Melbourne Burger Spotlight: Easey’s – Collingwood (Melbourne)

As far as burgers go, Jimmy “The Burger Lord” Hurlston, also known as the man behind Jimmy’s Burgers, just may be the most experienced and well-traveled guy in history. He has spent years trekking all over the world tackling one of the most famous food creations of all time, attempting to eat, record, and review an outrageous amount of burgers. It then makes sense that after all these years of scoffing down burgers, cooking up his own creations for other venues, and even publishing a book on burgers, that Hurlston would become co-owner of an unprecedented burger restaurant and bar in Melbourne – one that is five stories high.

Easey’s is a fairly new joint that towers over Collingwood, located on Easey street with a pretty distinctive look. Crowning the five-story building is a trio of graffiti-covered train carriages which have been restored and fitted out for various purposes. While two of train carriages are separate businesses, one is the apex of Easye’s, a diner and bar that is obviously the most sought after seating area in the restaurant-bar.

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The other levels all bring something different to the table as well. The front, street level space is a wash of black and yellow graffiti, old train seats are used for booths, and there’ some old school arcade machines that function as tables with yellow stools around them. There’s an endearingly retro theme around the space, with a bar at the far end taking food orders and serving up a range of Australian beers.

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Past that, and still on the first floor, is a surprising sight – a wholefood cafe named Fare. It’s small and dimly lit, buzzing with as much life as any other floor in the building. It too continues that love of street art that covers pretty much every inch of wall space you can see.

It’s nice to know that if you get a bit sick of all that artery-testing dude food then you at least have the option of eating a bit lighter. But for those on the more fun and indulgent side, you have food like Cereal-Coated Fried Chicken which you could probably justify having for breakfast when this place opens at 7am. You can also get B>Pop Tarts & Chicken ($14) for breakfast, or a bowl of Cereal ($4) with some coffee (or a beer, if that’s your thing).

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We’re here for the burgers though. Jimmy has become quite well known in the burger world, celebrated for his dedication and commitment to perfecting his creations. This is why Easey’s is evolving well beyond it’s origin, and the venue – and it’s food – promises to keep working toward that goal of perfection. For now, during my visit 2-3 weeks into business, the burgers are pretty damn good the way they are.

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My dining partners and I went straight for the top when we arrived, jumping into the very slow-moving lift and spilling out into the lively train carriage. One scan around and you can tell that this venue took a lot of work. There’s outside dining on long-tables in between Easey’s carriage and the neighbouring one, but it was a bit cold when we went so we opted for the front of the carriage, the drivers seat that has been converted into a space with three converted train seats, enough space for six people.

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The menu is one-page and the decision doesn’t take too long, especially when you see what other people have ordered. I got the Too Ease ($10) which has a double beef patty, double American cheddar, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. The cheese is melted all over the patties, covering the lightly seasoned protein with a smooth, rich taste that softens up the patties even more. The meat is the star here, soft, with a texture and balance that takes this far beyond your average burger. The buns used here are potato buns, a bit bready as Jimmy admits. “I need to work with my baker to get it exactly right” he tells us on our visit. These are small teething issues in what is set to become one of the most buzzed about joints in Melbourne.

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Burger add-ons include extra patties, cheese, bacon, fried chicken, jalapenos, and pickles. Unfortunately the Changaz Sanga ($10) – their Fried Chicken Burger – was sold out when we went but my dining partners were all to eager to try the Rowdy Double Cheeseburger ($12) and the Easey Cheesy ($8).

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The choices in sides are surprising. You’ll find a four pack of double-fried Dim Sims ($4) and a double fried Potato Cake ($2). The great price point makes these attractive options, with the big potato cake the tastiest of the two, only lightly salted and far less heavy than a hash brown.

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A custard-filled Doughnut ($2.50) is worth it for some loose change; although the doughnut itself is excessively bready, the flavourful cream on top and inside is a good, hearty way to finish off your meal.

With all that burger knowledge, we wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy finds that peak of perfection soon enough. At only one month into operation, Easey’s has been justifying the hype, not relying on the fact that they boast one of the most unique venues in the city. And in mentioning venues, the place also does functions and parties – a smart move seeing that there’s a big open balcony on the fourth level, outdoor areas on the rooftop, and that big, buzzed train carriage with a bar up back for extra fun times.

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The vibe on all floors is a big reason to make this a regular hang, especially for those who love that winning combo of 90s hip hop and juicy burgers. There’s sonos play bars strategically placed around the venue to make sure a soundtrack of Rakim, LL, and Wu-Tang is pumping in all corners.

We caught up post-burger with Jimmy to get a bit more insight into how the place originated and evolved, how his world burger journey has fed into this business, and more.

How did the idea for Easey’s originate and how long did it take to get the place ready?

Easey’s is a fairly long story. An old friend contacted my business partner, Jeremy, to run a gallery. The Gallery was not just an gallery, due to being located in the End 2 End building in Collingwood. Jeremy came to me with grander plans along the lines of graffiti and burgers. So we set about getting the job done. The whole concept evolved daily, from little things to big, our minds changed as did the venue. It took about 14 months from start to finish to get the place up and running (the building was being finished off concurrently with fit out). Now that it is open to the public we are really doing the hard work trying to find out feet. It has been a crazy few weeks but we are trying to listen to all the feedback and develop the place to where everyone will be happy.

You’re quite well known for your travels exploring burgers around the world. Were there any that have particularly resonated with you and serve as inspiration behind Easey’s?

There have been quite a number of amazing burgers over my journey. We are very blessed in Melbourne and now Sydney to have so many incredible burgers to choose from. Some of the great inspirations are the success stories of the U.S. Places like In-N-Out and Shake Shack are always a massive inspiration. Their burgers are simple, their price point is good, and their internal processes are spot on. Another obvious influence is Mc’Donalds. In my opinion, Mc’Donalds have been left behind by the burger game. They have attempted to evolve when they really should have been concentrating on continuing with what they do best. The Mc’Donalds Cheeseburger is still the most popular burger in the world and it is because they got it right. It is simple: meat, cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. Also, I worked at Mc’Donalds for a while in my teenage years and learnt a lot about their processes and “system”.

You guys have only been open for a short time. How have you been finding the reception so far?

The first few weeks have been chaos. There have been a lot of mixed reviews but we are working tirelessly to improve to a level we are content with. It has been a great leaning curve for a lot of the people involved but I am confident we can deliver a great venue and an impeccable product that people will fall in love with.

How much experimentation went behind creating the burger recipes and getting them to to point where you’d be satisfied serving them up?

Obviously I have eaten thousands of burgers so I had a pretty good idea in my head about what it was that I really wanted to serve. I wanted a point of difference; something different to the myriad of other burgers out there. I wanted to avoid brioche because the amount of butter, salt, and sugar really effect the flavour profile of the burgers. Yes, brioche looks pretty but it also causes chefs to get lazy about the rest of the product they are serving.

I started working with a baker friend to get a bun that was different to what Melbournians are used to. The next aspect (the part I was most confident about) was the patty. It was important to make a very balanced beef patty. We couldn’t have something that was dense and heavy, we needed a light mince with enough meaty flavour that a light seasoning would enhance. Then the additions; the sauces were crucial and Heinz and French’s have nailed the ketchup and mustard game for burgers.

What burger off the menu do you recommend first when people ask for suggestions? Why?

We have some pretty crazy options. I have played around and made a few silly things since we opened. We have the Melbourne Madness which is a double patty, triple cheese, double bacon, potato cake, dim sim, pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard. The name is from an old Bias B song. We also have the All the Way to Flinders – which is the Melbourne Madness with an added fried chicken patty. However, I normally point people in the direction of the Too Ease or the Rowdy Double Cheeseburger because the meats, cheese, and balance in those burgers is almost perfect.

What sort of bun is used?

We use a custom bun that is a take on a classic American style bun using potato in the dough.

What’s the idea behind the sides offered at Easey’s?

We really wanted to embrace the Australian take away offerings and I love dim sims, so we decided to upgrade the classic dim sim by frying it, battering it, and then frying it again to create that ultimate crisp. We also have potato cakes, chips, chicken bites, and doughnuts. The doughnuts are not your average; they are filled with traditional milkshake flavoured custards. So think Blue Heaven, Lime and Strawberry. We really wanted to make a menu that had that classic Australian ‘fish n chip shop’ style with a new take on the offerings.

Are there plans to add more burgers on the menu?

So we currently have the Easey Cheesy, Too Ease, Rowdy Double Cheeseburger, Melbourne Madness, and Changaz Sanga. We have no intention of adding any more specifically to the menu but we almost certainly will run some specials from time to time to keep it fresh.

What have been your main challenges in the first few weeks of Easey’s?

There have been so many challenges at Easey’s but we are working to deliver what we had dreamed about. Obviously there are things that you cannot ever predict. Also, the staff , although experienced in hospitality, had never worked in such a crazy venue. It is very hard to keep track of everything when you put a restaurant into a building that was purpose built for offices but we are adapting and evolving every day.

Easey’s

Address: 48 Easey Street, Collingwood VIC 3066
Contact: (03) 9079 5942
Website: http://easeys.com.au/
Opening Hours: Sun – Thu: 7:00am to 11:00pm; Fri – Sat: 7:00pm to 1:00am