Famed consultant chef Tomislav Martinovic (Five Points Burgers) is at it again, this time with a 'burgers around the world' restaurant in Wolli Creek. A collaboration with owners Sergio Spagnuola and Coco Liang, Concept Burger is the end result — open for weekend lunch, plus dinner six nights a week.
Martinovic has become the go-to man in the restaurant consultancy business for good reason, having earned three hats at his namesake restaurant, Tomislav, and worked under Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck. If his beloved Five Points Burgers is anything to judge by, this new space will be worth the train ride for city dwellers.
"When Sergio and Coco came to me they were pretty stubborn on the name and the concept," says Martinovic. "I think they started with 15 to 20 different burgers, and my role was to meet them somewhere halfway with a realistic number, narrowing it down to only the seven favourite cuisines." That meant Italian for Spagnuola and Chinese for Liang, which then saw the menu take on a decidedly Asian flare. Other burgers include the Vietnamese — a grilled chicken burger with raw enoki mushroom and coriander, topped with sweet soy and chilli glaze — and a Japanese burger of tempura fish, karashi mustard and yuzu kosho paste.
In burger-obsessed Sydney, where a new joint seems to open every day, it's crucial to set your eatery apart — and that's exactly what Martinovic aims to do. "Everyone is trying to do an adaptation or interpretation of the American burger lately, but we don't have an American burger, or even an Aussie burger, on our menu," explains Martinovic. "We're getting away from your plain old average cheese — it wasn't easy since as soon as you take out American cheese, there's almost this message to your brain that this isn't a burger anymore."
Somehow, Martinovic prevailed, and American cheese only features in the Canadian burger, with a preference for provolone on the Italian and gruyère on the French (which is a particularly tasty-sounding mushroom and truffle paste concoction). Concept Burger also makes their own tomato chutney instead of using ketchup, again making this burger experience a bit more of a fancy one.
"We tried to fit a burger into a cuisine instead of take a patty and slice of cheese and building a burger out of it — essentially we've gone the complete opposite direction," says Martinovic. "There's a fine line between a burger and a sandwich, so it was a challenging process but a lot of fun."
Spagnuola took charge of the fitout, which includes polished concrete floors, black tiling and a big mural of the world in letters. Martinovic assisted with the kitchen, and the shiny new space includes beautiful heat lamps, with the open plan allowing for guests to enjoy the theatre of it all. "It's a pretty funky, slick looking restaurant, and while we'll have a takeaway option, we definitely see it as more of a dining destination," notes Martinovic. The liquor license will help with this vibe, with Concept Burger offering up wine and beer, including local Aussie and international Asian brews.