“Smoky, tender, meaty goodness,” says Neil Hamblen, co-owner of Meatmother, the new American barbecue restaurant in Richmond, when challenged to describe his menu in four words or less. And he’s not just talking about the food.
Indeed, at the top of the cocktail list is the Bacon Sour, a dangerously good blend of bacon-infused Maker’s Mark, citrus and bitters, garnished with an entire rasher of candied bacon. The motto at Meatmother seems to be that bacon makes just about everything taste better.
Canadian head chef Yannick Dagenais brings with him a wealth of experience, from barbecue championships to working with Michelin-starred chefs. “The first thing he cooked for us was his mac and cheese,” says Hamblen. “It’s one of the first items he cooked in his career as a chef [and] it's already being hailed by customers as the most authentic mac and cheese in Australia.”
Most diners go for the meat tray, which might feature the outstanding beef short rib (which Hamblen describes as “like something out of The Flintstones”) and a generous serve of pan-fried sprouts with yet more free range bacon, or beef brisket with a creamy chipotle coleslaw. Pulled pork is cooked low and slow and has a smoky, tangy finish, while pork spare ribs are rubbed with spices and seasoning the night before service and smoked for four hours before being sauced and finished on the grill.
While bourbon connoisseurs may be horrified by the prospect of a bacon-infused Maker’s Mark, plenty more of the good stuff goes untainted, with an extensive list of bourbons, ryes and whiskeys sitting alongside some decent craft beers, ciders and a minimal wine list.
Architect Matt Rawlins of Figure Ground (designer behind Pope Joan and The Bishop of Ostia and newcomer Industry Beans in Fitzroy) is behind the look and feel of Meatmother. With two levels, patrons can choose from the more casual bar setting downstairs and a sit-down dining experience upstairs. In terms of décor, somewhat gory canvases by Fitzroy's Urchin Associates appear on the walls and set the scene for a night of carnivorous debauchery. That is, if a meat coma doesn’t set in first.