Hong Kong is in the midst of burger mania. Even for a dining scene as trend-oriented as ours, the recent obsession with burgers is of a different order entirely. It seems burger shops open daily across the city and hot spots such as Butchers Club Burgers see queues snaking down the block even before the doors are opened.
A cheeseburger seems so simple: a bun, a slice of cheese and a ground beef patty. But, like a martini, a properly made burger transcends its basic ingredients to become something miraculous. There is no one perfect way to serve a burger, but diehard fans agree the meat must be flavourful, juicy and cooked to order (we ordered medium for this test), topped with thoroughly melted cheese, and sandwiched between a toasted bun. The condiments and other adornments should be fresh, crisp and tasty.
To find the best of the best, we took on the daunting task of tasting 16 of the city's most popular burgers over three days. We broke them down into categories: hotel, restaurant, takeaway and burger joint and rated them for creativity, presentation, preparation, ingredients, condiments, messiness, juiciness and overall flavour. We ordered each venue's standard cheeseburger, which meant ingredients varied (some were served with bacon for example) and always ate the burger as it was served without adding condiments. Not entirely scientific, but we're confident we have found the very best burgers in the city. Order up!
Café Causette, Mezzanine Level, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, tel: 2825 4005
Classic: onions, gherkin, with added bacon and cheddar cheese. HK$252
CL: Juicy, good char, delicious bun and great bacon. Straightforward and satisfying.
BC: Patty has solid flavour and the iceberg lettuce and tomato were chilled and crisp.
KK: Strong cheese flavour, very juicy and not messy. The patty is small though (maybe too yummy and left me wanting more). The salad was fresh.
The Lobby Lounge, G/F InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2721 1211
The Classic: applewood smoked bacon, Jack cheese and red onions. HK$290
CL: Greasy and on the heavy side, bacon is thick and smoky.
BC: Thin on lettuce and tomato, but had a strong bacon flavour.
KK: Sesame bun was quite tasty, but the bottom piece was soggy. Very heavy and filling.
Café Gray Deluxe, Level 49 The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel: 3968 1106
Café Gray Black Angus Burger: caramelised onions, Gruyere, tomato confit, seasoned fries. HK$235
CL: Under-seasoned well-cooked meat. Caramelised onions and Gruyere couldn't save it from being bland.
BC: Very dry, despite the melted cheese.
KK: Arrived open-faced and had to be assembled. Soft bun, thick cheese and strong chargrilled taste.
Grand Café, G/F Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2584 7722
USDA Prime Beef Burger: grilled onions, cheddar cheese and bacon. HK$240
CL: Juicy, well-cooked and with good quality ingredients. A well-executed standard lobby burger.
BC: Patty cooked perfectly, but iceberg lettuce in a hotel burger?
KK: Least favourite in this category. Tasted slightly off, but perhaps it was the cheddar cheese.
Big Bite, G/F Kar Fu Building, 196-202 Java Road, North Point, tel: 6979 9690
The CBC Crispy Bacon Cheeseburger: HK$65
CL: Best in its class. Great chargrilled flavour, melted American cheese and thick super crisp bacon. The jalapeno peppers were a welcome surprise.
BC: Patty was perfectly cooked, the bacon had strong flavour. Overall a great burger.
KK: Bursting with flavour. Loved the chargrilled taste and Thousand Island-like sauce.
Mos Burger, shop 01, Level 4A, Langham Place, 8 Argyle Street, Mong Kok, tel: 3514 4301
Mos Burger: HK$24
CL: I don't get the hype. Period. Artificial and sugary sweet with no meaty flavour to speak of.
BC: Lacklustre flavour, unmemorable.
KK: Very lightweight. Could only taste the tomato mayo sauce. It was so small there was no chance of it being messy. Lacking beef flavour.
Chips Republic Café, unit 2132, Level 2, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, tel: 2581 1887
The Cheese Classico: HK$59
CL: Looked great, but the meat was too peppery and the cheese was not melted. Flavour dominated by Thousand Island sauce. Still, quite good for the price.
BC: The patty was very peppery, but was saved by the sauce. Nice to have a side salad.
KK: Loved the peppery taste and strong flavour of the sauce, though it drowned out the beef flavour.
CaliBurger, shop A, G/F Sun Hey Mansion, 68-76 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2696 9008
CL: Much improved since opening last year, closer to its inspiration, California's In-N-Out Burger. Really enjoyed it.
BC: A decent fast food burger. You can taste the char on the beef, but it was very messy.
KK: Didn't like the taste of this one at all. Sauce was very watery.
Harlan Goldstein's Comfort, 5/F Grand Progress Building, 15-16 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, tel: 2521 8638
McHarlan Burger: truffle, mushroom, bacon, sun-dried tomato, smoked gouda and shichimi mayo. HK$188
CL: They didn't ask how we wanted it cooked, but the result was still tasty if a bit over seasoned. Next time, toast the bun.
BC: Cute packaging, but too much going on which muddled the taste.
KK: Cooked medium and was very juicy and tasty. Loved the shichimi mayo, but it left the bottom bun soggy.
Ruby Tuesday, shop 304, 3/F Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2892 0883
Classic Cheese Burger: American cheese. HK$148
CL: Deserving the name classic, the thick patty was perfectly cooked with good chargrilled flavour. Loved the American cheese.
BC: The patty was well cooked, overall the burger had a great meaty taste.
KK: Presentation a bit dull, with a soggy base and dead looking lettuce. Strong beef flavour and top bun was crunchy.
Morton's The Steakhouse, 4/F Sheraton Hong Kong, 20 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2732 2343
Morton's Prime Burger: Swiss cheese, caramelised onions and mushroom. HK$218
CL: Too salty, and so messy it was almost impossible to eat. Liked the raw and caramelised onions.
BC: Good quality ingredients weren't enough to save the overdone patty. The cheese was very gooey, messy to eat.
KK: Served on finger-burning plate. With rich ingredients, the patty was too dry but indulgent all the same.
Dan Ryan's, shop 112, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel: 2845 4600
Cheeseburger: Wisconsin Swiss cheese. HK$138
CL: Despite being overcooked, the meat had a good chargrilled flavour. The cheese was well melted and the bun was the best of the bunch.
BC: Very meaty with great chargrilled flavour, but messy to eat.
KK: Smelled appetising and certainly tasted a lot better than it looked.
Beef & Liberty, 2/F, 23 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2811 3009
Cheeseburger: Ogleshield cheese and house barbecue sauce. HK$99
CL: Perfectly balanced and carefully assembled, slightly underdone patty was saved by the great quality meat, crisp sweet pickles and tart barbecue sauce. Near perfect.
BC: Choice ingredients used for this almost perfectly executed burger.
KK: Pickles, sauce, cheese and patty in perfect harmony, high scores across the board for ingredients, preparation, presentation and juiciness.
The Diner, G/F, 4-8 Arbuthnot Road, Central, (no phone) thediner.com.hk
Dime Burger: bacon, Monterey Jack, dill pickles and mustard mayo. Soft brioche bun with hand-cut fries and house-made apple slaw. HK$135
CL: I could have done without the brioche bun. Great meaty flavour, melted cheese, crisp veggies and bacon. Does America proud.
BC: Didn't like the soft bun. The patty had great flavour and the butter lettuce was a nice touch.
KK: I loved the fries in the mini metal frying basket. Cheese really melted into the patty but the burger was a tad bland.
The Butchers Club Burgers, G/F Rialto Building, 2 Landale Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 2083
CL: Great beef and perfectly cooked, but sloppily assembled. Melted cheese would have made a world of difference.
BC: Burger didn't taste as good as when the place opened in early June, maybe because the cheese wasn't melted.
KK: Messy but tasty, very juicy and I liked the integrated taste of cheese, tomato and pickles with the crispy toasted bun (with a soggy bottom).
Big Jo's, G/F Wai Cheong Building, 5-9A Gresson Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2752 6880
CL: A great looking burger with melted cheese, a well-toasted bun and crisp shredded lettuce. Enjoyable but unfortunately over sauced.
BC: Well prepared, except for the tart Thousand Island sauce.
KK: Very juicy and I loved the sauce.