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Local Focus: Burger Challenge for Martinborough Bistro

It’s that time of year when many people in the Wellington region will spend the next two weeks trying to consume as many burgers as humanly possible.

The annual competition Burger Wellington 2023 has officially kicked off with head chef Adam Newell at Martinborough’s Union Square Bistro and Bar coming up with their meaty entry.

“We’ve got to get our burger recipe in pretty early,” Newell said.

“Nothing too wacky and out there. So it’s got to be tasty. It’s got to be something people can relate to.”

As the competition falls in the middle of winter, Newell said they were more drawn to ingredients with an earthy feeling.

Chef Adam Newell


“If it were in the middle of summer, you’d be talking tomatoes and basil – but we’re in winter.”

To go for the ultimate comfort burger, Union Square is serving up the marty-chilli-cheese-party.

It’s a stack of two caramelised smash patties, chilli mince, smoked cheese, sliced green chillies and mascarpone spread between two milk buns.

Served with chilli and cheese loaded fries and matched with a Garage Project beer titled the Devil’s Lettuce, Newell said they wanted something “oozy and with great flavour”.

“We have two small patties and the flavour is completely different,” Newell said.

“Smash patties have taken the world by storm. With the two patties, you get the caramelisation on four sides instead of one and it cooks really quickly.”

Letting the burger speak for itself, Newell said the combination of the smash patty flavour and cheesy elements made a comforting bite.

“There’s nothing in the patty except salt and pepper, and a few secret ingredients.”

Cutting through the richness of the meat and cheese is a kick from the chillies, something Newell said would “burst straight through.”

Newell said the beauty in this burger was in the mess.

“When it’s eaten, it’s going to get messy,” Newell said.

“That’s the sign of a good burger, with everything around the mouth.”

Burger Wellington is on for two weeks and closes on August 27.


Phil Stebbing
Phil Stebbing
Phil Stebbing is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. He regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional cat.

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