Social media must be the bane of a restaurateurs existence sometimes. With keyboard warriors prepared to saddle up and join the fray at the slightest slight, and humanity’s propensity for drama, online slanging matches inevitably erupt over dining experiences.
I can understand why, but understanding and condoning are two very different concepts! As esteemed food critic Marshall Mathers once espoused, often you only have one shot, one opportunity on which to judge a venue.
Three dishes and 120 minutes of interaction. There’s no scope for error in that equation! So what do you do when the experience doesn’t live up to expectations?
South of the curtain: “Jeeves, hand me my Vertu!”
North of the curtain: “Shazza!! SHAZZAAA!!! Where’s me bloody phone?!!
Our recent experience at Mohr and Smith is one whereby the benefit of a second chance proved invaluable.
St Helens is a small town, and New Years Eve dining options were few and far between! The RSL (not our scene), Crossroads Wine Bar and Cafe (good vibe, but not the sort of food we were looking for), Soul Food Cafe (we’d left our flares and lambchop sideburns back in Hobart…). Mohr and Smith though sounded perfect!
First opening their doors only a year earlier, Mohr and Smith are a sophisticated and very welcome addition to the St Helens dining landscape. While a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner is their regular modus operandi, for NYE they went for something new, offering us four courses with matching wines for $100pp.
It was a good meal, but certainly not memorable, other than the fact we were celebrating NYE in St Helens of all places! It was adequate, but without polish or finesse. There was something missing. I may be wrong, but in hindsight I suspect that the missing element was time. Time for the team to test the flavours and presentation of their dishes under real world time constraints. Time to experiment with different flavour combinations. Time to mature.
This reads like an excuse, but the reason I hold it to be true lies in the second meal we ate at Mohr and Smith the following day. That rarest of opportunities for a visiting food blogger…a second chance!
It is THIS meal that I recall with great fondness. It is THIS meal on New Years Day that showed the true soul of Mohr and Smith and made me question everything we’d experienced the prior evening.
Check this out…
Is it not a thing of great beauty…?
The funny thing is, there is nothing unusual in this burger. No gimmick, no ‘spin’, no pretence. Beef, bacon, cheddar, onion and relish on a soft white bun.
What this burger has is balance. The ratios are perfect.
Ideal patty thickness cooked with skill; crisp edges and a soft, pink centre. Not only melted but grilled cheese (surprisingly rare these days). Perfectly crisp bacon with the fat nicely rendered in the pan. Sweet onions ‘al dente’. The bun, so often neglected, was light, fluffy and, most importantly, strong enough to hold its shape, with added char from the grill a great touch. And throughout, the supreme quality of each and every locally sourced ingredient.
No tomato? No lettuce? No pickles? Nope. I never thought these words would leave my mouth, but it doesn’t need any of that fluff.
Long time readers of the blog know how many burgers I’ve tried over the last couple of years. You know how passionate I am about quality and how strongly I believe that a burger can qualify as fine food.
It’s a big call, but…this burger is the best I’ve had anywhere!
I honestly didn’t think it was possible. The Standard have such a refined, classy burger using ingredients that are second to none and with ratios to-die-for. The Winston cheese burger, blue collar disguised as white, offers a ballsy, messy, mouthful of a cure for the common hangover. But this burger from Mohr and Smith is like the Voltron we never knew existed, combining the best of both worlds, discarding the residual, and simply stating:
“Think you can do better? Unlikely.”
Taste – 5/5
Patty – 5/5
Bun – 4.5/5
Ingredients – 5/5
Condiments – 5/5
Presentation – 5/5
Stuffable* – Yes
Value – 6/5 (yes, that is totally possible)
*Can you stuff it in your face without a knife and fork?
Overall Burger Score?
This clearly means a readjustment to the leaderboard, and to the scoring, with all other white collar contenders needing to drop half a mark to make room for the new kid on the block!
White Collar Burgers
1. Mohr and Smith – 5/5
2. The Standard – 4.5/5
3. The Winston – 4.5/5
4. Tasman Quartermasters – 4/5
5. Chrome – 3.5/5
6. Crumb Street Kitchen – 3/5
7. pOp Cafe – 3/5
8. Burger Haus – 2.5/5
9. Burger Got Soul – 2/5
10. The Squire’s Bounty – 1.5/5
Blue Collar Burgers
1. Red Jaffa – 4.5/5 (these guys are my sentimental favourite, so they get the #1 gig, despite the equal scores!)
2. Albert Road Store – 4.5/5
3. Budgie Smugglers – 4.5/5
4. Stevo’s Takeaway – 4/5
5. Devil’s Kitchen Cafe – 3.5/5
6. Argyle Take Away – 3.5/5
7. Langridge Store – 3/5
8. Darcy’s Cafe – 3/5
9. Burger Me – 2.5/5
10. Atlantis Takeaway – 2.5/5
Now, while all that excitement was going on, there was actually another meal to be had!
Karen ordered The Reuben, consisting of corned beef on rye bread, with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and fries.
So much hangover, so much corned beef, so much sauerkraut, so much winning.
And for posterities sake, here are the dishes from the previous evening (apologies for the lack of descriptions, as I didn’t get a photo of their NYE menu)…
It’s a tale of two halves.
While the dishes off their regular menu were sensational, I can’t ignore the experience of the previous evening. As I mentioned though, time is the key, and this they have in abundance. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to keep experimenting, to offer degustation evenings more often in order to practice and refine, and to bring that same level of soul that is so clearly evident in the a la carte menu.
Mohr and Smith offer an alternative to the mundane. The desire, the quality, the commitment, the passion; it’s all there, they simply a little more time to refine and achieve consistency. And that burger…wow..almost makes me want to pack up and move!
You can peruse their menu here – Mohr and Smith Menu