Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Meatworks, Melbourne.
Melbourne needs another smoked and slow-braised meat joint like it needs another bar that plays Courtney Barnett on vinyl. But then along comes South Melbourne's Meatworks and, however grudgingly, you have to admit there may still be some way to go before the genre is fully played out.
For starters, it looks good. The former panel-beating workshop taps into Melbourne's addiction to industrial spaces - whitewashed walls and authentically scuffed concrete floors - but mercifully omits the dangling Edison light bulbs, opting instead for battered enamel shades and hanging planters stuffed with healthy fishbone fern. Effective sound-baffling means the noise levels are civilised, too.
Owner Lindsay Jones-Evans (formerly of Sydney's Jones the Grocer and The Victoria Room) and his wife, Shengnan, have been hands-on with the renovation and Jones-Evans built the 450-kilo smoker that scents the air with hickory smoke.
The couple also work the floor and the counter - you order and pay at the counter and get a number on a stick for your table, which works just fine in this setting and with these prices (the menu tops out at around $24). Aside from daily specials, the menu includes a very decent beef brisket sandwich on toasted rye, moistened with beef stock, with Dijon mustard and a good coleslaw. (Okay, it's supposed to be sauerkraut according to the menu, but the crisp and refreshingly vinegary slaw works a treat.) There's the expected Americana of pulled pork burgers and smoked meat platters, but also Asian influences such as rich slow-braised sticky beef shin served with green vegetables, vermicelli noodles and a spicy beef broth, and some vegetarian options.
Meatworks is only open for lunch right now, but will be expanding its hours into the night in the new year. Strictly necessary? Perhaps not. Glad it's here? For sure.
Meatworks, 28-30 Ross St, South Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9041 5727. Open Tue-Fri 11am-4pm, Saturday 10am-4pm.
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