Burke & Wills, A Grown-Up Australian Bistro Shines On The Upper West Side

The beautiful dining room at Burke & Wills on the Upper West Side

Although we're well past the days when the Upper West Side was something of a culinary disaster area–personal favorites among new(ish)comers include Bar Boulud, Red Farm, and The Smith–another reliable spot is always welcome for our neighborhood wanderings. So when the year-old Australian bistro Burke & Wills was cited several times in a recent "NYC's most underrated NYC restaurant" thread on Eater, I decided it was time to go eat some kangaroo! And other things. Located in the one of those semi-subterranean spaces on 79th Street, the former home of Sunburnt Calf, in fact, (which was also an Australian spot, though catering to a younger, more raucous crowd), Burke & Wills has a pretty dining room under a huge glass skylight in the back, a friendly bar up front, AND a separate "cricket and cocktail club" upstairs, decked out to look exactly as you'd expect such a thing to look, all worn leather armchairs and vintage photos of cricketers of yore. 

A sardine dish served from Burke & Wills, a Australian Bistro on the Upper West Side

Australian Bistro Fare Comes to the Upper West Side

Anyway, I went to Burke & Wills for an early supper the other evening to see what all the fuss was about. And though my meal itself had its ups and downs, the appeal of this place, in this neighborhood, is clear. Here is a grown-up party spot, with an ambitious cocktail program, friendly service, sexy Aussie accents, safe "rock" music, and a menu that has enough curveballs to keep things interesting, but with plenty of bistro classics for those more comfortable with the familiar. 

The 'Roo Burger, a specialty burger served at Burke & Wills in Manhattan

Burke & Wills: Inspired Cuisine Prepared to Perfection

My meal started with a new item in the menu, Sardines, and, mostly because I was expecting a plateful of whole fish, eyes staring up at you, everything charred by an open fire, maybe covered in course salt–you know, something a bit rough and tumble, like Australia–the tame, pickled filets with generic beets was a bit of a let down. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't terribly exciting. Things got considerably more wild with my main course, however, the Burke & Wills signature 'Roo Burger, made from, yes, kangaroo. It's not 100% kangaroo meat–I asked–because those outback hoppers are too lean to make proper burger, so they mix in about 30% pork. They also add mustard seed, fennel, and some other palate-stimulating things, top it off with a thick tomato jam and a pile of shaved onions, in between a nice, chewy bun, and the result is a satisfyingly complex burger (was that smoke I tasted? and what's making it so spicy?) that's not quite like any other I've had in the city. 

A view of the "secret" Manhattan Cricket Club located upstairs from Burke & Wills

After-Dinner Drinks At The Manhattan Cricket Club

As far as the "hidden" Manhattan Cricket Club upstairs, well… it was empty at 6:30 when I checked it out (no surprise), so it's tough to say what the scene is like at a more appropriate hour, but all indications point to the sort of place where, if you're serious about drinking well, you're going to enjoy yourself.  


More Information & Menu Options at Burke & WIlls

Burke & Wills and the Manhattan Cricket Club are located on 79th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. Burke & Wills opens on weekdays at 4:00 p.m. and stays that until 12:00 midnight on Sunday through Wednesday, and until 2:00 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday. Burke & Wills also serves a lively brunch on the weekends. For more information, and a look at the complete Burke & Wills menu, see here. To learn more about the Manhattan Cricket Club, see here. 

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