Launching a burger joint in the first week of the new year is an ambitious move, but that hasn't stopped the people of Penrith from flocking to their new local. It seems that the curiously named Burger Head's only new year's resolution is to satiate the hunger of western Sydney.
So far so good. On our visit (which happened to be on their first night of service), we are warned of an hour and a half wait time by staff — but it only ends up being 45 minutes. That gives us some time to reflect on the restaurant's simple furnishings. Among the wooden, grey, small bar-style interior is an epic artwork depicting Mona Lisa's torso, arms, and classic 16th century Italian landscape — but instead of her head, a gargantuan burger sits atop her shoulders. 'Burga Lisa'. It's beautiful, but perhaps a little terrifying; if it's off-putting, there's a spacious shady courtyard outside too.
All the staples of my favourite burger joints are here; I almost feel like I'm at Pub Life Kitchen. There's a classic cheeseburger offering ($15), The Louis (another meaty burg with iceberg, tomatoes and caramelised onion thrown in) and fried chook option The Clucker ($15-18) — each a tiny bit steep on price, but all come with fries. You can double up on beef and cheese for an extra $5, or add bacon for $4.
But while collaborating chefs Richard Borg (ex-Momofuku Seiobo), Josh DeLuca (ex-Quay) and Timothy Rosenstrauss have clearly drawn some inspiration from inner city restaurants, they've also made the Burger Head menu their own. The Mike Tyson reads as "smoked, pulled and BBQ'd…mushrooms, kale and cabbage". Wait, what? Naming your flagship vegetarian burger after a former world heavyweight boxing champion infamously known for biting a guy's ear off during a fight (i.e. "I thought it was a mushroom") is certainly bold, but with a vegan and gluten-free bun option available for an extra $2, Burger Head show they take the dietary spectrum of their customers seriously and cater for all.
Order The Clucker and the first thing you'll notice is the malt-pickled onion. I certainly haven't had onion like that in a fried chicken burger before, and it is sensational. The caramelised onion in The Louis is similarly glorious, and the rich, soft patty complements the sweetness brilliantly. The folks here have nailed the basics, and are able to take these familiar menu options to new territory with a simple, flavoursome addition. What they do with onion is wonderful.
The mash and gravy ($8) is delicious too, and with Paul Kelly's classic festive ballad still ringing in my mind from recent holiday lunches, I make my way through the whole pool of warm, peppery gravy and fluffy white potato in a flash. A hearty complement to terrific burgers. Other sides include bacon popcorn (yes, bacon popcorn), a cabbage and bacon salad ($6) and crispy bites chicken tenders ($8), as well as a "salted, caramelised and roasted" white chocolate shake, which was tragically sold out on our visit. There's not much else on for drinks yet, but the liquor licence application hanging in the window is a sign of things to come.
Judging by their first week of service, you may want to make the most of their 11.30am opening time to heed possible sell outs (and note that they're closed Mondays). With last year's Hashtag Burgers pop-up hugely successful, this could be the start of Penrith's own burger scene. Either way, it's safe to say 2017 is looking a whole lot tastier for the suburb.