Cuisine: modern Australian
42 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 3182
Phone: (03) 9525 5477
Hours: 6pm til late
Prices: bargain burgers, moderately expensive other food
Malvern Fish & Chips
Cuisine: "for the best hot food in town"
1380 Malvern Rd, Malvern East
Phone: (03) 9822 3886
Hours: dinner every day except Sunday
I once read a description of a Tolarno burger as "the undoubted king" of bar burgers, and being a burger afficionado, I naturally had to set out immediately to sample said burger.
We arrived at the bar somewhat earlier than the kitchen staff arrived in the kitchen, and began with some aperitifs. Okay, tap beer. Whatever.
The kitchen didn't open til 6pm, and although the bar has a super-cute mini burger (if you care to look above, ladies and gentlemen, you will see it pictured here for your diversion), which is bargain priced at only $4, we were hungrier than a burger that's only half the height of a beer, and wanted a full Iain-Hewittson-sized burger. The man himself was sitting at the bar, so at 5.30pm, when our stomachs were in imminent danger of eating their own lining, we could wait no longer, and so told him we were going to leave if burgers were not served, forthwith!
Tolarno gets full marks for the obliging nature of the owner, who in response to three lovely ladies asking for burgers, promised us they would be ON THE TABLE at 6pm if we didn't leave for less hungry climes, and when the burgers had not arrived at 6.01pm, for using absolutely shocking language at the top of his lungs to the hapless kitchen staff, who then had the burgers on the table at 6.02pm.
The burgers are fat, and come with or without bacon (I'd recommend with bacon, as pigs are both intelligent and tasty), non-optional cheese, salad and beetroot (and although I normally despise beetroot and all its works, this is not the dreadful tinned stuff and is actually delicious) and optional chips (for an extra $2.50 - bringing the total, I think, to $12.50, although by the time we had a bottle of wine the total bill was around $75 for three of us).
The French waitress looked at us in a snooty manner when we asked for mayonnaise to go with the chips, but eventually made good with a bowl of aioli.
The problem is, the burgers taste like actual food. You can tell that the meat is meat, the vegetables are vegetables, and the bacon is bacon. A burger is not supposed to be able to be reduced to its component parts. A burger is supposed to be an indivisible whole of squishy goodness, tasting of nothing and everything. Plus, the chips have to taste like the same fat has been used since time immemorial.
Which brings us to the second hamburger. This hamburger - from our local fish & chip shop, Malvern Fish & Chips.
As you can see (above), the burger from Malvern Fish & Chips definitely scores points for having the requisite squished factor* (especially once it has been carried home in a calico bag containing a whole lot of other stuff). Like Tolarno, Malvern Fish & Chips also gets points for having an obliging owner -and no snooty French waitresses - our fish & chippery man will deep fry items brought from home on request. Last night Hugo fancied a battered and deep-fried banana (apparently this is called a "banana fritter"). The shop had run out of bananas, so we took our own banana with us.
Here's our man deep-frying it for us:
The chips get points for tasting as though the cooking oil has not been changed since the shop opened. Bonus points for the most massive potato cake I've ever seen. And extra bonus points for the whole thing costing $15.50 for two of us, and our man not charging us to deep fry our banana. Next time we are going to take a wheel of brie with us, and see if he'll batter and deep-fry that.
The Malvern Fish & Chips burger is highly recommended. But if you want your burger to taste like actual food, Tolarno's is a pretty good one. Plus, they've got a really nice bartender called Barney, and the Mirka Mora murals, which I admittedly don't have in my living room.
However, I'd like to see what Tolarno would do if you took your own foodstuffs in and asked them to deep fry them for you. If you want to try it, make sure you let me know the results.
*note the horsey that I drew on this plate when I was in Grade 2.