The humble hamburger is anything but boring, especially when reincarnated with unusual ingredients and luxury touches 

Could the burger be the most democratic of all fast food icons? Like the sandwich, the burger’s beauty lies in its simplicity, the perfect point from which culinary creativity can thrive. The components are easy to assemble and even speedier to consume; get your basic bun, patty and garnishes and you’ve got yourself a burger. Now, think bigger. How about homemade buns, slow-cooked premium meats, or forget beef entirely – how about battered oysters, Iberico pork, or foie gras? Now we’re talking. Below, we round up our favourite burgers around town, which come in all flavours, shapes and sizes, proving that you need not stick to the basic rendition of this everyman’s food.

Quemo

This Spanish newcomer in Wan Chai’s QRE Plaza (opened by the owner of El Quim de la Boqueria in Barcelona) is quick becoming one of our favourites, thanks to its mix of classic Spanish dishes and more left-field offerings. One such offering from the latter category is the oyster bocata ("bocata" means sandwich, but these feel much more like burgers) which did not sound like it would work on paper, but absolutely did on the plate and palate.

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The mini burgers have a foundation of hearty sweet potato bread, which is sturdier than brioche but lighter than other burger buns out there. Sandwiched in between is a simple combination of battered, black sesame-studded American Rocky Bay oyster with a slab of perfectly cooked, silky foie gras. Apart from that, its only basic seasoning is salt and pepper, allowing the oyster and liver to shine. A bite into the small burger releases a wave of briny sweetness followed by a complementary butteriness from the foie gras. The sweet potato bun is more subtle than one would think, offering the gentle murmur of sugar (as common in traditional brioche burger buns) without being cloying.

Quemo, 5/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai; +852 2836-0699

Interested in Barcelona? Read our city guide here.

Liberty Exchange Kitchen

LEK’s signature Statue Burger is not the typical bacon and cheese burger you would expect from an American kitchen. For one, it goes easy on the fattening ingredients, but is no less tasty. Having worked with chef Daniel Boulud (known for his legendary burgers in addition to his fine French repertoire), chef Vicky Cheng’s own burgers live up to their name. The pale-yellow burger buns, which are an adaptation of a half-brioche recipe, offers a nice chewy bite to the 5½oz ground beef patty made from Australian striploin steak, with a golden ratio of 70 per cent meat to 30 percent fat.

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But what makes LEK’s burger really special is the juicy tomato confit atop of the beef – peeled whole tomatoes are marinated in herbs and basil oil for an hour and confit for triple the time, to encapsulate all the moisture and sweetness. The burger is completed by the rich tomato flavour, the basil mayonnaise and a bed of chicory. An off-menu vegetarian version of the burger is also available upon request, with a seared balsamic-marinated portobello steak to replace the meat as centre, and a more decadent truffle mayonnaise to bring out the flavours. Both options are served alongside skinny French fries with crispy fried parsley leaves.

Liberty Exchange Kitchen, 2 Exchange Square, 8 Connaught Place, Central; +852 2810-8400

Café Causette

By now, it should be quite clear that we believe that the best things come in small packages – and so forth with the Mandarin Oriental’s pint-sized offerings of three mini burgers at Café Causette. A series of sliders was launched last year with a campaign where diners could vote for their favourite combination, and the pulled meat burgers have consistently come out on top. 

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Instead of serving just the typical pulled pork (though we would be very happy with this proposition anyway), the restaurant also includes pulled beef and pulled lamb for extra playfulness. Each, appropriately, comes slicked with American flair. The pork is paired with a good old Kentucky barbecue sauce and XO mayonnaise; the beef (made with slow-braised shortrib) with bone marrow mayonnaise and Kansas City rib sauce; and the stewed pulled lamb shoulder with East Texas barbecue sauce and mustard mayonnaise.

Café Causette, M/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central; +852 2825-4005

There is no combination more classic than a burger and a milkshake: read on to see where we go for Hong Kong’s Top 5 milkshakes.

22 Ships

It’s been more than half a year since Jason Atherton and Yenn Wong’s tapas bar opened in Wan Chai, but the memory of the tiny Iberico and foie gras burgers are still imprinted in our mind. One of the runaway favourites, the small burgers are served two at a time; the smooth and shiny brioche buns are piled with a juicy round patty of Iberico pork saddled with rich liver and a sliver of cucumber pickled to cut through the fat.

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Along the side is a small pot of avocado mousse. To jazz it up a little, 22 Ships have recently begun to add a little zing to the burger by way of kimchi. Personally we think it’s a bit too much and detracts from the porcine flavor of the patty, but to each their own – the chefs must realise this too, as the fermented cabbage is placed in its own pot on the side.

22 Ships, G/F, 22 Ship Street, Wan Chai; +852 2555-0722

These mini burgers are also chef Atherton’s own favourites. Find out what some of his other must-try dishes are in our interview.

Veggie SF

The burgers at this vegetarian Soho café are truly glowing with feel-good ingredients. That’s why we can’t quite fault the camp name they have given their signature burger – the “I Am Fabulous”, which is essentially a beetroot patty burger (which, with its deep red colour, disturbingly mimics meat in a way). The root vegetable is finely minced and shaped into a toothsome but tender puck, where it is then topped with (optional) cheese, cucumber, tomato and a fluff of grassy alfalfa sprouts.

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The glossy wheat bun stands up to the beetroot juices, and the combination is altogether a rather virtuous but surprisingly tasty burger for days when a hunk of meat feels too much to stomach.

Veggie SF, 10/F, 11 Stanley Street, Central; +852 3902-3902

Apart from the fashionable Grassroots Pantry and Herbivores, find out what some of our other favourite vegetarian restaurants are.

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