579 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9629 3001
The Spencer/King Street end of the city is the last spot that one would expect to find a decent pub. Or a disco. Or an American diner. But a pub, disco and diner all rolled into one neat and crazy package? I’m surprised it took someone this long to open such a place up! Owner and designer Michael Delaney-Korabelnikova seemed to think so and thus opened The Bottom End a year ago to inject a bit of fun, whackiness and a cheeky take on American diner fare to an otherwise boring part of Melbourne’s CBD.
I had wanted to try the burgers at The Bottom End for quite some time but sadly, never got around to it. So when the folks at The Bottom End sent me an e-mail inviting me to try their new burger menu one night in June, I knew I couldn’t say ‘no.’ On another note, I’m not exactly sure why this place is called The Bottom End but if MDK and co cheekily named it so because it is located on the ‘arse end’ of the city, then huge props were given before I had even set foot there.
With Matt as my plus one, we worked our way through the maze that was The Bottom End one cold and rainy night. The front area looks like any Melbourne pub but the dining area is unmistakably diner-like with its comfortable booth seating arrangements. And although I never made it upstairs that night, those looking to dance on a Saturday night ought to know that nightclubs Survivor! and Poof Doofs are only a flight of stairs away.
All the tables were marked with a name card when we arrived but sadly, TVVHC’s one was nowhere to be found (wah!). Thankfully, though, there was a spare table for two right next to an Age journo so we didn’t have to spend the night standing awkwardly at the bar.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of the first thing we sampled – the mac ‘n’ cheese balls with garlic aioli, an appetiser on TBE’s menu. Each bite-sized ball was delicious and the concept so simple that I couldn’t help but wonder why no one in Melbourne came up with the idea beforehand. And to wash the carbs down, we each had a simple vodka martini – the first of many drinks we consumed on the night.
We were only halfway through our martinis when our second drink arrived. Aptly called The Queenslander, TBE’s take on the classic caiparinha contained a refreshing mix of Sailor Jerry spiced rum, pineapple, orange, lime and spiced sugar syrup that made us, for a moment, forget that it was winter outside.
Just before the burgers arrived, MDK took to the centre of the room to formally introduce himself (the ‘Doer of Deeds’) and his chef, Or Ben Ezra, who was once a chef for the Israeli Defence Force. Matt whispered to me, ‘Dude looks like a cross between the guy from LFMAO and Seth Rogan.’ While I did not disagree, I didn’t want MDK to hear what was said because sif make fun of Melbourne nightclub king (he was the man behind Honytonks, if you’re old enough, and Sorry Grandma!, if you’re young enough) and a constant figure in Bartender Magazine’s Most Influential Top 10 list.
With all the formalities out of the way, we ripped into our first burger, the Chicken Five-O. MDK told us that the burgers we were getting that night were mini-sized version of the ones that are normally served to customers. This was to ensure that we could sample a wider variety of burgers on the night as opposed to just eating one or two and getting full on that. I’d have to say that the Chicken Five-O was one of my favourites – I absolutely loved the combination of grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, mayo, BBQ sauce and pineapple all secured neatly in a sweet brioche bun.
Their Mitsubishi burger was also pretty damn good. Here, east meets west with a chicken pattie crumbed Katsu-style and paired up with some wasabi mayo and wakame. It was a combination so weird yet so good that I can understand why the Mitsubishi is deemed TBE’s signature burger.
The TBE visited Naughty Korea by way of the Kim Jong Illin’ burger. If a double rainbow really did herald Kim Jong Il’s birth (snigger), then this burger would be the pot of gold at the end. Generous layers of kim chi and sriracha mayo covered a juicy char siu pork pattie, a burger which delighted many but unfortunately, not me. While I loved the concept, I wasn’t enamoured by the burger – then again, I am not a kim chi lover to begin with.
Plato’s Delight was a nod to the Greeks. The lamb pattie was thick and spicy, and accompanied by a slab of saganaki, lettuce, tomato, tzatziki, cucumber and taramaslata. To be honest, I did think that there was too much going on in one small burger for me to fully enjoy it. Taking away even two ingredients would have made it miles better.
We were getting pretty full at this stage so we were relieved when drinks replaced the burgers – at least for the time being. Their Camel Toe was a sexy mix of bourbon, peach schnapps, lemon juice, ginger beer, fresh mint, all topped with a peach half – I’m sure you don’t need to be an idiot to work out where they came up with the name.
They weren’t quite done with the food. Matt was pretty much stuffed (and half-wasted) at this stage so he declined on the taco salad. I eagerly took a small bowl of pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, red beans, corn, carrot, coriander, lemon and lime dressing which was accompanied by some tortilla ‘croutons.’ It wasn’t a bad salad – and one that I’d be happy to make at home and bring to lunch – but not something that I’d order during a boozy night at the pub.
I was more enthusiastic about the Mexicali fries. The crinkle-cut chips were dusted with a nice spicy coating and accompanied by a decent chipotle mayo, though I think they could have gone without the jalapeño peppers which added nothing to the chips except to make them soggy and gross.
What? More burgers? We weren’t complaining but we were pretty darn full. What a cheeseburger? Oh man… okay, fine, SOLD. This was TBE’s Classic Cheesy Burger, starring a grilled wagyu beef pattie, gruyere and Monterey Jack cheeses, bacon, pickle, tomato, lettuce and a tangy ‘fry sauce.’ Pretty, pretty good.
Reuben sandwiches seem to be pretty ‘hip’ at the moment so it’s no wonder that TBE keeping up with this trend by boasting a Reuben burger. This one comes with a wagyu beef pattie that’s been peppered, pastrami, aged provolone, pickles, mustard and sauerkraut. I’m not a fan of ‘kraut and in this instance, I ended up removing most of it – I thought the pickles alone gave enough piquancy – but apart from that, it was an alright burger.
The Reuben was the last burger we sampled that night. Since then, there seems to be new burgers floating on the menu. In particular, there are two of them named after Australia’s biggest bogans, Shane Warne and Lara Bingle. As a cheeky aside, the latter comes with (presumably mac ‘n’ cheese) ‘balls on the side’ if you’re willing to pay extra – bwah!
This incarnation of a Bloody Mary is called the Bloody Indonesian and contains vodka, tomato and tom yum. Wait a minute, tom yum? This was all manners weird not just because the drink had tom yum in it but also because both Matt and I come from Indonesian backgrounds and we certainly don’t have tom yum flowing through our blood! So we asked the waitress what the hell was up with this f*ckery? (not in those words, of course) and she said that she had no idea but that she’ll find out, before dashing off. Of course, we never saw her again but MDK was lovely enough to explain in an e-mail later on that they knew that tom yum wasn’t Indonesian but 1) Bloody Indonesian sounded a lot better than Bloody Thai (hrm, that is true…) and 2) TBE like to do things differently. Okay, fair enough.
I love mulled wines, especially in winter but mulled ciders? I’ve never had it up until this point and once again, this was something so awesome that I wondered why it hadn’t been done before. Simply called ‘hot cider’, this winter warmer was an intoxicating mix of apple cider, vanilla vodka, dark rum and cinnamon. Oh yes, please.
There were shots of something called the Lindsay Lohan and shots of something else. Neither of us could remember, we were pretty much gone by this stage.
Our final drink was called the Robert Mitchum, named after the legend himself. Now, this was a drink that you couldn’t forget in a hurry. Made with bourbon, maple syrup, orange juice and egg, it was a wonderfully creamy drink that somehow tasted like a banana smoothie. Like, wow.
There were some cool-sounding drinks that never made it past our lips that night (for example, the Single Mother which contains Southern Comfort (LOL), red wine, ginger beer, nutmeg and orange). Meanwhile, drinks such as the Australian martini (vodka, Cointreau rinse, vegemite smear, Coon cheese and pickled onion) sounded a bit too try-hard-y so I wasn’t upset at missing out.
I go to invitation-only dinners and events every now and then and while most of them have been great fun, I think no dinner will ever top this night at TBE in terms of epic-ness, craziness and frivolity. Matt and I wished that we could keep drinking but unfortunately, our jobs called us to be at work the very next day at 7am and neither of us live particularly close to the city. And so with much reluctance, we said goodbye to MDK and hello to the freezing cold.
Yep, this is what we were seeing at the end of the night…
Given that we both work at the arse end of the city, we both agreed that we’d come back for post-work drinks and burgers at some point. Their Bloody Indonesian drink and a couple of their food offerings may have elicited facepalms from both of us, but everything else was amazing. The burgers were yummy, the drinks were top notch and MDK and crew were infectiously charming all night. The plan for next time? The Lara Bingle, the Mitsubishi and a handful of balls accompanied by a Camel Toe. Hell yeah.
Disclaimer: Matt and libishski attended dinner as guests of The Bottom End.