Chef Joel Bennetts first teamed up with Fishbowl Co-Founders Nathan Dalah and Nic Pestalozzi to launch the group’s first restaurant Fish Shop in Bondi back in 2020. The restaurant would lead to the opening of spin-off venue Fsh Mkt a year later, with Bennetts later deciding to part ways with the group.
He delved into the world of consulting, released his first book (Food by Joel Bennetts), and did a little travel, too. But it wasn’t long before the trio would come back together to develop a new concept – centered around none other than the burger.
Fish Shop in Bondi is synonymous with locals for its calamari with fermented chilli oil and something else – a barramundi burger with slaw. The venue and its sibling concept Fsh Mkt have slung their fair of burgers over the years from the OG and the tuna cheeseburger to the swordfish sandwich – burgers have been a hit. Fish Shop recently celebrated its third anniversary, but the group decided it was time to close Fsh Mkt, which shut its doors back in August.
It was this move that led to Bennetts’ return. “The boys said, ‘We really want you back in the business and we want to offer you a share’, so I am now a part owner and the culinary director of Fish Shop and Burger Park,” says the chef. “The change in concept of Fsh Mkt to Burger Park was really interesting to me and I think the locals thought the two venues [Fish Shop and Fsh Mkt] were too similar, so we decided to do a burger joint and give it a go ourselves.”
Burger Park is the group’s first foray out of seafood and instead focuses on classic combinations – think chilli and chicken and beef with tomato, cheese, and onion – flavours that are both familiar and nostalgic, which formed part of the creative brief for Bennetts. “I used to travel a lot down the South Coast and up the North Coast of New South Wales as a kid and we would always go to petrol stations and get burgers with the lot,” he says. “It’s very Australiana and like food from a Sunday barbecue where mum or dad would make a grilled chicken burger.”
There are just four options on Burger Park’s menu (five if you count the iykyk smashed cheeseburger). “The classic beef burger has a grass-fed Angus patty, oak lettuce, tomato, Westmont pickles, Australian cheddar, and a chunky burger sauce that is like tartar but in burger form, so it has American mustard, white vinegar, onion powder, mayo, and cornichons and onions blended through for texture,” says Bennetts.
“The smashed burger is doing well, too, and so is the panko-crumbed chicken with fermented chilli mayo and shredded iceberg lettuce.” A second chicken burger has made the menu in grilled form and of course, there’s a fish one, a la Fish Shop’s version which sees crumbed barramundi teamed with iceberg, tartar, and salsa verde.
There are also add-ons – a decision rooted in flexibility – and restraint. “I wanted to keep it light and leave heaps of room for specials,” says Bennetts. And while burgers are commonplace in Sydney, it’s the small things that set Burger Park apart from the rest, just look to the add-ons section.
Beetroot and pineapple are polarising additions for some and essentials for others – but don’t expect any slices to come from a can. XL beetroots are salt-baked and slow roasted in the oven before slicing, with pineapples pickled in coriander seeds – a nod to a dessert Bennetts made during a consulting gig in Rockhampton.
“I did a sweet and sour pickled pavlova with these beautiful Northern Queensland pineapples,” he says. “A farmer pulled up in his Land Cruiser and dumped 20kg of pineapples at the back of the restaurant, so I pickled them in coriander seeds, and it had beautiful floral notes and was sweet and salty.”
The chef has followed a similar thought train at Burger Park with the pineapple, dialling up the pickle liquid and thinly slicing the pineapple – core and all. “I have always loved the crunchy core part, so I wanted to maintain it – it’s the perfect fat cutter on a burger.”
The buns are also worth a mention and are a collaboration with Organic Bread Bar’s Andreas Rost. “It’s a fermented potato bun made with organic flours and the sweetness of the potato comes through when we put them on the grill,” says Bennetts. “We worked on getting the right seed to bun ratio and when we cut them in half every morning, they are so airy and light – very different from the classic buns that look like a coin when you scrunch them up.”
A burger needs sides, and a pared-back approach has been taken with this section of the menu as well, with fries seasoned with table salt and a slaw with Green Goddess dressing on offer, too.
“I think it’s easy to dominate a menu with so many options, and that’s why we thought it was a good idea to do add-ons,” says Bennetts. A highlight so far has come from a diner who made their own version of surf and turf, adding crumbed chicken to the fish option. “You give people the joy of creating their own perfect burger.”
Burger Park is open seven days from 5:00-8:30pm Monday to Friday and from 12:00-8:30pm on weekends.
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