Burgers are a food that simply will never go out of style. Food fads may come and go, but burgers will always reign as king of the (fast) food chain. While Melbourne has an abundance of cult burger bars like 8-Bit Kids, Royal Stacks and Tuck Shop Takeaway, sometimes there’s nothing better than venturing off the beaten track and finding a hidden gem, tucked far away from excessive lines and Instagram-craziness of the mainstream.
Our friend Burgers of Melbourne spends a lot of his past time doing just that, and invited us to accompany him to try out Highlander Bar – a sneaky Scottish-themed pub with an entire burger menu just waiting to be tapped into.
The place had character, and made us think this is exactly what a pub in Scotland would look like (we have never been to Scotland though, so we cannot confirm). The a-frame just outside the door advertised specials on ‘Tinder Tuesdays’ and although it was daylight outside, the heavily lacquered wooden furniture made the room seem dark and cosy.
We were seated at a booth near a plain window and an enthusiastic waitress encouraged us to sample some of the ‘Wee Bites’ before we ordered our burgers. She warned us that they’re much more filling than you would imagine, as they often run Groupon deals with the ‘Wee Bites’ and people often spend extra money over-ordering before realising they can barely finish what the voucher included.
Though quirky takes on traditional Scottish foods like panko-crumbed haggis balls and black pudding with HP sauce were on the menu, we decided to stay on the safe side today and went instead for the mac and cheese balls, popcorn chicken and cauliflower fritters at the waitresses’ request.
The mac and cheese balls were, as you can imagine, insanely delicious. The outside was crumbed and crunchy, and once biting in you were met with gooey, oozing cheese and macaroni. These came with a sriracha mayo that blew our socks off with tanginess.
The popcorn chicken was tender and definitely had more chicken-to-batter ratio than KFC, which is always a win. This was served with a jalapeño mayo that we thought almost tasted a bit fishy, and ended up eating it with the sriracha mayo from the mac and cheese balls. Sriracha mayo on everything, please!
The cauliflower fritters were tops, considering we’re not actually fans of cauliflower. They were salty, firm, and seemed to be cooked through with tumeric, giving them a bit of a curry kick. These were served with shaved parmesan and mayo that you could use as much of or as sparsely as you like.
Between the three of us we ordered the Wee Bastard (spiced Wagyu beef patty, house pickles, cheese, mustard, whisky BBQ sauce and brioche), the Fat Bastard (same as the Wee Bastard but with double beef, double cheese) and the McMushroom (portobello mushroom with goats curd, house pesto, leaves, fresh tomato and brioche). Again, it’s worth nothing that they do have some more Scottish-influenced burgers here, like the Braveheart with black pudding as the patty, and Scotland the Brave with pan-fried haggis.
The Wee Bastard and Fat Bastard are Highlander’s take on the timeless cheeseburger, and we’d like to think we’ve eaten enough cheeseburgers to pretty much be PhD experts on the subject. The burgers were typically what you’d expect from a pub, with some standouts and some letdowns. The bun wasn’t as sweet and moist as you’d usually expect a brioche to be, and the pickles weren’t overly salty or sour, so tasted a lot like fresh cucumber still. The beef was tender and rich however, and the whisky BBQ sauce and absolute standout. Bottle me up some of that and let me smuggle it back to Adelaide please!
Highlander also cater their burger variety to vegetarians, offering the rich and fulfilling McMushroom. A familiar gourmet combination of mushroom, goats curd, pesto and greens on brioche makes for a flavoursome favourite – a meat-free classic in its own right. The McMushroom is a burger you know will taste good every single time.
You can find Highlander Bar at 11a Highlander Lane, Melbourne, or keep updated with them on Instagram here.