak­ing centre stage. The night we vis­ited, the place was heav­ing with good cheer and bon­homie.

So if it’s burg­ers, beers and con­vivi­al­ity you’re after, the Win­ston has it in spades.

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