One of Melbourne’s finest pitmasters has a new home in one of our coziest little back-street pubs
When Bluebonnet opened in Collingwood in 2014, we knew the obsession with all things American had finally gone from kitsch fascination to true appreciation with Australian chefs like Chris Terlikar finally starting to get it right. Unfortunately for Terlikar (and us), the Collingwood venue was lost to a fire last year, which meant that Bluebonnet moved into a temporary residence in the kitchen of Carlton’s Curtin Hotel. Now, finally, Bluebonnet has found a new permanent home, having taken over one of the cutest little pubs in town.
The North Fitzroy Star has always been the sort of place you're happy to stumble across on a rainy afternoon. The corner building is a converted Victorian terrace with all the charm of floral tile work around cast iron fireplaces and a courtyard with generations of paint peeling from ivy-laced bricks. Terlikar’s small changes to the décor are what you’d describe as American junkyard chic – worn plank doors serve as tables and rusty old bits of power pole act as light fittings. While this doesn't evoke quite the Texas backyard nostalgia of the original Collingwood restaurant, it's a more Melbourne version and still a hugely comforting space that also has more room to move.
And the food is still epic. Various smoked meats are texturally perfect, and like most barbecue places, come by the 100g portion. The meat ain’t cheap, but you can make up the difference with huge servings of the best sides in town like beetroot, barley and dill salad, giant deep fried McClure’s pickles, miso-sweet Brussels sprouts or apple, red cabbage and kohlrabi slaw, a modern take on the Southern classic with mustard and maple for sweetness. It works best when you’ve got a big group to divide and conquer. In a pub setting it’d be good to see a cheaper one-person option like a sandwich, but you shouldn’t have trouble getting friends to join you here.
Behind the bar, now called Loretta’s, Terlikar’s love of American whiskey is on display with a good selection of Bourbons including some hard to find stuff like Van Winkle 12yo and George T. Stagg. There are good craft beer options and Southern themed mixed drinks, too. The bar program is set to take serious shape when Eau De Vie’s Oscar Eastman takes over in the coming weeks. Just in time for winter, the denizens of Fitzroy North couldn’t have asked for a better local. It’s heartening to see this little star shine on.
|Venue name:||[Closed] Bluebonnet Barbecue|
32 St Georges Rd South
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 5-11pm; Sat, Sun noon-3pm, 5-11pm|