Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Who knew American BBQ in Melbourne could be this gourmet...
Did you know that the origins of American barbecue date back as far as the colonial times?, with the first recorded mention in 1672. Barbecue has been a staple of American culture, especially South America for a very long time. George Washington mentions attending a "barbicue" in Alexandria, Virginia, back in 1769 and as the country expanded westward along the Gulf of Mexico and north along the Mississippi River, barbecue went with it.
I am so sorry to leave out the next 350 years of this historic food revolution (thank-goodness I hear you cry!). Because the story I really want to tell is about a punchy, playful and innovative Melbourne restaurant who are producing outstanding and creative dishes from their two-tonne custom-built smoker in the middle of the CBD.
Fancy Hank's first opened its doors in a smaller venue back in 2012, but it didn't take long for the word to get out about how irresistibly good the food is, and so 4 years later they were on the move to a new and larger location in order to cater to the demands of the business.
In 2016 they snapped up a stunning Art Deco building on Bourke Street, a place that is full of style and character. Natural light pours in from the huge curved windows that encompass the space and play homage to that fabulous 1920's era.
Upon opening the menu it was so unexpectedly experimental that it was very hard to decide what to order.
I am grateful that on this particular occasion we were dining in a large group of gorgeous friends and family who are all curious foodies, the perfect opportunity to order a little of everything.
First to hit the table, Sweet & sour BBQ wings with yoghurt ranch and pickled celery.
I purposely spend my time seeking out places purely for their BBQ wings and these little fellas did not disappoint. There is an art to making sure the chicken stays succulent, the skin has that slightly charred quality and the sauce has the right amount of tang. Bravo Fancy Hank's!
Next up a Kansas City classic, Brisket burnt ends with fermented beet BBQ glaze and pickled beets. By separating what's known as the point end of the brisket meat, and then giving it some extra time in the smoker, you get a thick, juicy, muscle that can be cut into cubes. The result; crispy, savoury, bits of brisket goodness that melt in the mouth. These, cleverly combined with the fermented beet glaze meant there was a fight at the table to see who could grab the last tasty cube!
Their Grilled Octopus with ‘Nduja vinaigrette, rouille was a delight. Nduja is a particularly spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Italy, so when added to sherry vinegar the texture creates a rouille and actually gives the perfect accompaniment and flavour balance of spicy and salty to a meat like Octopus. Yum.
Main dishes consisted of Pulled lamb shoulder with cherry cola sauce and cucumber, za’atar, the lamb was sensational and fell apart as you hope it would. I loved the concept of the flavour combination but this dish was just a little too sweet for me, (simply a personal preference) as the rest of the table had no problem scoffing it down.
The Murray Valley rolled & smoked pork belly with peach BBQ sauce, celery and fennel slaw was a triumph, the peach BBQ sauce was well rounded in flavour and the slaw gave this dish the fresh and zesty hit that it required.
And then there's the Victorian baby back pork ribs with sour plum glaze & Alabama BBQ sauce. Why did we only order a small portion of these? I am still having nightmares to this day about that poor decision!
You pray that the richness of the BBQ sauce doesn't over power the flavour of the meat, especially when you know the meat is going to be perfectly cooked, therefore expectations on the table were high...
If you love ribs then this is the place to curb your craving, Fancy Hank's smashed this one out of the park and then some. The glaze and sauce were just superb. I nearly fell off my chair when I found out they sell their homemade sauces (and not because I had too many reds!)
Side dishes of Coleslaw with chipotle, peanuts, herbs and Mac ‘n’ cheese with fontina, garlic & thyme crumb were great too, but of course the meat stole the show.
To add to the overall experience, the wine and cocktail lists are cleverly curated and the staff explained every dish that came to the table with sincerity, passion and fun.
But for me the story ends with the unbelievable amount of craftsmanship and care that has gone into producing this menu, with some of the most unexpected and exciting flavours I have had with BBQ fare. That's why Fancy Hank's is so fancy pants!
79 Bourke Street
Tel: 03 9453 2882
Seven Day’s 12pm til Late
Closed all public holidays.
Photos by Fancy Hank's from social media