Le Bon Ton, Collingwood, Melbourne
The guys behind Mexican eatery Chingon (delicious tacos) decided to up the game earlier this year, and opened New Orleans-style super-club/Absinthe and oyster saloon/smokehouse/place of deliciousness, Le Bon Ton. While it’s been open for quite a while now, it was only over the weekend that I finally had the chance to go and eat there. It was well worth the wait. Taking up residence in the old Glasshouse Hotel on Gipps St (just off Smith), the interior is beautiful – exposed brick walls, warm wooden tables and a gorgeous bar in the centre of the front room make you instantly feel like you’re meant to be there. The dining room behind the bar is enormous, and the courtyard/beer garden out back where the smokers reside is a really lovely space. Once we got past that, the next few things we noticed were the fantastic and attentive service, as well as the music. Husband and I are both pretty big fans of Trombone Shorty and Rebirth Brass Band, and we were absolutely stoked to hear them as part of the playlist for the night! But the food. The good stuff. We decided to skip the bread rolls and salads and all that extra stuff and cut to the chase – we ordered The Smoker’s Lot, the meat platter. With a side of fries. Because you can’t go wrong with meat and deep fried potatoes. Upon reflection, the fries were simultaneously both not needed and completely necessary. That aioli was something creamy and delicious, and the chips were perfect – no soggy, undercooked chips, none burnt, either. The seasoning was particularly good. Didn’t need them because the meat filled us up more than enough, but I’d still order them again because they were so good! It’s not often you find this in a Melbourne restaurant, but that meat platter is fantastic value at $49.00 – we were too full to walk after the meal, which consisted of a jalapeno and cheddar hot-link sausage, half a chicken basted in apple BBQ sauce, a pile of Otway Ranges pulled pork shoulder and another pile of grain-fed Riverina Angus beef brisket. I know that Le Bon Ton has taken a bit of flack from people saying it’s not authentic New Orleans, it’s overpriced, whatever. I’m going to put it out there – this was the best meat I’ve had in any restaurant that I can ever remember, hands down. The sausage was oozing cheese and was so tasty on it’s own that it needed no sauce. The chicken was cloud white and tender, smothered in rich BBQ sauce. The pulled pork was perfect, with just enough sauce and super soft, and the brisket was absolute money. It was moist, tender, required no knife. The fatty parts that I’d normally cut away were saved until last, literally melting on my tongue. Holy wow… Maybe I’ll find that things are done a little bit different in New Orleans when I visit in January. Maybe this is more Texas than Louisiana. Call if whatever you want – at the end of the day, it was just a damn good feed, well and truly worth the money, and I can say with certainty that I’ll be back.