When you are travelling with family on a budget, in a foreign country it has its challenges, the primary one being conscious of how much money is being spent, and of course doing the currency conversions to how expensive everything is in your home country’s currency.
That’s why this one is for a service which I think is a big savior for folks like me. And that is the Burger King in Australia. This one’s going out especially for them.
I have a peculiar relationship with finance when I travel abroad, and unfailingly it happens time and again. Almost always when I travel to a more advanced market like in West Europe or the US I have had difficulties in using the credit card or accessing my accounts through ATMs. Call it fate or just plain old garbling of the wires – something always goes wrong. In one instance, a hotel in London swiped my card twice and blocked off a huge part of my card’s limit. Another time, I was in Switzerland – and this is nearly 2 decades back, when the market was insulated and most of the banks were not connected or present in Switzerland. So I could not only not access the accounts through the ATMs, but also do much of the other transactions that I can easily do using mobile commerce or on the web at the click of a button these days.
Anyways coming back to the present, by some sheer force of destiny, I am booked into an 18 day sojourn through Oz with my family, and due to bureaucratic muddles, I cannot reorganize this nor get much done to back out of it, so I decide to dive in, and enjoy this trip with my family.
But as usual before I leave I try to organize my finances, and am faced with even more bureaucratic grizzles when it comes to the banks and credit cards, where my request for a temporary increase in credit limit as well as flexibility in organizing an advance on my salary takes time.
So as I am going through the trip – I have one eye on the purse strings and the other keeping tabs with my bank and credit cards. So no lavish lunches or dinners – not that I have much of a choice in terms of food options, given that we are vegetarian, and quite fussy in terms of culinary options.
And then we discover Burger King, which is curiously called Hungry Jacks in Australia.
Now burger king we know from our stay in Indonesia, is the only fast food chain there, which gives us a vegetarian burger. We don’t quite like the veg burgers they make in Jakarta – something’s always amiss there and it is the last ditch option for us, purely for survival.
So when we see Hungry Jacks, it looks familiar but doesn’t register. We are delighted that they have a veg option and decide to go for it. They also give us an option of orange juice instead of a cola. (but reportedly orange juice drinks apparently have more sugar than a can of cola – nearly twice as much, if those documentaries are to be believed).
Burger King or Hungry Jacks is no different here than in the rest of the world, possibly worse for wear, given its in a high volume tourist location. In any case it is easy to look down upon the fast food and quick service restaurants (QSR) about everything from unhealthy high calorie food options, to the standard cookie-cutter tasteless fare they dish out, to how bad the employees are treated, and how in turn they treat their customers etc. etc. But mostly even worse, is IMHO how badly the customers treat these QSRs. In a lot of places we call the mcdonalds as bus stations where people just park themselves in between their things to do – and crash out, like they do at bus stations while waiting overnight for the bus stations. So in a lot of places we’ve noticed that there are folks sleeping about, just hanging about – practically all of them not having even the token coffee or French fries as the cover charge, one would have expected them to do.
So in hungry jacks, there’s very few place to sit – and its packed, we find one corner table, which is disturbingly left in a mess like they do in all fast food places. It looks like a low maintenance hungry jacks where the employees only focus on cooking and serving the cash counters. Nobody takes care of the tables. The customer room is also used as a store room – and we see several cartons of plastic crockery and tissues and even some food (as expiry dates are mentioned). We have our apprehensions
What catches us by surprise, is how good the food is. The hungry jacks team tells us we don’t need to go for the full meal and can simply have the burger as it is.
The veg burger is – (and yes please jump in with the veg jokes here) – one of the best I have eaten in a long time. The bread is fresh, soft and also has a distinct flavor almost on par with the pav one gets in the bakeries of Mumbai. The patty is crisp yet has the freshness and moistness of something prepared overnight and not the stale, life-less chewy factory produced stuff that has been frozen since the ice ages. It has a good creamy sauce (mayo, I guess but seems less vinegary, so could be crème fraiche), and then the best super crunchiest set of vegetables, right from tomatoes to onions and lettuce – you can smell the freshness and flavourful bite as we devour it.
Now good burgers had died down a natural death a long time ago with the chain of QSRs coming in pressure through financials. Thus if you had a burger at McDonalds in India when they started off (and joined the queue with the Bollywood stars) – it would be a far cry from what is being served today. In fact, what is being served today would qualify as a lite bite compared to what was served at McDonalds when they were launched, where the focus was on getting good will and word of mouth. Today the burger size is nearly half – there’s barely much sauce, almost no onions (if you’ve been in India – you know the story) – and yes, I didn’t see any vegetables in the last few years. Also McDs do not provide any veg burgers in a lot of international locations including Indonesia and Australia – though strangely they did so in Switzerland – it was a life savour.
So when I am biting into this, it’s the finest quality of a veg burger that I have eaten – the way it is supposed to be produced with high quality ingredients.
The price is also good – I am paying nearly half of what I’d pay at say a decent place which would give me a budget-friendly meal option.
We are mid way through the trip, but we do hope hUngry Jacks does not let us down in the final few days – we are really loving it! Thanks for being a life saver.