Carnivores rejoice – barbecue joints are popping up everywhere, with smoked and woodfired meat centrestage.
Barbecuing can be hot work, whether you’re indoors or out, so first things first: once you’ve found your way to this sprawling, light-filled Korean-style barbecue restaurant overlooking the Queen Street Mall, order an ice-cold draught beer before choosing your meaty morsels from the extensive menu. The beautifully marbled Wagyu beef smells so good sizzling away on the grill at your table, you’ll forget all about the heat. Same goes for the spicy chicken thighs. And the sweet-soy marinated pork. And the beef ribs. Really, there are no bad choices when it comes to a combination of quality meats given the smoky charcoal treatment. Don’t forget to ask for lettuce (which comes with the barbecue sets) – the crisp, fresh leaves are the perfect wrap for juicy grilled meat. If this is your first table barbecue, waitstaff are happy to lend a hand.
Level 1, 43 Queen Street, Brisbane; (07) 3211 1212
Big Roddy’s Rippin’ Rib Shack
When you visit this cute diner-meets-industrial-look rib joint in South Brisbane’s hip Fish Lane precinct, whatever you do, don’t eat the beef ribs with your hands. Not because it’s bad manners but because that huge hunk of slow-cooked meat is so tender, it’s likely to slide right off the bone and into your lap – so instead of tasting the sticky, deliciously smoky-sweet sauce, you’ll be wearing it. The deep-fried wings slathered in buffalo sauce pack a decent punch, too, and come with your choice of dipping sauces. Keep it classic with the blue-cheese option or take a chance on the lime and pepper mayonnaise. Unlike the beef, pork ribs are definitely finger food so dig in – they have bibs if you need one. For a different take on fries, try the Canadian-style poutine, a decadent basket of hand-cut chips that are smothered in gravy and squeaky cheese.
￼67 Fish Lane, South Brisbane; (07) 3046 2371
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen
Kenny McHardy likes playing with fire. Sometimes the owner-chef of this cosy dining room cooks things straight on the embers – witness juicy local sardines hit with parsley, lemon and garlic before being tossed on banksia coals to winning effect. Other times, he’ll use his woodfired oven to coax maximum deliciousness from rare-breed chicken, whole heads of cauliflower and whatever else his network of farmers and growers has delivered that day. But regardless of what’s on the menu, eating at Manuka remains one of Perth’s most satisfying outings, the warmth of the welcome matching that of the hearth in the kitchen. This zeal for local produce carries over to the well-chosen drinks list – a celebration of Western Australian beer, wine and spirits.
134 High Street, Fremantle;￼ (08) 9335 3527
Market Eating House￼
Walking into this bare-brick, Edison bulb-festooned space at prime time is to witness a dining room at full flight (and volume). A custom-made charcoal grill and woodfired oven dominates the kitchen, while Brenton Pyke’s cooking draws inspiration from the Middle East. Whether he’s grilling chicken wings and serving them alongside a harissa- and dill-enriched yoghurt or transforming wood-roasted eggplant into baba ganoush of a higher order, the chef’s energy levels are set to high. Skewers of smoky cuttlefish with a preserved-lime mayonnaise are typical of the produce-driven specials (and you should always ask about the specials). And the wine list? Expect drops from the cellars of boutique Geographe vignerons.
9 Victoria Street, Bunbury; (08) 9721 6078
Image: Dixon & Smith
Little Miss Korea￼
She’s sassy, Little Miss Korea, with her plum laneway location, bright murals and polished concrete floors. But LMK – as she’s known to her friends – keeps it simple where it counts. That means you can choose a barbecue set ($38 to $75 per person, all excellent value) and cook the meats and vegetables over coals yourself as extractors work quietly above your table. The talents of owner-chef Chung Jae Lee are evident in the delicate pork dumplings that arrive first and the delicious marinades: chilli and ginger for the thinly sliced pork belly and Korean soy and garlic for the chicken.
Austin Lane, Darwin; (08) 8981 7092
Crumb Street Diner
Zac Shearer and Sian King built a cult following at Crumb Street Kitchen on Harrington Street. Now you can find their diner behind Brother Mine, a stylish bar and bistro also operated by the pair. If you’re not in the mood for the neon lights and street art inside, dine alfresco on fake grass (with blankets for chilly evenings). Choose a housemade milk bun with beef brisket, lamb or pork shoulder – all wood-smoked for up to 12 hours – or create your dream platter of meats, wings and vegetables (priced by weight) plus sides. The diner is licensed if you pass on a milkshake or soda float.
6 Wilson Street, New Town; (03) 6288 7043
Frank Restaurant and Bar
This gem is owned and operated by the crack team behind Suzie Luck’s and Smolt Kitchen. Take a seat by the window and, if you’re not distracted by the view, peruse the South American-influenced menu for grass-fed Tasmanian beef cooked over charcoal on a barbecue grill. Choose between tira de ancho (spiral-cut rib eye), flank steak, hanger steak, skirt steak or lamb rump, all served with chimichurri and salsa picante. From the chappa (a flat chrome barbecue), there’s charcoal-roasted salmon with fennel, cavolo nero, caperberries and lemon. Vegetarians are well fed, too, with dishes such as charred sweet potato with goat’s curd, muddled almonds, garlic and coriander or grilled beetroot with cultured chilli, roasted hazelnuts and pickles.
1 Franklin Wharf, Hobart; (03) 6231 5005
The after-work crowd has discovered Black Fire’s newly opened tapas bar. It’s home to Canberra’s best croquetas (blissful bundles of jamón Ibérico and creamy manchego béchamel) but it’s the open-fire slow-roasted meats that have passions aflame. Portions of beef, lamb or pork are served with a choice of sides and housemade sauces. Splashed with a manzanilla and apple sauce, smoky suckling pig never tasted so good, especially paired with a Rioja rosé. Team roast lamb with a dollop of horseradish crème fraîche and a glass of Don Ramón tempranillo. Dark brick and timber walls, moody metal chandeliers and sultry guitar strains are appropriately redolent of the backstreets of Barcelona.
45/38 Mort Street, Braddon; (02) 6230 5921
Tosung Charcoal BBQ
With its sci-fi chrome nozzle extractors, silvery suspended stars and footballs signed by the Korean team, Tosung sets the scene for a fun night out. Nab a window table with a coal-filled brazier at its centre and entertain curious passers-by with your barbecuing skills. For novices, expert help is a desperate glance away as the attentive waitstaff demonstrate how to grill a platter of various Wagyu beef cuts to perfection. Tongue-searing kimchi is among a number of side dishes and sauces that accompany the meats. If duck is your thing, it will sizzle reassuringly in its own dish of mushroom and onion while you scorch deliciously marinated ribs just the way you like them. ￼
15 Franklin Street, Manuka; (02) 6295 2627
Sunshine got a whole lot sunnier when this paean to the good old Aussie barbecue opened last year. A former petrol station turned into the proud home of authentic charcoal chicken, burgers and slaw, it has fast become the epicentre of inner-west Melbourne’s gentrification. Pack the kids into the station wagon, stake a claim to a picnic table under a broad yellow umbrella and tuck into a quarter of chicken with skin burnished to the colour of a ’70s suntan, barbecue lamb chops lavished with lemon, rosemary and garlic or slow-cooked pork ribs with housemade barbecue sauce. Things take a turn for the new millennium with accoutrement such as ginger soy squid and grilled saganaki – not to mention the fridge full of craft beers.
64 Glengala Road, Sunshine West; (03) 9312 0223
Image: Jill Haapaniemi
Not-so-fun fact: the huge smoker known as Loretta caused a fire that burnt its previous home to the ground. But Collingwood’s loss is Fitzroy North’s gain, with a repentant Loretta now relocated to the courtyard of the pub formerly known as the North Fitzroy Star. The menu at Bluebonnet, Melbourne’s best Texas-style barbecue, will transport you to the Lone Star State with huge platters of meat and shareable sides requiring serious napkin action. Get busy with pork ribs, housemade sausages, lamb ribs, porter-braised beef cheek or classic smoked chook. Vegetarians can join the party with bourbon-glazed carrots, smoked jackfruit and fried green tomatoes with whipped goat’s fetta and red pepper aïoli. Fun fact: the front bar is called Loretta’s. Evidently all is forgiven.
32 St Georges Road South, Fitzroy North;￼ (03) 9972 1815
The truth-in-advertising award goes to Meatmaiden, a place where vegetarians might fear to tread. The sleek basement space tucked under Georges department store is a little hard to find but follow your nose. The custom-built smoker, fuelled by Blue Mountains ironbark, adds its lick of delight to everything, including beef brisket that’s been cooked low and slow, pork ribs with finger-lickin’ chilli caramel and the deliciously burnt ends for the 99 per cent of people who think they’re too good to waste. Aimed at the city suit crowd, this is the place to posh up your mac ’n’ cheese with a medallion of lobster and a wink of shellfish oil or enjoy the flavour-enhancing effects of smoke on everything from the coleslaw to the Old Fashioned cocktail.
Basement, 195 Little Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 9078 7747 ￼
Image: Melissa Cowan
Low & Slow American BBQ
On fire ever since it moved from a red-hot food truck to permanent premises as part of the Port Adelaide renaissance, Low & Slow is built around two Yoder smokers imported from Kansas (though the flavours are more Texas-style). The beef brisket is seasoned with salt and pepper before being smoked for up to 18 hours, while the sticky-glazed pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender. With sides of blue-cheese sauce and cornbread, this is definitely not diet food, though cavalo nero “collard greens” and a crunchy apple-and-cabbage slaw do compensate a little. There’s plenty of bourbon, of course, to go with the meal. Don’t be perturbed by the large roll of paper towels – you’ll need them.
17 Commercial Road, Port Adelaide; 0402 589 722
Image: Angus Kiley
Some people come here just for Mama Milica’s creamy potato salad and her homemade chargrilled bread. But with aged steaks that weigh up to one kilogram, piles of ribs and platters that include chicken skewers, pljeskavica (beef and pork patties) and ćevapčići (spicy sausages), Kaffana is all about the meats grilled by Milica’s son, Nenad Vujic. This is generous, hearty, Serbian-style soul food, best exemplified by Nenad’s chargrilled baby back pork ribs, which are rubbed with paprika, salt and pepper before being topped with a parsley and garlic glaze that’s been aged for at least a month. Pickled cabbage leaf rolls and slow-baked borlotti beans provide a token vegetarian touch, while ending with a glass or two of slivovitz is pretty much mandatory.
27 Gilbert Place, Adelaide; 0431 591 018
LP’s Quality Meats
The most nuanced and downright delicious barbecue joint Down Under comes courtesy of former Tetsuya’s head chef Luke Powell. Hidden among the laneways of cool inner-city Chippendale is this cavernous, beer hall-like space where communal tables fill with groups getting rowdy about an eclectic wine list, rocking tunes and food that elevates barbecue to a new level. Start with Sydney’s best housemade mortadella. Pickled cumquats add a sharp edge to lightly smoked duck and pork terrine, while applewood cold-smoked ocean trout benefits from a quenelle of crème fraîche. Then choose your smoked-flesh adventure from a bevy of winners: smoked then fried chicken, 12-hour fall-apart beef short ribs, porchetta rolled with fennel, chilli and garlic or the must-order lamb belly stuffed with a housemade merguez sausage. You may need someone to carry you home.
￼Suite 1, 16 Chippen Street, Chippendale; (02) 8399 0929
Bovine & Swine Barbecue Co.
We’re not sure which is longer: the queues that snake out the door of this American-style barbecue joint or the wafts of smoke floating through the air. We know this: once you hit Enmore Road, it’s clear where the boys from Bovine & Swine are. Pull up a stool, roll up your sleeves, slap on a bib and stuff your face with Southern-style goodness. It’s high energy and there’s a here-for-a-good-time-not-a-long-time mentality to dining. The star of the show is the smoker made by the chefs themselves and fuelled by Australian hardwood. It produces an array of meats – all smoked for up to 12 hours – that you order by the 100 grams, including beef brisket, chopped pork, chicken, pork ribs, pork belly, beef short ribs and a choice of sides (the slaw and mac ’n’ cheese are must-haves). If you don’t fancy a slab of meat, there are smoked-meat sandwiches, too – but get in early because the brisket and slaw one sells out fast.
92 Enmore Road, Newtown; (02) 9517 1243
Top image: Meatmaiden