Lindsay Jones-Evans has been dreaming about Meatworks ever since a trip he took to Spain in the mid-‘90s. He was wandering through an open-air market in Valencia when he saw what he describes as a “wall of flaming chicken”.
“There were all these rotisserie chickens, turning and spitting and flaming in the searing Spanish heat,” he explains. “I just found it so impressive. The concept has stuck with me ever since.”
20 years and two venues later (The Victoria Room in Sydney and the Jones the Grocer empire), Jones-Evans has brought this concept to life with the opening of Meatworks – a casual, canteen-style eatery in a former mechanic’s in South Melbourne. And while this venue may have been inspired by those crispy, roasted Spanish chooks, the concept has evolved to include a variety of meats, cuisines and cooking methods.
“I wanted to put all the great meat dishes I’ve ever had around the world in one place,” says Jones-Evans. “Land-meat, sea-meat. Just meat!”
The menu is pretty short – Jones-Evans didn't want to overwhelm customers with 100-plus options – but it will change regularly, and there are daily specials. It's also reasonably priced: the most expensive thing at the moment is the smoked-meat platter, which at $24 includes smoked brisket, pulled pork, lamb and beef ribs, smoked hasselback potatoes and an array of condiments.
"I’m not interested in going out and spending lots of money on fine dining, so I really wanted to offer a quality eatery that wasn’t too expensive," he says.
Cuisine-wise, the project is quite varied; the aforementioned platter is very American, yet it's listed alongside a Vietnamese smoked-brisket baguette and a Thai-style tofu dish (the one vegetarian offering). The most common factor in the dishes is that almost all of them include a smoked element. Which is unsurprising, when you consider that Jones-Evans designed and built Meatworks’ 450-kilogram wood smoker himself.
"I used to be a set designer in the film industry, so I’ve built just about every conceivable kind of thing – never a smoker before, but for me to conceive and build something is very easy,” he says. “I think smoking adds such beautiful value to food items."
Three reds, three whites and a sparkling are all available for $8 a glass or $35 a bottle. Cocktails and other mixed drinks will be available when the bar opens early next year.
"I’ve just created a place that I would like to go to," says Jones-Evans. "No frills, affordable, but great quality and delicious."
(Opening hours to be extended in December, and again in 2016.)