What makes a burger Australian? According to American chef David Chang, Australians 'f*ck up burgers more than anyone in the world', his outrage – not unlike the age-old pineapple-on-pizza debate – stemming from Australia's penchant for adding beetroot, fried eggs, grilled onions and even pineapple rings to the beloved American classic.
Self-described as 'Australia’s top burger chain', it's perhaps unsurprising then that the arrival of Royal Stacks in Beijing this summer was met with a solid degree of fanfare (giving away thousands of free burgers is certainly one way to endear yourself to your new subjects). But how will Beijing take to the Aussies’ freewheeling interpretations of the American classic?
Turns out, it doesn't really matter. A perusal of the menu quickly shows that Royal Stacks doesn't actually serve up Australian-style burgers, but rather classic American-inspired fare more along the lines of Shake Shack. Mac and cheese burgers (58RMB), loaded chilli beef fries (32-37RMB) and fried chicken bites (26-45RMB) all feature on the menu, along with milkshakes and frozen custards. Its décor, fittingly, also resembles an updated American diner, complete with Instagram-friendly wall murals, neon signs and bold primary colours.
We settle on The Kavorka (58RMB), Bacon Bacon (68RMB) and McDowell (68RMB), paired alongside crispy potato gems (19RMB) and sweet potato fries (26RMB). Despite the promise of a horseradish, shallot and gherkin mayo, the McDowell burger is largely monotone in flavour, missing the much-needed peppery heat – the horseradish is almost non-existent – required to cut through slightly overcooked double beef patties. On the other hand, the Bacon Bacon is the standout of the bunch, its pile of smoky bacon adding depth to towering layers of American cheddar, caramelised onion and, again, a pair of beef patties. But The Kavorka, featuring crispy fried chicken, coleslaw, cheesy sauce and chipotle mayo lacks both punch and vibrancy.
Burgers aside, what really gets our Australian companion's heart racing is the prospect of frozen custard with Tim Tams (39RMB) – a chocolate biscuit that's as True Blue Aussie as Vegemite. Brownie points are given to Royal Stacks for churning their own ice cream on site, but taken away over the use of what seem to be imitation Tim Tams. We watch our resident Aussie, formerly enthused by the prospect of Tim Tam-loaded ice cream ('Hopefully it’s like a Tim Tam McFlurry'), deflate like an emptied goon bag over the realisation that the toppings don't taste like the real thing. The Kinder Bueno milkshake (42RMB), possibly suffering from excess ice, is also watery and lacks creaminess.
To their credit, the folks at Royal Stacks make their own sauces, freshly bake their own bread and use only 100 percent Australian, GMO-free, pasture-fed beef mince – a carryover from the ethos at their four branches Down Under. That focus on quality is admirable, and with a few tweaks to its menu Royal Stacks may yet make a serious claim for Beijing's burger throne.
Dinner for two plus dessert 250RMB
By Leanne Wong