There is no shortage of ultra-overqualified chefs opening burger joints in Sydney – so what makes Burger Head stand out? It’s the first example of this trend in Western Sydney. This Penrith venue is run by three incredibly young guns – Richard Borg, Timothy Rosenstrauss and Joshua DeLuca (DeLuca is the ‘ancient’ one, at age 24) – who have pooled together experience from Michelin-starred and hatted restaurants: they met at Master (which closed just days before scoring one-hat status), and collectively can brag about working at Ormeggio, Quay and Momofuku Seiobo locally as well as Stockholm’s two-starred Mathias Dahlgren. (Sweden, incidentally, plays a key part in Burger Head’s origin story, because it’s where two of the founding chefs discovered Flippin’ Burgers – the menu was so next level that it made Joshua and Timothy reconsider what was possible when fast food was done with high-end craft.)
Like other top-pedigree chefs who have tried to master buns, patties and special sauce (Neil Perry, Warren Turnbull, Kerby Craig and, most recently, Chase Kojima), the trio applies heavy-hitting expertise to the fast-food format. As I wrote in Good Food, they’re using tricks from their fine-dining backgrounds to soup up everything from burger fillings to side dishes and desserts. They’ve launched with a Classic Cheese signature burger, The Louis (which steps it up with caramelised onion, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce), The Clucker (so-named because it’s slammed with buttermilk chicken and malt pickled onions) and The Mike Tyson (a vegetarian number with crunchy deep-fried kale, cabbage strands and “pulled” enoki and king oyster mushrooms, all slathered with an in-house barbecue sauce that’s so smoky you can inhale it). Given that the latter is named after a high-profile vegan, it’s apt that you can get the burger without a trace of animal products – just swap out the milk bun with the vegan and gluten-free option ($2).
There is also a “diet-ruining” Mash & Gravy ($7), buttermilk chicken Crispy Bites ($8) and a Roasted White Choc Shake ($10) that delivers a triple-shot blast of white chocolate (salted, caramelised and roasted, with shavings on top); it’s so sweet you’ll get a high-powered sugar spike from the tiniest sip. Expect ambitious, globe-trotting specials, plus more desserts (like ice-cream sandwiches and a sweet remix of loaded fries) and boozy offerings as time goes by.
If you’re planning to hit up Burger Head, I’d recommend going early. The venue sold out of burgers on its opening days, and heavy demand means that there can be significant wait times (half an hour after I got there, I heard patrons being notified of a 30-40 minute ETA with food because the kitchen had banked up so many orders – but people seemed happy to wait, because staff had been upfront in giving them a heads up). If this venue goes well, the team plans to open more locations across Western Sydney. Borg and DeLuca grew up in the area and wanted to prove that you don’t have to travel far to try something that’s quality and backed up by fine-dining DNA. Given that its launch instantly activated cult interest and long queues – and Burger Head only opened on Friday – I wouldn’t be surprised if the OG site is joined by extra outposts in the not-too-distant future.