[THIS VENUE IS CLOSED] TV chef Iain Hewitson has ventured to South Melbourne via 1950s USA
[THIS VENUE IS CLOSED] Iain “Big Huey” Hewitson is the kiwi star of TV show Huey’s Kitchen (before that Huey’s Cooking Adventures) whose robust moustache, exciting suspenders and self-deprecating chortles have accompanied Australian naps since 1997. His latest adventure brings him to South Melbourne, where he’s offering unapologetically huge and slightly retro takes on US diner classics.
The place isn’t short on kitschy charm. Laminex tables, red booths and neon signs add a '50s feel while up the back there’s a jukebox fully loaded with 45s of Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. There’s even a Beach Boys track written by Charles Manson. Dial it up and let the good times roll.
It’s probably best you check your knowledge of authentic American food at the door. A bowl of poutine (a Canadian invention of French fries covered in mild, stretchy milk curds and gravy) sees thick cut chips embalmed in melted Mainland cheddar with a tangy tomato and mustard gravy. Authentic? No way. Delicious? It’s chips and cheese – you can’t miss.
Big Huey’s is about as American as an Outback Steakhouse is Australian. Where the US chain pushes “true blue” barbecued shrimp and pictures of Crocodile Dundee, here you’ll find America’s greatest sandwich hits from reubens and burgers to chilli dogs served on Turkish pide.
We’re not convinced it’s the universal carb for the job. The spongy bread is too much for some fillings, especially the deep fried, but still delicately flavoured oysters in a po’ boy. Still, stuffed with two chunky, cheese-wrapped beef patties, crisp iceberg lettuce, bacon and tangy beetroot relish it’s a perfectly tasty, saucy mess. It’s also huge, and given that it comes with sweet potato fries and a pot of beer for $15 at lunch, it’s a decent deal to boot.
You also can’t go wrong with the floats. The under-ten team are going crazy for the frothy tang of mandarin Jaritos soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and so are we. You’ve also got decent booze, thanks to ex-Chin Chin sommelier and part owner Neil Prentice who’s adding potent Margarita slushies and Brooklyn lagers to the mix.
There are misses. The chilli, strangely billed as a light meal, tastes to us more like Bolognese and comes with naught but a sprinkle of cheese and a spoon. Their Caesar salad has an excellent mayo-based sauce flecked with anchovies, but on a menu that begs for the sweet relief of freshness, we wish they weren’t grilling the chunky quarters of iceberg lettuce.
Melbourne has really learnt its USA-B-Cs in the past few years, and the truth is you’ll find other places doing the classics better. But the enthusiasm here is genuine, the kids will love it and that jukebox is worth coming back for alone.
|Venue name:||Big Huey's Diner|
315 Coventry St