Depreston? Banish the thought, now that Stray Neighbour has thrown open its ex-mechanic doors on Plenty Road and Dexter is coming straight at the High Street crowd with its cool X-marks-the-spot cube tacked onto a former office building. Looks like postcode 3072 finally got the memo that playing hard to get with the signage is de rigueur.
So look for the X. That’s Dexter. Walk inside to an entirely unexpected interior that looks like a futuristic cantina. It’s lovely – lots of whitewash, a long food bar where the communally minded gather, timber and glossy tile and a takeaway section at front. It’s the sort of thing that looks a million bucks and is all the more impressive that it’s not the work of overpaid designers but the hard graft of the owners, brothers Sam and Tom Peasnell and Adam Goldblatt. Between them chefs Tom and Adam have worked at Chin Chin, Three Bags Full, MoVida and Auction Rooms, but they’re mostly taking their cues from Tom’s time at Pitt Cue Co, the London pitmasters putting an English spin on American barbecue.
Think tin trays with ribs and sauce, marrow trenchers (translation: chargrilled sourdough with bone marrow butter), pickles and 'slaw. The beef short rib is smoked for 12 hours, cooked sous vide then basted mercilessly with salted caramel. It blackens on the grill, turning the sugars into an ambient sweetness; the drippings are turned into gravy. Good times.
You’ll definitely want the fried cauliflower. It’s dehydrated first so batter and vegetable become one. Slather it with the house-made smoked capsicum hot sauce or Sriracha. Grab one of their hot meat donuts with their spicy meat ragout centre and – yes – a sprinkling of icing sugar. It’s the latest addition to the Frankenfood craze, but a worthy one. Their bone marrow mashed potato is delectable – barbecue’s answer to the Robuchon mash. Add scratchings and really give your heart a jolt.
Burger? No, they do buns. The difference is no patties – it’s all proper, slow-cooked stuff with pickles in a charry brioche bun. Buttermilk fried chicken and green chilli slaw or pigs’ head and pickled pineapple. Milk and cookies is the dessert winner – milk ice-cream set with liquid nitrogen and fresh-outta-the-oven choc-chip cookies on a cooling tray. To wash it all down there’s a small Oz wine list, wisely kept to the lean end of the spectrum to cope with the fatty richness, or Reservoir brewery Hawkers on tap, or for those chasing the dragon’s tail, the pickleback (a shot of bourbon and pickle juice).
They’ve clearly pressed a nerve because Dexter’s buzzing. This juke joint is also planning to open Mondays soon for a weekly celebration of burgers and bad music. Sounds damned good to us.