On Friday afternoon, a funny thing happened to my Instagram feed, searching places 'Wellington'. Amongst the typical shots of the Cable Car and Waterfront of Wellington, suddenly burger after burger started to appear. "Of course," I realised "The first day of Wellington on a Plate - and with it Burger On A Plate -had officially begun!"
Visa Wellington On A Plate is the festival which all of Wellington looks forward to all year. Restaurants in Wellington which choose to participate in this 17-day extravaganza of food, cocktails and wine and beer. It isn’t your typical food festival. It’s not just one day. It’s not just one location. Visa WOAP describes itself as "A region-wide culinary takeover. Wellington’s restaurants, venues, laneways and carparks are host to wild celebrations of food and beverage through exclusive set menus, burgers, cocktails, unforgettable events and pop ups." As a resident of Wellington, I can testify - it truly is a time which all people, no matter their background, look forward to and participate in in Wellington - and no part more so than the infamous 'Burger Wellington' part of the festival.
As you may know, until recently, a hamburger was a simple thing. A hamburger or burger was once a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun. The patty would then be pan fried, barbecued, or flame broiled. However, thanks to the global burger renaissance, this has all changed.
By the time the burger obsession hit Wellington, this simple idea of a burger - or that it is synonymous with McDonald's - was long dead. Now, there is a special part of the Wellington On A Plate Festival called 'Burger On A Plate' which is all about trying as many burgers as possible and even rating them! So, as a result, we feast on buttermilk fried chicken, Juicy Lucy's, cronut burgers and more. The bigger the idea, the better.
We in Wellington love Burger Wellington because, in the middle of winter, it gives us something to celebrate. Burgers are fun, hip (and let's be honest - we love to be at the cutting edge of things in Welly) and - let's not forget - delicious as hell!
Burger Wellington is an excuse to hit up friends we've been meaning to see in a while and plan to go and do what we do in Wellington best - eat and share stories together over a good pint of ale or three. You know what, why don't we start Pizza On A Plate!? I can see this taking off big time!! Tommy Millions? Are you on the line?
So where to start? Well, while I haven't been able to experience everything - because there are 100 burgers on offer (to do so would require a ginormous belly) - I've nevertheless had a wee sniff around and am excited to share two burgers I've personally tried that I think are great shakes when it comes to Wellington-Burger-Mania
Laundry Bar is a great place to go for Cuba Street glam-Tex-Mex-op-shop vibes and warm, delicious food. They also are serving up a mighty fine burger this year, accompanied by some sweet Garage Project beer. I tried this burger last night and the whole place was packed - so safe to say that there is already hype about this burger at Laundry Bar.
This burger is a Mississippi-style crispy buttermilk chicken pieces with candied bacon, chipotle cream, tomato ragoût, beer battered pickles, herb-infused spring onions and rocket in a Zaida's bun. To get the burger alone is $17.50 and with Hazelnut Bruin Beer is $28.
This burger is a true glutton's dream. Delicious and filling, with rich chicken and smokey, salty bacon, you'll be hard pressed to find anything that makes you salivate more throughout the festival. Laundry are generous to a fault when it comes to the ingredients, and the zesty rocket gives this burger an unexpected punch. Paired with a perfect accompaniment, a beer by Garage Project only served in 7 bars throughout Wellington, this is a delectable mix of flavours that makes no apologies for its greediness. Comes with hand cut fries and aioli. Shout out to our awesome waiter Zac for being fantastic!
Staying with the chicken theme, you can't miss the burger from Portlander this year. At the other end of the vibes spectrum from Laundry, Portlander is part of the Rydges Hotel. However, while that may seem a more conservative choice, this burger is something novel indeed. The Free Bird is a quinoa and polenta-crumbed free range chicken with baby herb chiffoande, aioli and Ruth Pretty tomato chilli jam in Bordeaux doughnut bun, with buffalo agrias. Yes, it comes in a cronut.
This burger was obviously opulent and as delicious as it seemed. The slight spice in the bell pepper on top offset the richness of the chicken, stuffed with rich cream cheese. The crunchy ice-berg lettuce is a tribute to classic New Zealand salad and cuts a crisp crunch through the burger. This burger isn't matched with a beer, but Portlander have plenty of delicious brews on offer which you can play with.
Of course, this is just two burgers on offer of the over 100 Burgers that are on for Wellington on a Plate. I think that the burger craze is a mix of nostalgia, accessibility, fun and price. We ALLL love a burger - amiright?! Everyone can participate in Burger Wellington - because everyone loves a burger. While you might not be able to afford a degustation with 8 courses, you can go and try a burger at your favourite local joint.
Those who really decide to commit may try and eat all of them. If you can't fit that many in, make sure you rate the burgers that you DO try so that the best burger can win! I'll see you on the other side.