Arrrrggggghhhhh me hearties, a good chef friend of mine mentioned THE HOLD, a burger joint and bar in Manly with a “pirate-like” theme. How did I not know of this already? Our lovely waitress, or being pirate and boat themed should I be calling her a wench? (she was too nice for that), but anyway she kindly informed me the venue had been in operation for over a year, where were my burger senses? why was I not here before?!
The venue is straight out of the guts or “hold” of a ship and is reminiscent of being on The Black Pearl, hell my burger was even called “Captain Jack.” There are low ceilings, all exposed wood and metal bindings and bare bulbs hang through old rope from the ceiling. The place is welcoming-warm and comfy and my guest for the evening, occasional burgering partner in crime, DanO, and I both thought motors on the ropes throughout the venue so they occasionally swung in unison would add a certain rocking motion to the venue – I wanted the sound of waves crashing and for the lights to flicker every few minutes as well but DanO thought that was too over the top. I stopped from then mentioning my want of water underfoot every hour :).
I loved this venue, it is not really tacky and themed but more homaged and exciting. Making the wooden walls shine are the incredible tattooed like artwork of giant octopus and mermaids swinging from anchors and steering wheels and actual anchors and ship memorabilia, I was like a kid in a candy shop at the place wanting to look at everything. Owner Keith Skinner started the venue about a year ago as a more high end cocktail lounge but like most places in Manly he had to adapt and the venue went to a whiskey lounge with Mexican snacks and Spanish tapas.
This again has now changed and the place has maintained it’s love of the grog but the food has changed to high end burgerdom and while I was skeptical at reading the menu at the high prices of the venue both DanO and I were sold, hey any burger that comes out with a giant knife slammed through the middle wins for me.
The venue offers some wicked cocktails, does some wizardry with their fries (fries with maple bacon, bourbon barbecue sauce, cheddar and corn salsa for example), offers seven amazing sounding tapas/ mains (smoked cod croquettas, pineapple jam and micro salad for example) but specialises in burgers – this place is no longer all about the whiskey, it is now all about the burgers. They offer nine burgers that range from your “standard” to your more extreme. You can double your patties and you can go the gluten free bun option. They have beef patties, chicken burgers, beef cheek, fish, lamb burgers but I could not locate a veggo option. The burgers all range from $18- to $22- with $6- to double up and $2- for gluten free buns.
I was eating inside a pirate ship so of course I was eating Captain Jack: 150gm all beef patty, crispy bacon, jack cheddar, mac and cheese infused onion ring, bourbon BBQ sauce and American mustard with a Detroit pickle $20-. DanO ordered Blue Beard’s Slow Boat: 6hr slow braised beef cheek, jalapeno jam, bacon aioli, stilton blue cheese and rocket $20-. We both decided to share burgers so we could fully analyse and debate. Naturally we both loved our own ordered burgers more than the other. Blue beard would have been my second choice easily.
On the burgers using the FBAS scoring template Captain Jack – JK 4, DanO 3, Blue Beard – JK 4 DanO 4.5.
The run down is thus: We both loved the buns, Japanese Milk buns that were flawless, perfectly oiled and never fell apart.
JK – loved it, it is very American being completely lacking in any form of salad, having the pickle sliced on the bun would have added to the experience and it’s acidity could have broken through the meat, oil, fat, cheese combo. That onion ring, it was an onion ring covered in Mac and Cheese and deep fried – that’s the large thing looking like a chicken breast on the burger. The burger could not be judged on individual flavours, it was an all encompassing single flavour of delight. I got to eat this one first and cut it in half so DanO got a different version of the same burger. Would order again!
DanO – was not a huge fan, found the meat overdone, the bacon a bit stringy and was disappointed in the no salad option. I am wondering if the extra 10mins before he got his half off my plate resulted in the meat “over-resting” and drying out? Would not order again.
Blue Beard’s Slow Boat:
DanO – LOVED IT – found it near perfection. Nothing negative to say. Would order again.
JK – thoroughly enjoyed it. My half was in a slight state of disarray after DanO got excited while eating it and was reluctant to hand it over, although he kindly left me more than half. Found it beautiful to the taste but unless you are a HUGE fan of blue cheese DO NOT ORDER this – it is incredibly powerful with its blue cheese flavours. The beef cheek is a divine match to the cheese and was cooked to perfection. I did find the jalapeno jam vague and blended into the background behind the blue cheese. Now the menu stated “rocket” – it came with no rocket – that is coral lettuce, also no mention of tomato but that is a tomato – although the tomato is a good thing – it offers a nice umami compliment to the somewhat tang of the cheese. Would order again.
The Hold is a big thumbs up from both of us: it offers good food, good alcohol, good staff, great location and sublime venue. As far as venues go in Manly it is more towards the boutique end of the scale and this makes it a JK fave – the larger venues are not my cup of mead. I will happily go here again and would love my parents to experience it – but I would do an earlier dinner with the parents, it fills up quickly and the downside of this was the staff were flat out and waiting increased but the bonus of it being later and filled up is the live music the place regularly has. Manly needs more venues like The Hold and Jamtown – both awesome places for quality food and entertainment!
One thing of note – no address on their website – the address for reference is: Shop 4 Sydney Road Plaza
Manly 2095 (02) 9977 2009.