13 October, 2008

A tale of two burgers; Birdie Num Nums and Northcote Social Club

Birdie Num Nums: 745 Nicholson St, Carlton North; 03 9380 1950 Northcote Social Club: 301 High St, Northcote; 03 9489 3917

Not a likely pairing, I admit, and, while I'm conceding points, I'll say up front that it's actually a tale of one burger and one steak sandwich (with an omelette thrown in).

Birdie Num Nums did not follow the Brunswick Model when it opened in 2006. Rather than opening in a former milkbar, the shop's earlier incarnation was as a butcher. Hefty, twisty, dark metal pillars still support meat hooks, under a ceiling easily high enough to give a full bovine carcass swinging space. The floor is timber, rather than concrete. There's a communal table, window and outdoor seating, and a gorgeous lounge-room nook hidden at the back, replete with recliners and fireplace.

The menu reflects Greek influences, and the gimmick here is to offer a range of pre-prepared lunch options from a display - picture meatballs, lasagne, layered savoury pastries - along with cooked-to-order breafkast dishes. There's some flair on the menu, such as the Egyptian baked eggs - poached eggs in ground coriander and cumin, served on potato, pumpkin and almonds -, but it was the olives in an omelette, along with chorizo and red capsicum that grabbed me.It just wasn't an exciting dish. The edges of the omelette, where it had stuck to the pan, had that crispy-cooked egg texture that I forgive at home but don't want plated up when I'm out. While it wasn't dry, it wasn't nearly moist enough - perhaps they hadn't sloshed in cream as plenty of places do, but then a lighter cooking touch would have retained some runny egg (and maybe avoided the crisp edges). Even the toast - a dense, mealy sourdough from nearby Natural Tucker - came unbuttered. I respect a cafe that doesn't mistake richness/oiliness for guaranteed flavour, but then at the very least offer the customer the chance to splurge or skimp on butter to their own liking!

On the other side of the table, we had a $14 steak sandwich, which defeated even SG's carnivorous longings. The photo's perspective isn't crash hot, but this thing was huge - you can see how tall it is against the pile of chips! A juicy slice of minute steak couldn't weigh down all the lettuce, tomato and cheese that came with it. Almost as incredible as SG leaving about a third on his plate, was the price comparison: $13.50 for my omelette, fifty cents more for the sandwich. With the price of free-range eggs, I have a good appreciation of what a lot of the omelette cost covered, but the sanger definitely presented better value.

The music carried a very eighties flavour - no, not the 1780s of the Dickens' novel played on in the post title - but quite defiantly 1980s. Bonnie Tyler followed by 'We Built this City' isn't everyone's cup of Giancarlo coffee, but it got my dancing feet warmed up for our afternoon engagement: a Guild League gig at the Northcote Social Club.

Meeting friends in the pub afterwards, we sampled a couple of Cricketers Arms Lagers, a fine, dry beer made all the more refreshing by some subtle fruit notes. The NSC does a crafty job of disguising itself as a seedy pub, but its menu dispels the myth. Having already seen burgers delivered, I insisted we order one between the two of us - a good call.
Again, not great photo perspective! The roo burger comes with peppered meat, lemon myrtle and wattleseed mayo, tomato, spanish onion and mixed leaves on toasted Turkish pide. The meat had been perfectly handled and oozed its own juices to mingle with the slightly-citrusy, slightly-tangy mayo. Rocket cut across all that with its sharpness and the super-fresh bread was spot-on toasted to be crisp and soft all at once. At $15, and feeding two, this was great value.

So, all three dishes within $1.50 of one another. Which would you choose?



  1. Bridie num nums misses the mark for me. Anywhere in this neighbourhood that serves up the frozen oil impregnated goods parading as hash browns gets my thumbs down. Just not good enough.

  2. Sounds like a reasonable assessment to me, AOF! They certainly seem hit and miss - the two dishes served up to us were a case in point. Most of the published reviews of the place are glowing, but they all reference the owners' previous incarnation at Piraeus Blues: they've obviously carried over a lot of goodwill, whether or not it's always top quality coming out of the kitchen.

  3. I have been going from site to site just putting in my two cents since I used to love this place until it turned to something short of crap. I gave BNN a last shot today and ate the Chef's special, the Croque Madam, and it was just WONDERFUL... really, I was shocked. So if you haven't been before - GO and if you have, do what I did, go back and be rewarded for your efforts.

  4. Well done for sticking with the place! Glad you were rewarded. If I'm back there I'll remember the Croque Madam is a goer :)

  5. Where is the worlds greatest burger store? Does it exist? and if so was it created for the people by the people? Well we are trying to create it and I appreciate your personal thoughts on the subject

    Could I ask a quick favour and have you click the below link and fill out a quick 10 question survey?

    Also if you have the time could you please send the link onto your friends.

    Your help is much appreciated for the good of burgers!



    Flipped man