Charlie & Co. | ION Orchard

You might want to check out Carl’s Jr. instead. It’s better than this, actually.

Pictured, Classic Charlie Burger with a choice of cheese (blue cheese)

Singaporeans will gladly lap up anything as long as it’s foreign… Well, food wise only, I suppose. As if to prove a point to demonstrate the ignorance of Singaporeans’ unexplainable bias towards international brands, an Australian based burger chain, Charlie & Co. has opened in Singapore’s ION Orchard’s fourth basement. Charlie & Co., along with Becasse (which I hear has either opened, or opening soon in Singapore), used to be owned by Australian top chef, Justin North. The New Zealander’s ascend to the top began in 2001 when he opened his first restaurant, Becasse with his wife, and they’ve been on a roll ever since – expanding their business to include casual restaurants, fast food outlets, cafes and cookery schools. Charlie & Co. burgers was launched in Sydney in 2009 to rave reviews. The restaurant’s namesake comes from Charlie Nagreen, one of the many American claimants to the title of inventor of the hamburger.

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. North’s businesses soon buckled under his self-created property bubble. The downward spiral was most apparent in the food. As recent as late 2012, reviews of its flagship Charlie & Co outlet were described as, “tasteless”, “changed recipe for the worst”, “order with caution”… The Becasse Group liquidated in June 2012, but Becasse bakery and Charlie & Co. burger still operate after Jones The Grocer bought the rights to those brands for just AUD 433,000.

Sea Salt Fries served with a choice of sauce (Charlie’s Signature Tomato Sauce) and a bottle of Ginger Beer

Frankly, when Darren suggested we try Charlie & Co., I wasn’t immediately excited. Believe me, I went into Charlie & Co. completely cold, unaware of the events that had transpired. All I knew was, “Charlie & Co. is Australian”. That’s it. I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic because having eaten Omakase Burger once more last week, I wasn’t sure what could top that. I still think Omakase Burger isn’t the best in Singapore, but owner Hsin Yao has set the bar very high. I do end up agreeing to it. The Singapore outlet is sleek and modern… not unlike the other food spaces which share ION Orchard’s food basement. The menu’s stylized as an old-style newspaper, inside stocked with more burgers than you can imagine, as well as sea salt fries, Parmesan and truffle fries, onion rings or a salad. The burgers are made with fresh artisanal buns, and several burgers come with the option between aged cheddar, brie or blue cheese.

There wasn’t anything that I enjoyed at Charlie & Co. The sea salt fries were overwhelmingly average – it was never appropriately crisp on the outside, the sparing amount of sea salt did little to elevate or enhance the fries. The sauce, we picked the Charlie’s signature sauce, tasted like a chilled and watery version of a tomato based pasta sauce.

Darren’s Mighty Charlie burger

Still, the sea salt fries were marvelous compared to what the burgers were. It really goes to show that even if you’ve the best ingredients, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s still going to be shit. Yes, there was some effort with the fresh-baked artisanal buns. Sure, the vegetables were fresh, but these were the only things going for it. My Classic Charlie Burger was no better than a Big Mac – the “premium Wagyu patty” was neither juicy nor tender, and was generally tasteless. At this point, I was just mad, especially when I look at the prices I’m charged.


One thought on “Charlie & Co. | ION Orchard

  1. Hi Levin,

    I agree with your review. Wished i read it earlier before trying the over priced burger. Appreciated your research on the origins of the chain.
    I had the Double Cheese and Bacon Burger with Parmesan, Truffle Fries and chocolate milk shake cost S$30. Boy was it not worth it.

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