Sydney's well known burger has finally arrived at the Café Court of Melbourne Emporium alongside gourmet goodies from popular local eateries like Earl Canteen, Jimmy Grants, I Love Pho, Chinta Ria Soul and fellow Sydneysider New Shanghai. Charlie & Co. is an Australian gourmet burger café that pays homage to Wisconsin's "Hamburger Charlie", one of the pioneers of the original hamburger from 1885.
It was founded by chef Justin North of Becasse acclaim whose son was also 'Charlie'. The opening weekend alone witnessed sales of nearly 600 burgers per day. I remember biting into the delicious mix of wagyu patty, aged cheddar, beetroot relish, pickled gherkin and toasted brioche bun that Sydney couldn't get enough of in Westfield, Pitt Street Mall.
Today, Charlie & Co is owned by Jones the Grocer, which has specialty food stores in locations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Singapore and Auckland in addition to stores in Australia. The company's focus is still about delivering a flavoursome and juicy burger using premium, top notch and fresh produce. The menu in Emporium Melbourne is more reasonably priced than Justin's, and the service from the young staff is friendly and energetic.
The smart design of Charlie & Co's eatery in Emporium Melbourne makes suggestive references to the food awaiting within. It is shaped in the elongated oval of a hot dog bun which maximizes the length of the open kitchen. It is also like a large kitchen gallery food truck without wheels. Most importantly, the unobstructed view of patties smoking over the grill and the fries bubbling to a golden hue presses the hungry sensors in your brain. Nothing makes people hungrier than watching food being cooked in front of their eyes.
The last time I acknowledged a top-notch gourmet burger and truffle fries was at &MADE By Bruno Menard in Singapore and when Justin helmed the Sydney burger joint. It was time to put the Classic Charlie Burger ($11.90) and the Parmesan & Truffle Fries ($4.90) to the taste test.
The burger arrived standing tall and proudly flying the Charlie & Co flag with visible layers of the thick wagyu patty, 2 large slices of melted brie, tomato, gherkin and garden leaves sandwiched neatly between the brioche. I knifed the burger right through the middle, sliding easily through the ingredients. The patty was still pink and moist, and the elements held together without falling apart onto the plate. Just the right kind you can pick up and bite into without being messy like the poorly made and wet cousins.
A bite into the burger delivered sweet, salty and beefy flavours. The soft and lightly toasted brioche contrasted with the slight resistance from the moist beef minces. Each chew released more juicy beefy goodness. Perfection was just more fatty beef away.
The Parmesan and truffle fries arrived golden and crisp, and covered by a scattering of Parmesan cheese on top. A bite into each delivered a light scent of truffle with some crunch. However they did not leave me craving for more. The fries were still oily and needed more crunch. The potato was powdery and carried no distinct flavour. The Parmesan should be grated rather than a dusting of crumbs. Just some small tweaks to the fries and they would be a winner.
Charlie & Co in Emporium Melbourne offers affordable gourmet meals for families and working folks on the go. If the company can maintain its tastes, food quality, service and prices, it would remain a welcomed addition to the Melbourne burger scene for a long time to come.