Why the best thing about Neil Perry's latest Burger Project is the wine

Neil Perry at Burger Project, Gateway. Photo: Simon Thomsen

Neil Perry has just opened his fifth Burger Project outlet at the Gateway redevelopment on Sydney’s Circular Quay.

It’s his third Sydney outlet, and Perry has three more Burger Projects scheduled to open in 2016 – Bondi Junction in Sydney and Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne next – with another five outlets in the pipeline next year.

And while the burgers are good – priced at around $10 using hand-cut grass fed beef from Tasmania’s Cape Grim, and the $6 desserts at Gateway are more than a match for Gelato Messina downstairs – the wines, produced exclusively for Burger Project by Jeffrey Grosset, one of the nation’s most lauded winemakers, are reason alone to head there.

His Clare Valley winery is famed and highly awarded for its Polish Hill riesling, which Langton’s list as an “exceptional” wine alongside the likes of Grange and Hill of Grace on its Classification of Australian Wine.

Polish Hill sells for more than $50 a bottle retail. The riesling Grosset’s made for Perry sells for $8.50 a glass, or $39 a bottle at Burger Project. He’s also made a “Project Red” shiraz-cabernet to wash down the burgers that sells for the same price.

Perry’s friendship with Grosset goes back more than three decades to the very start of Rockpool, when he started making the house riesling and chardonnay 28 years ago, then 15 years ago, the red.

The chef said he “hatched the plan” to involve his winemaking friend from the start of Burger Project, but it’s just taken a couple of vintages to bring it all together.

“I knew I’d get wine that tasted better than it cost because he’s such a perfectionist,” Perry said.

“This is seriously good wine. Put it in a brown paper bag and people would think it costs twice the price.”

A burger and a glass of red for under $20.

The chef said when the team had a tasting, they knew Grosset had made them something special. Perry’s even grabbing a case to drink at home – the only place you’ll find the wine outside of Burger Project stores.

“The riesling is just spanking. It’s organic and just smacks of deliciousness. It’s really vibrant and fresh and nice and sharp,” he said.

The testing notes say the riesling has light white flower, crunchy green apple and lime notes, with dry finish, while the red is full-flavoured wine with notes of plum and spice, and undertones of earth and blackcurrant.

With the wine sorted, and a pilsner made especially for Burger Project by Southern Brewing Co. in Geelong also on the menu, the Rockpool founder and Qantas chef is now focused on the rapid expansion of his “fast food with slow food values” business, saying that his team are focused on being able to establish a Burger Project venue in less than a fortnight.

One thing that gives him great satisfaction is that a quarter of the 40 people working in each store have come through a program that gets them into the workforce for the first time.

“They’re really good kids,” he said. “And with each new store, that’s 10 kids off social welfare.”

Perry said his target for Burger Project is 20 outlets nationally by the end of 2017, and 40 in the next two-and-a-half years.

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