Everybody loves a barbecue. And while we’re happy to chuck a snag or two on the barbie at home (or maybe a prawn if we’re feeling fancy), but flipping snags and patties on a hot Weber isn’t the only way to go.
Vibrant, multicultural Melbourne offers a myriad of grilled delights in all different forms. From the fragrant spices of the Middle East and North Africa and the slow cooked smokiness of American barbecue, to the knife-wielding Teppanyaki chefs grilling Japanese-style and traditional Argentinean ribs and wings. Oh, and never underestimate the simplicity of a beautiful fresh piece of seafood cooked on the grill, just as the Greeks have been doing for years.
We’ve done the deliciously hard work for you and sourced some of best grills of the season. Here’s a selection of summer barbecues that you really must try.
Middle Eastern North African
Rumi's Sunday barbecue lunch
Joseph Abboud’s Brunswick East restaurant Rumi barbecue lunch each Sunday.
“We’re putting the spotlight on the grill,” explains Abboud. “We’re serving stuff off the hot coals with a bunch of condiments, like sumac, harissa and lemon.”
There’s house-made merguez sausage, quail, whole fish (such as rainbow trout) and lots of vegetables, like barbecued corn and asparagus. And for those who like a good merging of cultures, there’s even grilled wallaby on offer.
Expect serious flavours, with meat and fish highlighted by ingredients like ras el hanout (a traditional Moroccan spice mix commonly used in North Africa), preserved lemon and paprika.
And there’ll also be the usual dips, pickled vegetables and salads that Rumi regulars can’t get enough of. We reckon a perfect addition to barbecued meats is the shaved cabbage, soused onion, raisin and almond salad. Or perhaps something a little more traditional? “For the first time in six years, I’ve put tabouli on the menu,” laughs Abboud.
Abboud recommends drinking a Lebanese beer like Almaza, or traditional aniseed-based Lebanese spirit arak.
Demitri’s Feast Summer Grill
Jim Karabagias is stoking up the grill at his popular Richmond cafe Demitri’s Feast every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night during daylight savings.
The dinner menu begins with a rotating selection of mezze. Expect Angourosoupa (chilled cucumber and yoghurt soup), char-grilled octopus with cucumber toursi and oysters shucked to order. But the main event is fish on the grill.
“We’re doing what they do in Greece – keeping it simple. We’re going for the Taverna style, getting the fish in on the day of the dinner, having it on display. There’s a focus on quality and freshness,” says Karabagias.
Karabagias manages to get his hands on a beautiful array of local seafood. “Last night we were serving red mullet from Lakes Entrance and rock flathead from Wilsons Promontory,” he says. There’s also a chance you’ll see barramundi, Moreton Bay bugs and whole flounder on the menu.
There’s a succinct drinks list, which rotates some of the best wines coming out of boutique wineries in Greece. What does Karabagias recommend? “The 14–18h Agiogitiko rosé is amazing. It smells like it’s full of strawberries, but it’s actually really dry. Gorgeous.” He also name-checks the excellent Assyrtiko, a classic grape from Santorini.
If all else fails, there are three or four ouzos on rotation. “Depending on what’s left over from the staff,” laughs Karabagias.
Fancy Hanks BBQ
If you attended Melbourne Music Week in December, you might have been lucky enough to wrap your laughing gear around some fare from Fancy Hank’s BBQ. Hank’s is a movable feast, also operating outside at Joe’s Shoe Store in Northcote and Fitzroy’s Labour in Vain in recent months.
Taking a somewhat different approach to other BBQs, operator Kent Bell says that most of the meat is cooked for about 16 hours. “It’s a labour of love,” he explains. “We serve it like fast food, but it’s been cooked very, very slowly.”
Ribs are cooked Kansas-style (“wet and sticky”) and the pulled pork is done with vinegar and hot sauce, similar to how it’s served in North Carolina. The beef brisket is Texan-style, says Bell, “Like what you’d get Lockhart, Texas, where there are more barbecue places than people.”
Fancy Hanks aren’t quite ready to reveal their next summer grilling location, but keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out where they’ll be next.
Quietly going about their business in Moonee Ponds, Fuji Teppanyaki offers Japan’s answer to the barbecue. Choose from a series of banquets – most feature a generous amount of seafood, vegetables and Wagyu beef that gets cooked on a flat grill right in front of you. The chefs’ knife and grill skills are seriously entertaining (the flaming onion volcano was our favourite) and the food is fresh, plentiful and expertly cooked. The ‘prawn crackers’ (crispy prawn heads) are not to be missed.
South of the river, Senor BBQ in Carlisle Street, Balaclava serves up traditional Argentinean fare like juicy ribs, chicken wings and chorizo from the hot coals. Hernan Palacio opened the Balaclava shop in October after five years of catering in St Kilda and various festivals. Suffice to say, people have been flocking to his new digs in droves. A side of house-made chimmichurri sauce (chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar) is obligatory with your grilled meat.
No matter where you are in Melbourne, someone is stoking up the grill right now.
Rumi – Middle Eastern North African Barbecue
116 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
(03) 9388 8255
Barbecue lunch every Sunday from noon
Demitri’s Feast – Summer Grill
141 Swan Street, Richmond
(03) 9428 8659
Summer Grill – Thursday, Friday Saturday nights during Daylight Savings
Fancy Hanks BBQ
545 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds
(03) 9370 2188
Lunch: Tuesday to Friday & Sunday noon–3pm
Dinner: Daily 5.30pm–late
193 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
1300 274 227