The Burgers are Sexier at Merrywell

I recently announced my intentions to become an Olympian in the 2016 games in my previous post. So it is important that I start training by eating healthily. I expect that my friends would support my dream, perhaps even cheer me on to a medal. However, one of them seems hell-bent on distracting me from my goal. It’s literally gut-wrenching when your friend is trying to derail your plan, and it’s pretty evil too. She told me of a place called The Merrywell which is located at the corner of Clarendon Street and Crown Riverside. She also told me that The Merrywell is an American outfit headed by two legendary chefs, Sammy De Marco and Grant Macpherson, and that their food had received good reviews. She repeatedly told me that for over a week and eventually my bad eyes prompted me to google pictures of heavenly looking burgers. So I did what every good, focused athlete would not have done. I gave into temptation, shelved my Olympic plans and dragged my friend to lunch at The Merrywell. Any guilt I felt, any regret I had have since vanished. The Merrywell is bringing sexy back with their burgers and fries.

Funky vibes from The Merrywell make it difficult to resist.

We walked into the glass house that is The Merrywell which comprises two levels: downstairs and upstairs. There are also two different menus for downstairs and upstairs. Seeing as how we visited in the afternoon, we ordered from the downstairs burger bar menu which also features daily specials. If you visit after 5pm, you get to order cute nosh from the upstairs menu such as piggies in blanket and lollipop buffalo wings. Sunlight streams in from the outside to illuminate the tall ceilings, bright decorative pop-art paintings and high tables with classic wooden finishes that are immediately noticeable and attractive. There is a comfortable spaciousness so you do not feel cramped but nor do you feel that the service staff are so faraway that they are out of reach. We were invited to sit anywhere we wished to, so we hopped onto the high chairs at the tables in front of a TV. It also gave us a great view of their extensive range of alcoholic beverages available to order at the bar. It is easy to see why The Merrywell may be an ideal choice for afternoon drinks. Far from being a grungy pub, The Merrywell is a clean-cut classy venue that offers $15 burger and pint deals from 4pm – 6pm everyday. This has to be one of Melbourne CBD’s unbeatable value combinations and not just for well-heeled businessmen. The causal vibe at The Merrywell is a big draw card for Melbourne’s young trendy crowd eager to unwind and catchup with friends.

Everyone knows that it is not enough to impress with the surroundings, the real bacon so as to speak is in the quality of the food offered. After glancing through the menu which featured friendly salt and peppers shakers against a red background, we decided to share two different burgers: the Bistro Burger (slide in fries, au poivre sauce) and the classic burger called The Merrywell (lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, tomato, special sauce, bacon and fries). I was keen to try The Merrywell Spider or the Cherry Coke Float, but then I remembered that whipped cream would really sink the boot in my Olympic preparations. Instead, I settled for the lemon, lime and bitters whilst my friend stuck true with Adam’s ale. The pink hue of the lemon, lime and bitters came served with a wedge of green lime – kind of cute but I didn’t squeeze the lime into my drink because it was sour enough.

Whilst waiting for our burgers, we talked about the latest experiments and some interesting findings of the week. We didn’t have to wait long for our burgers, and our stomachs fluttered in excitement every time we saw the serving staff nearing our table. We were third time lucky. With a friendly smile, our waiter placed the temptations in front of us. Both burgers came served with knives and forks. But everyone knows that the proper way to eat burgers is with your bare hands to get all the finger-licking goodness. Don’t worry about making a mess because there are tissues packed into a cute red holder that looks a little like a jukebox on the side of every table. You can mop up later, just dig in first!

The Bistro burger sat on a white-beige plate reminiscent of ones you get when you fly in the air; whereas the classic Merrywell was served in a red basket giving it a fun carnival feel. Fries were slid into the bistro burger allowing them to soak up the juices of the beef patty as well as the au poivre sauce. I suppose Merrywell might have gotten the inspiration from watching generations of kids do that at McD’s. In contrast, perfect golden, crispy shoestring fries were served in a slightly crumpled brown bag alongside the classic burger. I imagine that little potatoes in farms across Australia grow up dreaming of become fries in The Merrywell kitchen, because then they would have been sacrificed to a noble cause. They make the fries at McD’s look shabby and they are so well seasoned that you do not feel as though you are licking a salt pillar. You have to take our word for it on how good The Merrywell fries are. Both of us normally do not like fries all that much, but we inhaled these ones greedily. Even when we were so full, our hands could not help reaching out to those delicious shoestrings. Clearly, it’s mind over gut.

The classic Merrywell burger looks like the van Gogh of burgers. It is beautiful in a way that will tease a smile out of the most carnivorous of us. It’s magnificence is clasped between two toasted buns that incredibly retain a soft crunch. The buns do not taste sweet like the ones at other burger joints, however, they do taste like a cross between a brioche and the traditional white buns. Sweet rings of onions coupled with tomatos and tangy pickles enhanced the overall taste. I’m not sure what the special sauce is, but it works well with the beef patty. I think it tasted slightly spicy. Where to start with the beef patty? The cheese has melted over the top such that it looks almost translucent yellow. It made all the other patties I had eaten to date look like wimps both in terms of size and flavour. The pink beef is minced to a fine point where it still provides a “bite” so that you can enjoy the feel of sinking your teeth into its juiciness. A burger cannot reach the heights of perfection unless it has bacon, and the guys at Merrywell are well aware of this universal truth. Bacon makes everything taste better, and it makes my world go round. Whenever I have to finish something yucky, I drown it in bacon bits. Crisp where it is not in contact with the rest of the elements, the bacon retained its succulency and fried oil-fragrance. There is an art to eating this burger, and it cannot be rushed. If you find it a little difficult to eat it all in one go, simply deconstruct it and sample the thrill of each component.

Having had the best burger of my life so far, it seems a little unfair to rate the Bistro burger. It contained a lot less components that made me love the classic burger and so it just couldn’t measure up. In hindsight, I should have eaten this one before the classic. I wasn’t fond of the sauce and the flavours were muted compared to that of the first burger. However, my friend really liked the au poivre sauce and mixed in a little Tabasco sauce with her half of the burger to add a slight kick to it. There are condiments such as mustard, ketchup, and HP sauce on the side of all tables, so you can essentially flavour your burger to taste as you like it.

We were so full by the end of the two burgers and fries that we could not contemplate ordering dessert – something that we regret. At only $5, you could have your pick of chocolate mousse, mango pudding or lamington trifle. As painful as missing out on dessert is, it gave us the opportunity of returning to The Merrywell to sample more of their creativity. The burgers and fries at The Merrywell are not for the fainthearted. They are good-size manly feeds. There is a give and take to everything. The burgers served at The Merrywell may battle your arteries, but your tastebuds will thank you for every morsel. If you dare to try them, I wager that they will make the top three burgers in your favourites list. If burgers are not your thing, The Merrywell offers an interesting selection of sam-wiches as well as homely feeds including onion rings, cup o’chili, chicken tortilla soup, and chicken fingers.

Going for Gold with the onion rings at The Merrywell – a more achievable dream for mere mortals such as myself!

Come hang out with the friendly guys at The Merrywell, the outside view is awesome and food is all-American goodness. Oh, and all the cool kids come here ;)!

The Merrywell on Urbanspoon

My Olympic Dream

I love watching the Olympics, so I guess it isn’t altogether surprising when I decided that I would like to be part of the next one. I’m part of London 2012 too, but more in the role of a spectator. I’ve started to train tremendously hard. China’s latest swimming sensation says that she trains in two and a half hour blocks every day and at least twice a day. That’s tough to beat, but I would have to do one better than her because I don’t think I’m as talented as she is. So, every evening after dinner I switch on the TV, switch to channel 9 and sit on the couch for at least four hours straight. To the untrained eye, I’m no better than a couch potato, but let me assure you (and any sponsors or coaches out there) that I do have a game plan.

London’s mascot – the London eye. Eyes firmly on the prize!

After watching so many different sports over the last couple of days, I have come to the conclusion that endurance and perserverence is the common ground that is terribly important. I figured I would start with endurance. I force myself to watch all the sports, even if I’m not interested in them. Table tennis is great for training endurance. I have to concentrate very hard on two things: where the small white ball is because those players are horridly fast, and how to avoid boredom. Another good sport to watch for endurance training is basketball. The opposition is often better than my home country, so it is difficult to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and yell encouragement to the players at least a thousand miles away.

Sometimes, I yawn too much and that’s when I know it is time for me to refuel. So, I sprint downstairs to the fridge and raid it for chocolatey things, then I sprint back up to the couch. I know just how important refueling is. Afterall, I watched the men 250 km cycling race and at various stages the cyclists could be seen shoveling something into their mouths. My Mum excitedly pointed out whenever a cyclist grabbed a white bag that possibly contained water and munchies. She exclaimed loudly to embarrass the poor cyclist who thankfully cannot hear her because he is in a foresty-looking part of Britain, “there he is eating again!” I tell her that it is a different cyclist but she mostly ignores me. If I ever get to compete in the next Olympics, I don’t want my Mum there because I tend to get self-conscious when people watch me eat. She has the potential to be a great distraction and we all know that you can’t win medals if you are easily distracted. Even a squirrel has a chance to ruin my medal chances, so I’m hoping that there are very few squirrels or cute furry critters in Rio de Janerio.

Even cute furry critters can be fierce. This is why I can’t be a medal winning cyclist!

The next question I had to seriously consider is which sport would I be representing my country in. It’s tough to tell where my talent lies because I haven’t had this dream for long. In some interviews with the athletes, a few of them said that they have been dreaming of becoming Olympians ever since they were kids. Uh, I kind of started this dream about the same time as London’s opening ceremony commenced. Still, I’m not willing to let my medal chances slip by. Everyone is good at something, I just have to determine which sport I suck the least in. Channel 9’s advertisments provided some form of inspiration. Have you watched the Swisse vitamins ads? They feature Cadel Evan, the Australian cyclist best known for winning the Tour de France in 2011; the basketballer called Liz Cambage; and Matthew Targett, the swimmer who achieved two Olympic medals.

I could be the next Cadel Evans! I just know it because I take most of the Swisse vitamins that he apparently does. How exciting is that? I just found my calling. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to ride a bicycle, that is a rather minor impediment. But the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I became. As tempting as grabbing those white snack packs are, I don’t particularly enjoy long rides through the forest and those cyclists seem to do a lot of that. If the pack cycles too fast, I’d be left behind and I’m terrible at finding my way back. What if it gets dark? I’m a wuss in the dark. Snacks only last so long before some wild animal comes along to snack on me. Also, cycling uphill is going to be a killer on my non-existent calf muscles. Hmm, I thought to myself, time to find another event.

Basketball is totally out given my severe height disadvantage. The team doctors would be too busy bandaging me up after I get trampled within the first two minutes of the match. No time for physio for anyone else. I suppose I could ride atop someone’s shoulder to shoot the hoops, but I’m not sure if my team mates would mind piggy-backing me through all four quarters of the game. Moreover, I have a horrible suspicion that it is against the rules to do so.

How about swimming? I love watching all the swimming events and practice makes perfect right? I can swim, I took a swimming course in high school. Instead of the breaststroke, butterfly or freestyle, I would compete in floating because I’m excellent at staying afloat. Even my swimming instructor said so. When he asked if I wanted to learn some other style, I told him that it would be greedy to be so talented at two styles. Even though he didn’t reply, I knew he was truly moved by my generous spirit. Unfortunately, none of the Olympic swimming events seem to focus on floating. What a bummer! I could have been the Michael Phelps of floating, maybe even better than Phelps! The world would never know.

Some say he’s the greatest Olympian of all time, but is he as good at floating as I am?

Desperation setting in, I turned to my friends and asked them which Olympic event would they have competed in. One of them told me that he would have made an excellent sprinter because he ran well at track and field events at grade school. I readily agreed because he was often the first one out of the door after class ended. However, I’m not much of a track and field person. I don’t like to sweat much (hence my preference for the pool) or be in the sun for long periods. So, another one bites the dust – no pun intended. Another friend said that she would like to play tennis because she took lessons when she was younger and had showed some promise. Sadly, her parents made her quit and signed her up for art classes instead. I have not played a single game of tennis, but I have played badminton before. You know how some badminton athletes have since been barred because they looked like they were purposely throwing matches? I kind of play like them on my best day, so  that’s a worry. My hand-eye coordination needs huge improvements, so I’m considering laser eye correction for starters.

Even the newspaper that I usually pick up to read on the journey home asked the readers what were their personal bests (PBs). One reader said she could lick her elbow. A little gross, but I couldn’t do it. Another reader said he could polish off twenty six slices of pizza and wash them down with cans of soft drink. That’s competitive eating for you. I’m certain he ate more than one large pizza, maybe it even had the delicious cheesy crust. But I can’t do that! It’s physiologically impossible for me to wolf down more than 3 pizza slices! Yet another reader said that his PB was how he could stuff his entire fist into his mouth. I found this both gross and disturbing. Either he has a small fist or a large mouth or a strange combination of both. I tried it, but I couldn’t get my knuckles past my front teeth and I’m not going to remove them for any amount the toothfairy intends to leave me. Some months ago, I read that the average going rate for a child’s tooth is $2. So, no way will I challenge that event.

Finally, one of my friends came right up and told me that she figured herself best at finger clicking. What she meant was that she believes herself to be extremely fast at counting using a hand-held mechanical cell counter. LIGHT BULB! I use the cell counter quite often myself, and I’ve been training the last couple of weeks due to my need to seed precise cell numbers in 24, 48-well plates. So, I did what every other rational student would have done at 3pm after a tiring day of experiments. I challenged her to three bouts of cell counting. We won’t actually count cells because it might be subjective. Instead, we will try to press the cell counter as many times as we can, and as fast as we can in a given time. A three minute break between the bouts so we don’t cripple our thumbs for the rest of the week. Today, we found a shop that sells cell counters for a very reasonable price of $2.80 each.

To prove how serious we are about this competition, we are betting with bubble tea. Loser buys winner any flavour. I know this is not an actual Olympic event, but it might slowly gain momentum amongst bored science student. Lab pride is at stake here. Next week, I’m going for gold. My lab head would be so proud ;).