The AKL burger challenge: 1 & 2

The ten (allegedly) best burgers in Auckland are scattered all over the city. In case you're not familiar with Auckland, it's a really sprawling place, with some weird arbitrary rules about how close things are. For example, if it's over the bridge it's too far, actual distance and time be damned. Same goes for anything that requires driving on the southern motorway, and, depending on one's mood, driving generally – so it should come as no surprise that our intrepid burger challenge group chose to attack the two burgers that were closest to home first.

Boiger boiger boiger at Late Night Diner.

Boiger boiger boiger at Late Night Diner.

Hand Made, Kingsland

Burger #1:

Hand Made is the sort of place that you walk into with seriously sketched out expressions and a hesitant step. Set on a corner, it looks like it used to be a petrol station, which almost certainly means it used to be a petrol station. The only seating is disparate, outside and poorly lit.

Still, it was on the list and there were Metro articles in the window, so we shrugged and ponied up for our burgers. The menu is extensive and plum sauce-heavy. Remember when plum sauce was the pinnacle of gourmet excitement in NZ? It still is on one Kingsland corner.

I went with the Chork, a chicken burger with avocado, bacon and, of course, plum sauce. It was…okay. And that's being generous. The balance of ingredients was off, leading to me complaining halfway through that there was too much bacon on my burger, and nearly being kicked out of our group as a result. The plum sauce was fairly overpowering, and by the end I felt gross. I firmly believe a good burger shouldn't leave you feeling gross – sure, they're burgers and they're heavy and all, but that doesn't mean you should feel dirty when you're done eating.

I didn't finish my burger. Maybe Hand Made was once deserving of being on the list, but not any more. All good things must come to an end, and all that.

Burger #2:

A couple of weeks later we went to Late Night Diner in Ponsonby, fairly early on in the evening. Ponsonby is nice and close to home, so already we all were in a good mood. This was helped by the great vibe of the place. Design matters, people – food tastes better in aesthetically pleasing surroundings.

Late Night Diner, Ponsonby.

Late Night Diner, Ponsonby.

We all ordered the cheese and bacon burger – the one burger they have on the menu (excepting the vegetarian one). This was comforting. Better to do one thing and do it well than spread yourself too thin.

This was a much better burger. It was unanimously agreed that we were moving in the right direction, but we weren't quite there. It was felt that the bun was too dry, but as complaints go that's a fairly minor one. We were also all disappointed that the chips it came with were crisps. There's such a thing as being too American, and serving up chips instead of chips* is where the line falls.

It was good…but nothing special.

The search continues.

*H1 believes that Kiwis can tell the difference between chips, meaning crisps, and chips, meaning hot chips. I don't, so I say crisps – possibly one of his least favourite things about me. We are agreed that 'fries' is just wrong, though.

P.S. Apologies for terrible phone shots. My camera is in the US…long story.