It has been a rough year for Chris Terlikar. The chef’s first business, Bluebonnet Barbecue in Collingwood, was gutted by a fire started by Loretta – his offset smoker. “It has been pretty tough,” he says. “I miss the Collingwood restaurant. It was my baby.”
Since then, Terlikar has tended the flame, so to speak, via a pop-up at the John Curtin Hotel. But, later this month, Bluebonnet Barbecue officially rises from the ashes with its own standalone venue in the former home of the North Fitzroy Star. “It’s a much bigger operation than what we had at Collingwood, which is good because we’ve been growing steadily ever since,” he says.
While the initial engagement is for 12 months, Terlikar believes there’ll be a possibility of a longer-term lease. He’s already hard at work changing up the bar, dining room and courtyard, which he’s opened up – while retaining the Art Deco ceilings and ornate fireplaces. Along with furniture by Samuel Moore, the room will be decorated by Melbourne taxidermists Talons of Death.
The menu’s also up for renovation, with a less orthodox approach to American barbeque, and guest chefs preparing plated dinners on Sundays. “We’re definitely changing things up a little bit,” he says. “We’ll be moving forward on what we did at Collingwood – it’s not going to be as traditional as it was there.”
There’ll also be a dedicated bar called, of course, Loretta’s, which will serve 10 craft beers on tap and 120 whiskies from America and Australia.
Meanwhile, the North Fitzroy Star has been in the news for other reasons. Locals have been vocally protesting the proposed townhouse development slated for the site. For his part, Terlikar is unsure about the status of the redevelopment. “I’m hoping it doesn’t go through, but that’s me, obviously,” he says. “There’s potential for us to stay in the front bar. The dining room will be gone, but Loretta’s will hang around.”
Bluebonnet’s tenure at the JC ends in two weeks (after which it’ll be replaced by the first north-side edition of Leonard’s House of Love), and is expected to open in North Fitzroy in three.