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After featuring on a Buzzfeed list of the 18 Best Burgers in New Zealand, I decided to check out Grill Meats Beer on Cuba Street. It was the first Wellington burger establishment on the list—a logical place to start when you intend to work your way through all of them. I’d walked past the place several times before and had always drooled a little bit over their specials board that nearly always featured some variation of a pulled pork burger.
The night I went, it was cold and miserable outside but when I got inside Grill Meats Beer I forgot about the awful weather. It was warm and bustling (even for 8pm on a tame Thursday night)—the smell of grilling burgers just reminded me of sunny days and work shifts that aren’t 13 hours long, unlike the one I had just endured. We were immediately greeted by friendly wait-staff who didn’t muck around. They knew we were there to eat and didn’t waste any time with unnecessary drama.
The whole place oozes efficiency. It’s a small dining space and it could quite easily feel cramped on the busiest nights. The tables aren’t any larger than they need to be and there are even coat hooks under them to hang your stuff (most likely all your extra layers, because we do live in Wellington after all) so you don’t waste floor space with it all.
Most efficient of all was the kitchen. The chefs there work like parts of a well-oiled machine and the food comes out quickly. And what food it was! Oh my God. I ordered the chicken version of the GMB Classic: 200g of brined, grilled chicken thigh, bacon aioli, lettuce, onion knots, BBQ sauce on a brioche bun. The “onion knots” were a fairly vague description—it turns out they’re a lot like onion bhaji. The burger was so tall it was a challenge to eat, and impossible to eat tidily. Tip for young players: it’s probably not first date material. Once you’re at the stage where you can make a fool of yourself in front of your date, that’s when you come here. The challenge was well worth it, though—that burger is among the best I’ve ever eaten.
The only real disappointment was the fries—they were shoe-string, like what you get at Maccas. I would have preferred fries with a bit more substance to them, like some chunky beer-battered chips that have the attitude to suit the gutsy, fun atmosphere and the unapologetic badass-ery of the burgers.
Average price: around $20 a meal.