42 Shotover St
When I first started putting out the feelers out and asking around for things to do in New Zealand, a name that came up immediately and repeatedly was Fergburger. But that was no surprise. Over the years, I’ve heard the name dropped by everyone from family to friends to co-workers, and just generally bandied about on the internet. And they all say the same thing – that Fergburger does one of the best, if not the best burgers ever.
Given its fame, it’s no surprise that everyone makes a beeline for Fergburger the moment they hit Queenstown. The photo above was taken at about 10pm the night we got in; whilst most other restaurants were winding down, Fergburger was as hectic as ever. And it’s not even like Fergburger is this packed because of limited opening hours – they are open 21 hours a day, 364 days of the week, and the lines are still out the door and down the street. Can you imagine what it would look like if they kept ‘normal’ hours??
Yet despite the horrific-looking line, the wait actually wasn’t all that bad. Rocking up at 6:30pm the following day resulted in a 15-minute wait to place our order, and another 15 or so to cook it. The staff work like cogs in a well-oiled machine honed by decades of practice, and we soon had our arms loaded down with our previous cargo. Predictably, there was no space to eat in the restaurant. In fact, it was so full of people that I only saw enough of the interior to notice the wall-to-wall framed photos of Ferg-fans, and a cabinet full of merchandise. So instead of trying to get a seat, we found a nearby bench and made a picnic of our burgers.
The Ferg Deluxe ($14.9NZD) does everything right. A slightly more indulgent version of the classic Fergburger, the prime NZ beef patty – with cheddar melted over the top – was pink and juicy, the streaky bacon crisp at the edges and oozing fat, and there was just enough crunch in the veggies and sweet tanginess from the pickles and tomato relish to balance out the richness. Sandwiched in a fluffy white bun, this was a messy, two-handed feat of a burger that straddles the line between homely and gourmet remarkably well. There’s nothing ground-breaking about it; it’s just a damned good burger.
Just for variety’s sake, I decided to try the Cock Cajun ($13.9NZD). Grilled chicken burgers usually tend to be underwhelming, so it was refreshing to see one that is actually good, rather than just served as the obligatory healthy alternative. There were 3 massive chicken fillets in this burger, each marinated in a punchy mix of Cajun-styled spices and grilled to a succulent smokiness. Not a single bite of this was dry, and there was just enough lemon yoghurt to add a hint of coolness to the sandwich. Although I will always prefer beef burgers, I’d be happy to eat this any day.
So does Fergburger live up to the hype? Yes, yes, and yes. I’ve eaten my fair share of excellent burgers by now, but Fergburger can hold its own against all of them. And what makes Fergburger so great? If you ask me, it’s their focus on getting things right, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. They have each element of the burger down to an exact science, and when you combine that with high-quality ingredients in generous portions, there is no way things can turn out badly. Mind you, they do have some more innovative items on the menu – venison, cod, and pork belly just for starters – but given my experience with the chicken burger, I’m willing to make a bet that those are more than just attention-grabbing gimmicks. I do wish I had time to try more of the items on the menu, but as we were only in Queenstown for 3 days and there was plenty of other things to eat, that was not to be. Still, I’m glad I finally got to tick Fergburger off my list, and I’m even more glad that it’s every bit as good as I had always imagined.
Rating: 15/20 – ferg-fans.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.