You’re sitting at Ume Burger, Kerby Craig and Regina Jose’s new Barangaroo burger joint (they are also behind Bar Ume in Surry Hills). You’ve just finished a burger, fries and a passionfruit-and-ginger soda. Now you’re at the counter asking for soft serve. The counter clerk hands you a cone and a napkin and points over your shoulder to a pink box with a big silver lever. It’s help yourself.
“It’s been funny watching people do it on Instagram. ‘Oh I can't do it. It's not as easy as it looks’,” says Craig, laughing. Filling up the cone is easy enough, he says, but the trick is the signature soft-serve swirl and curled peak. “It’s become a little challenge for people, which is fun.”
It’s strawberry and shiso flavour, soft and a tad icy; somewhere between familiar soft serve and a Sicilian granita. “I didn't want to do a matcha soft cream or something too generic. I like doing weird things so I thought we'd get soft-serve machines and get the customers to do it themselves,” he says. “We’ll also do a pumpkin one, a sweet potato one, a roasted tea and maybe a lavender and white chocolate.”
Along with the four signature burgers there’s a pretty menchi burger with a hefty patty of crumbed pork belly and pork mince, shredded cabbage, mustard, Japanese barbeque sauce and a yuzu-kosho mayo.
Then there are the sodas. An addictively sweet-and-sour blend of brown sugar and yuzu comes out of a vintage Japanese vending machine. “You buy tokens to use for the vending machine and you can pick your own drink. It's all kind of interactive and fun rather than just ordering and eating food,” Craig says.
So, while it’s more hamburger shop in vibe than Bar Ume is, it’s still far from an austere, in-and-out burger joint. Part of that is down to the selection of Japanese booze (a concise version of what is served in Surry Hills) and the shop’s slick fit-out by Amber Road Design. “We didn't want it to be kitsch or that kind of clichéd Japanese, over-the-top shit,” Craig says.