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. Since 2016, the chef has been settled at 140-year-old pub, The North Fitzroy Star.
The front bar, Loretta’s, is moodily lit space, with dark wood, reclaimed furniture and the occasional spot of taxidermy from local artist, Talons of Death.
Barman Oscar Eastman (ex-1806) runs a daring cocktail menu that stands out via creations such as Short ‘n’ Sweet (gin, salted coconut, red wine, herbal liqueur and lemon verbena sherbert). Otherwise there are ten taps pouring beers such as La Sirene, Stone & Wood, Mornington and Feral. A mammoth range of Australian and American whiskies is available, too.
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.
Sides such as apple and kohlrabi slaw give light, acidic contrast, while the deep-fried Brussel sprouts with a miso glaze stand up to their meaty counterparts. Keep an eye out for the plated specials – perhaps beef intercostals with smoked Jerusalem artichoke and burnt onion pickles.