When the original Bluebonnet Barbecue burned down after the smoker caught fire, pitmaster Chris Terlikar took up a year-long residency at the John Curtin Hotel. Now the chef has a new home in a 140-year-old pub, The North Fitzroy Star.
The front bar, Loretta’s, has 10 taps pouring La Sirene, Mornington, Feral and Stone and Wood. Around 70 varieties of Australian and American whiskies are available now, but that list will grow to about 120 when Oscar Eastman of Eau de Vie takes over as barman. It’s a moodily lit space, with dark wood, reclaimed furniture and the occasional spot of taxidermy from local artist, Talons of Death.
Out back, it’s all about meat. Served on paper and sold by the gram, Rangers Valley Black Onyx brisket is smoked for 14 hours over ironbark and oak. Texan aficionados will come for the Berkshire pulled pork and the hot smoked belly, and come back for the beef ribs whenever they’re available. Whole Marylands of oak-smoked chook come out golden. Sausages are made in-house daily. “We try to use offcuts,” says Terlikar. “Anything that’s left over from the beef brisket when we trim it, we use that for the sausages.”
Sides such as apple and kohlrabi slaw give light, acidic contrast, while the deep-fried Brussel sprouts with a miso glaze stands up to its meaty counterparts. Terlikar’s also upped the stakes with the plated specials; this week it was beef intercostals with smoked Jerusalem artichoke and burnt onion pickles. “We’re going to change it up a little bit,” he says. “We’re playing around more and making things a little more cheffy.”
The current lease only runs another year before the fate of the Star, which is under threat of development, is decided. Let’s hope Bluebonnet’s new home stays fit for a pit.
32 St Georges Road South, Fitzroy North
(03) 9972 1815
Mon to Fri 5pm–11pm
Sat to Sun 12pm–3pm, 5pm–11pm