OK, I’ll admit, when I first heard there was a new burger joint in North Sydney, my reaction was definitely in ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ territory. Then I learnt that Five Points Burgers was Tomislav Martinic’s new consulting venture, and my attention was suddenly in a head lock. This was a huge deal.
Sure, some coverage has name-checked Martinic’s time at The Fat Duck with Heston Blumenthal, but way more of a drawcard (in my eyes, anyway) is the fact he’s an acclaimed chef in his own right, having run Tomislav, a hatted restaurant that delivered knockout dish after knockout dish when I dined there last. Even the butter alone – with its wattleseed burnt-toffee punch – was spectacular. I could’ve eaten it by the ton, if it didn’t mean a severe shortening of my life expectancy. The restaurant sadly closed in 2013, even though there was talk of it relocating in Rushcutters Bay.
Getting involved with a burger place seems to be a popular move (see Warren Turnbull’s unending success with Chur Burger), and Martinovic is scoring instant touchdowns, if the crowds are anything to go by. Five Points Burgers is newly opened, but it attracts queues as early as 11.30 in the morning. And the lines are solid, commitment-testing lines. The last time I waited so long for food was, funnily enough, while queuing up for Neil Perry’s Burger Project and Kerby Craig’s Ume burger pop-up, which tells you that Sydney’s keenness for burger establishments by hatted chefs is unshakeable.
The frenzied interest means that the wait for Five Points Burgers is pretty much going to eat up your entire lunch break, especially if you have to plot some travel time around it. The place is only open during weekdays at the moment, too, which adds extra roadblocks for anyone who can’t easily escape to North Sydney for a burger fix during office hours.
Those are also my caveats for why my sample size for trying the menu is pretty small (usually I’d round up a crew to help taste-test a new establishment, but this time, with all the challenges, it was just me). I had the Staten Island ($9.50), which takes the familiar move of grilling the hell out of a mega-sized mushroom and slapping it in between buns with your usual staple ingredients (lettuce, cheese, etc) and spiking it with some leftfield flourishes (like the tart punch of tzatziki and marinated peppers, which weirdly works really well, despite reminding you of those stereotypical grilled antipasti foccaccia sandwiches you had back in the ’90s). And even though mine had to survive a few train stops and a walk back to the office, the Brasserie Bread milk bun is such an excellent shock absorber, that there was zero mess or spillage when I made it back to my desk. It’s a perfect match for the jammy layers of delicious ingredients inside.
Judging by online raves, there is already a big fanbase for the Bronx ($12.50), a grilled-beef monster borough of a burger, stacked with double levels of melting cheese, bacon rashers, iceberg lettuce, pickles and a condiment onslaught of onion jam, American mustard, ketchup and aioli. The Manhattan ($10) is a ‘slimmed-down’ take on this, subtracting the bacon and onion jam, while the Queens ($11) is the signature chicken burger.
When Martinovic ran Tomislav, he served his version of thrice-cooked chips (no doubt inspired by his time at The Fat Duck) and they were damn good. So you’d expect Five Points Burgers to be pairing off its buns and patties with some deep-fryer magic, too. The Beer-Battered Chips ($4) are home-made and excellent – full-blown golden, crisp and salty, and gone in a matter of finger-burning moments.
As happens whenever someone with a decent reputation opens a place like this, people start to question Mary’s fixed position as titleholder of Best Burgers in Sydney. My loyalty is still steadfastly with Mary’s, but definitely head to Five Points to make up your own mind. The venue plans to trade for dinner service soon, so you can still head to this outpost of ‘New York’, even if a lunchtime visit is too tricky.
Five Points Burgers, 124 Walker Street, North Sydney (enter via Berry Street). Follow Five Points Burgers on Instagram.