But this already busy market is about to cop a sucker punch. In early 2017, Neil Perry’s Burger Project will move into South Bank’s new Southpoint development on the corner of Grey and Vulture Streets, introducing the star chef’s little-burgers-that-could to a town falling over itself for meat patties and brioche buns.
Perry won’t be drawn on an exact date but says the aim is to open in February or March. “It feels like the right time to come to Brisbane,” he says. “We feel we’re producing some of the best burgers in the world, particularly at the price point.”
Burger Project’s beef patty sets itself apart in both the quality of its meat, and the price. The patties are made from 36-month grass fed Cape Grim whole muscle beef, cut, minced and rolled into patties by hand, daily (free-range Lilydale birds are used for the chicken burgers). And instead of Perry’s renowned Rockpool burger’s $22 starting point, prices start at $8.90. This will see Burger Project undercutting many existing local operators by a quarter, if not a third.
Perry says the economy comes from direct relationships with suppliers; “And because we process the patties on premises. That’s the best way to ensure we get the best quality meat at the best price,” he says. “It’s also about provenance, and people knowing where our products come from.”
Burger Project first opened in Sydney’s World Square in 2014. Since then, it has expanded to one further location in Sydney, and just last week, Melbourne’s brand new St. Collins Lane boutique shopping development. Three more stores in Sydney and one in Melbourne are due to open before the end of the year. Five further stores are planned between both cities in 2017, along with the South Bank store.
When asked for his take on the humble hamburger’s recent resurgence in Australia, Perry says it’s simple. “It’s the ultimate sandwich,” he laughs. “It’s one of those things you dream of, like bolognese or roast chicken or ramen. It’s comfort food. Direct and simple, but delicious.”
Perry taking his Rockpool group (which also includes Rockpool Bar and Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta) into burgers is perhaps the highest profile example of a wider trend of fine dining chefs tackling what has traditionally been regarded as “dude food.”
“Trish [Richards, Perry’s business partner and cousin] and I wish we got into this 10 years ago, when there was really only McDonald’s and Hungry Jacks and those sorts of places,” he says. “[Since then there’s been] the rise of the quality fast-food establishment, like Chipotle with its ethical philosophy, and Shake Shack and Smashburger, and then people like Huxtaburger here in Australia, nailing the $10 burger.”
The way Perry tells it, South Bank is only the start, not only for Burger Project but maybe the Rockpool Group as a whole. “You never know,” he laughs. “You might see a Rockpool Bar and Grill up there. We’ll see how the burgers go.”