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REVIEW: The best burgers in town

Monday 11 July 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Features, Food

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REVIEW: The best burgers in town
Duncan Robati with his finished product at the Rarotonga Burger Competition. COOK ISLANDS NEWS/21101534

Tourists Angus Fotheringham and Daniel Cutmore have spent a good part of their holiday stopping off at Rarotonga burger joints and share what they think are the very best.

In the field, grain is harvested, then ground, mixed with yeast and water and allowed to rise, forming the humble – yet invaluable – bun. In the garden, the essence of health is condensed into fresh produce – tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. In the paddock, livestock are raised, lean and fat flesh ground and formed before being sealed together by the vicious sear of the grill. In the kitchen, chefs assemble these separate components, adding sauces and other secret flavours, bringing together something altogether greater than the sum of its parts.

I am, of course, talking about burgers. A food as universal as any, a burger is just as at home in an American diner on the side of route 66 as it is from the side of a truck in the Cook Islands.

As a tourist to this part of the world, I found myself surprised to be greeted with such a large array of options when it came to selecting a burger for dinner or lunch. With such incredible diversity, I had to take it upon myself to test as many as I could, and present my findings to you – the fine people of this country.

The criteria is simple – when ranking the burgers I take into account two main things – flavour, and price. In the interest of fairness, all the restaurants tested were scored exclusively on one menu item only, the cheeseburger. No fancy burgers, chicken burgers, or otherwise were considered eligible for this experiment.

Tourists Angus Fotheringham (left) and Daniel Cutmore tried five Rarotonga burger joints and rated the top them. CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22070891

Without further ado, these are the results:

#5 – Super Brown Tupapa

In every list, one must come in last, even if it is not a bad product. Truthfully, I enjoyed this burger. It just so happens that I enjoyed the other options more. If I were to have one critique in particular, it would be that the burger lacked the ‘freshness’ of some of the other options. I feel as though a lighter sauce, or more salad could have benefitted this. The patty itself had more of a uniform texture as compared to some of the other options, less of a ground beef texture which I personally enjoy. However this burger is very generous in size and filling, making for an excellent late night meal.

#4 – Palace Burger

What word could more aptly describe Palace than value? The Wednesday happy hour pricing is enough to make a grown man cry (tears of joy, of course). Naturally, with burgers flying out the door for less than the price of a Vaiora (soft drink), some quality issues will be encountered. It would be unfair to expect tomatoes sliced to an exact thickness of 0.2mm for each slice, and so I harbour no ill feelings towards the valiant staff for not achieving this, but in the several times I have visited Palace, I have had burgers ranging from excellent to overcooked, which must be noted here. It must also be noted, however, that I have never once left Palace feeling disappointed, and I’ll be sure to visit again.

#3 – Wigmores

Of all the burgers listed here, Wigmores fits best into the classic burger archetype. It is a burger with no frills, and it does all the basics well. The patty, the sauce, the salads, all work together well to create an incredibly fulfilling burger. However, while it does all the basics well, there is no particular category that it excels in to make it stand out on its own. So while this is an excellent burger, I feel that it lacks a special something to push it to the top of the list.

#2 – Vilis

Transport your mind with me for a moment. It’s New York City, 1985, and a young lady by the name of McDonalds is getting ready to head into town. Meanwhile on the other side of the city, a fine gentleman by the name of Katz (a famous NY sandwich shop) is picking up his coat and heading out the door. By a chance of fate, they meet, and years down the line, they give birth to their first child: Vilis. All to say, Vilis captures the familiar fast food taste of McDonalds, but elevates it to a higher standard, bringing a degree of class with the high-quality ingredients and presentation. My only critique is that for me, the burger was slightly too reminiscent of McDonalds, and even though I enjoyed it considerably more than I would have a meal from the golden arches, that association was hard to shake.

#1 – Slipway

One of the cheaper burgers on the menu, and a winner. I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. The reason for its win comes down to four main factors. Firstly, the salad. This adds such a freshness to the burger that I felt was sometimes lacking from the competitors. As more of a coleslaw style salad, I found this more enjoyable than the classic lettuce and tomato combo. Then we have the sauce, and I don’t know what is in this, but I found it to be excellent, and definitely a standout amongst the other options. The patty itself, with its wonderfully crumbly ground beef texture and unique herby taste, makes for the third reason. Finally, being able to pick up this impressive combo for such a cheap price makes Slipway my winner for this ranking, and I’ll be sure to come back here as soon as I get off the plane when I next visit Rarotonga.