EDIT (May 2016): It’s been two years since The Standard opened to much fanfare and subsequent adulation. They were heady days!
In that time we’ve loved many a burger from their funky laneway, but unfortunately it just isn’t the same any more. Don’t get me wrong, their burgers are still great, but their namesake burger isn’t what it used to be.
The quality of the ingredients is still second to none, but unless you enjoy drinking from the Dead Sea you’re probably going to find the salt levels a little too high, and the overall TLC that was injected into each and every burger in the early days has given way to a more haphazard mode of construction, more reflective of a Picasso than Monet. That may sound cosmetic, but at the same time it’s actually thrown the burger balance off kilter…sometimes a little bit too much sauce…other times the tomato stacked on one side only. When you’re at the top of the heap it’s the little things that matter!
As much as it pains us, for this reason we’ve decided to lower their overall score by half a mark to 4 out of 5.
If you’re keen on a burger from The Standard, our recommendation now would be their chicken burger, as it is still by far and away the best one to be found in Hobart!
I thought the hype for The Burger Haus was big…I was wrong.
Almost a year ago the first whispers reached my ears of a new burger joint in Hobart.
American style?…well so is Maccas.
‘Street’ food?…come on, this is Hobart with it’s notorious non-digestible red tape?!
Cheap?…well so is your local takeaway.
Burgers?…haven’t we got too many of them already?!
So what was it that roused me from my Winston burger in all its glory and made me stand up and pay attention? What was the subtle ‘hook’ that couldn’t be ignored?
The Standard was rumoured to be the brainchild of the team that brought Hobart the breath of fresh air that was/is Pilgrim!
Now THAT got my attention! If someone could do for burgers what Pilgrim has done for breakfast/lunch then by hook or by crook I was going to be the first one in line, throwing my sweaty plastic currency at the head chef like the burger-whore that I am!!
Time passed by and it all went a bit quiet. Perhaps it was nothing but an under exercised (if you forget Burger Haus!) and over excited rumour mill? But then there was the release of a newspaper article touting Christmas as a potential opening date. The excitement builds again! Until Christmas came and went and the silence was deafening. Bad Santa… But then came the moment of truth! Just like it’s never official unless you’ve updated your status on Facebook from ‘It’s complicated’ to ‘In a relationship’, nothing says ‘It’s on!!’ like a brand new Facebook page!!
And didn’t the page just go nuts?!! In only three weeks these guys pulled in over 1000 ‘likes’, and they hadn’t even opened yet! Expectations were high and I was ecstatic to hear that an opening date had been set for Monday, 24 February.
Do the maths. They haven’t opened yet. So what’s the point of this blog post? Surely I’m not that excited that I feel the need to share my every emotion before I’ve even taken a single bite…?? Well, maybe I would, I do tend to bang on a bit…but that’s beside the point.
I almost let out an involuntary squeal when I got a little message in my inbox from Christian asking whether I’d like to drop by for their soft opening on Friday night! Are you serious?! Should I bring my tent and sleeping bag in the night before just to make sure I didn’t miss out?
And so it was that I found myself, camera in hand, dressed in a crusty old Transend polo-shirt and jeans, standing at the end of Hudson Alley looking down upon some very glammed up friends and family of The Standard!
I was very reluctant to lower the tone of the evening, but the call of the burger (distinctly bovine with a hint of chicken) could not be ignored!
Honestly, walking into situations like this has the potential to be rather stressful for this poor clown. An alley full of strangers, inquisitive eyes wondering ‘Who’s the bloke with the camera?’, hoping that the Facebook profile pic of the guy that invited you vaguely represents reality!! Yet within a matter of seconds Will Priestley (Pilgrim’s head honcho) had strolled over and introduced himself. Providing my rather flimsy credentials (I do a blog thing…on burgers…did Christian tell you he’d invited me?…I hope he did because this is going to get really awkward really fast if he hasn’t…) I was swept up in a wave of excitement that didn’t subside for the next hour!
First up were introductions to the team:
Will Priestley – food God and good bloke. Enough said. Oh yeah, and I’ve heard he enjoys the odd coffee…
Heiki Stanley – absolutely owned front of house all night with her beaming smile and genuine desire to make the night a massive success
Sam Chang – wicked chef (also ex-Mona), who with his American background and love of a quality burger (think In-n-Out) puts the stamp of authenticity on The Standard.
Christian then proceeded to take me upstairs to where all the action was, and to give me some insight into the origins of The Standard and where they see themselves further down the track.
The first thing that struck me about Christian, and the team, was their passion for this new venture. Not satisfied with Hobart’s current burger offerings, The Standard is all about getting back to basics and doing them well, in a vibrant, dynamic atmosphere where you aren’t going to be forced to take out a second mortgage or give up your newborn child for the opportunity of trying one of their burgers.
It sounds easy enough, but are they being realistic? In my experience there is only one establishment in Hobart that has achieved that balance of simplicity, quality and price, and that’s Rin. Lofty ambitions for sure!
The second thing that struck me was how fresh the ingredients were, and how well they had organised the kitchen. It was clear that there was still some last minute fine tuning going on (the whole point of a soft opening), but despite this there was no negativity and no sense of impatience or frustration at any time, even from the team of surprisingly self-assured young teens that were assisting in putting the meals together and ferrying them out the door to the hungry patrons in the alleyway.
So what are they offering?
The Standard ($8)
100% chuck steak patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, cheese and aioli (made from scratch!), all served on a soft sesame seed bun (gluten free bun is an option).
You know you’re on a good thing when my ‘special smile’ makes an appearance. Starting with a flutter in the belly, catching my breath and then coaxing an involuntary curling at the corners of my mouth… It’s rare, and it can’t be forced. This burger had it in spades!!
I recently watched an episode of Heston’s ‘In Search of Perfection’ where he pulled together his own recipe for the perfect burger. What stood out to me in watching that show wasn’t so much the final recipe, but it was the way in which he took some fundamental ingredients and techniques and then, unlike so many other cookie cutter restaurants, thought to himself, “How can I make this better?”. Not ‘bigger’ mind you. Anyone can make something bigger. It was all about identifying the crux of the dish, and then ensuring there were no distractions from pure enjoyment.
Interestingly, both Heston’s recipe and the burger served up by The Standard share one important similarity, and one significant difference.
The similarity? The size. Tall burgers are a joke in my books. If it’s got a skewer down the guts or if you need to pull out your knife and fork then you’re doing it wrong. Both Heston’s and The Standard place immense importance on ensuring that the burger fits both your hands and your mouth. It may look quite tall, but the beauty of the soft bun of The Standard is that it collapses down perfectly, swaddling the ingredients and preventing any mess from squirting out the other side as you take a bite.
The difference? The Standard have somehow managed to pack a truckload of flavour and moisture into a beef patty that is less than a finger’s width thick!! I honestly don’t know how they’ve managed it (perhaps it’s the ‘smashing’ that Sam gives every patty that gets laid down on the hotplate?), but the caramelisation of the patty was absolutely sublime, adding a smoky element that actually negated the need for a bacon slice. Incredible, but true (and I love my bacon!). It was, quite literally, punching above its weight!
The cheese is good, adding necessary depth and mouth feel to the burger. I suspect the impending move to an imported American cheese may actually improve this aspect of the burger, but only time will tell.
To this you then add the ubiquitous lettuce and tomato, some sensationally piquant pickles (house made) and then the final defining ingredient, the aioli! Also made from scratch, this aioli is the glue that brings the whole burger together. Sharp, tangy, fresh and not overworked…it’s simply sensational, works wonderfully in binding it all together, and leaves you wanting more!
This burger is an absolute triumph and has taken on the mantle of Hobart’s best.
My conundrum? It’s less than $10!! In terms of price it most certainly classifies as a blue collar burger, but this baby firmly kicks the arse of every other white collar burger out there! Yes, even The Winston’s cheeseburger (unless you really love a thick meat patty, in which case The Winston will probably come up trumps). For that reason (and to make it fair for the smaller blue-collar players), I’m going to put it in the ‘white collar’ category.
Taste – 5/5
Patty – 5/5
Bun – 5/5
Ingredients – 5/5
Condiments – 5/5
Presentation – 5/5
Stuffable* – Yes
Value – 10/5
Overall – 5/5
*Can you stuff it in your face without a knife and fork?
Crumbed and fried chicken thigh fillet, tomato, pickles, cheese and aioli on a soft bun.
As per Jim Morrison:
Love me two times, baby
Love me twice today.
The superlatives are the same as those espoused for The Standard, but in this case it’s Foghorn Leghorn doing the talking!
Watching this thigh fillet being cooked was an amazing experience. As it was placed in the deep fryer, before your very eyes the seasoned coating puffed up in the oil, adding volume and attitude that was totally absent only seconds earlier! Yet the amazing thing about this batter is how light and fluffy it is, again collapsing under pressure to allow you to take a decent sized bite, yet retaining that awesome crunchy texture that we all love so much. The thigh fillet is a genius choice, with its naturally higher fat content ensuring the final product is full of moisture and flavour.
Forget KFC, this is where it’s at!!
I only have one suggestion, and unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to communicate this on the night, but for me I would probably prefer a little bit more seasoning (pepper I suspect) in the coating. While the flavours were great as a whole, I just felt it was slightly lacking in ‘punch’ or ‘bite’. But honestly, I’m quibbling over a minor point here because this is the best chicken burger I’ve ever had!
Taste – 4.5/5
Patty – 5/5
Bun – 5/5
Ingredients – 4.5/5
Condiments – 5/5
Presentation – 5/5
Stuffable* – Yes
Value – 5/5
Overall – 5/5
Double Standard ($10)
As per the Standard, but with double beef and double cheese.
As much as I would have loved to try this, my belly was telling me to slow down. And besides, I need a reason to come back don’t I?!
They also offer a Hamburger ($7), which is essentially a cheeseburger created by stripping down the Standard burger to bare basics, and a Vegetarian burger ($9). Again, perhaps another time.
It’s pretty clear that The Standard is special. They promised to deliver on quality, flavour and price and they have delivered in a big way.
It’s a little cliched, but The Standard have truly set a new standard in Hobart. Sure, it’s not fine dining, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a casual place to pull up a recycled milk crate with a good mate and enjoy some quality fast food…and who ever thought those three words would be used in the same sentence?!
Unfortunately they didn’t have any of their milkshakes on offer last night, but they also sound like a reason in themselves to pay The Standard a visit! Think 90% icecream with bits of candy bars chopped up and added to the mix…!! I guess we’ll see if they can match the quality of the burgers, but I’ve no doubt they’ll be pretty special.
Other additions likely to be available from Day 1 will be some all American soft drinks such as Cherry Coke, Dr. Pepper and Root Beer. Admittedly they’re not to everyone’s taste, but I love a good cherry cola, so I’m also keen to give that a try.
Opening hours are going to be 7 days a week, through until 10pm of an evening. I can see this being a very popular location for a post-‘drinks’ chow down!!
White Collar Burgers
Blue Collar Burgers
* One little disclaimer. Being a soft opening I didn’t have to pay for my burgers. Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered if I did.