As a tribute to The Big Easy, the duo behind Chingon in Richmond – brothers Will and Mick Balleau – have converted Collingwood’s Hell Tower Saloon into Le Bon Ton, a New Orleans-inspired oyster saloon, smokehouse, cocktail bar and absinthe den.
The building itself has been stripped back to its former shell with embellishments added by the brothers; the dining-room table tops from the recycled timber furniture maker next door, inlaid with champagne boxes for example.
The front bar is run by cocktail guru Evan Stanley formerly of Black Pearl. There are American microbrewery beers on tap and a cocktail list worthy of revisiting; the quintessential New Orleans cocktail, the Sazerac, is a great starting point.
In the astro-turfed courtyard Alabama-born, Texas-raised Jeremy Sutphin, formerly of Fog, oversees two offset smokers and a big cabinet smokehouse where eight, seven-kilogram Riverina grain-fed Angus beef briskets and four pork shoulders are mesquite-smoked for up to 16 hours. When ready, slather it with Sutphin’s “damn good” barbeque sauce, a comforting mix of Carolina vinegar with Texan earthiness (for those chasing extra spice, the bright orange habanero delivers).
On Friday and Saturday nights, unwind in the darker absinthe, oyster and champagne room and partake in the absinthe ritual, between necking oysters, or perhaps a pastis or glass of champagne.