Whilst the Brunswick parts of Lygon Street and Sydney Road have developed significantly over the last 5 to 10 years and have become the vibrant home to a wide array of bars and restaurants, the parallel strip in Nicholson Street has been relatively undeveloped with the exception of Pope Joan, which appears to be slowly taking over the block it resides in! As a result, when we noticed that a food truck had set up shop in what was previously a largely unused parking lot on Nicholson Street this immediately piqued our interest.
BCKYRD Brunswick is the latest venture by Hammer & Tong, which brings the Fitzroy cafe’s food truck to a permanent location every weekend, serving lunch and dinner in an open air dining space. Upon arriving at the spot we came across a simple and unassuming wooden frontage that is consistent with the feel and philosophy of the surrounding area.
The menu on the front wall promises a mix of styles of food, ranging from Melbourne cafe-type staples such as charcuterie and a grilled cheese, truffle and mushroom sandwich, to Asian-influenced szechuan lamb ribs and ramen with duck meatballs and the classical fish and chips. However, when we walked around past the menu and “now open” sign we were (pleasantly) surprised to see the following:
BCKYRD Brunswick has only been in operation since Easter, so it is understandable that their menu is in a developmental state. The menu that was available on the day we visited, which was written on a chalk board on the the side of the food truck, spanned a number of parts of the American food spectrum, including a Texas-style smoked meat (beef briskey, pork belly and beef short ribs), a corn and crab chowder served in a bread bowl San Francisco-style, biscuits and gravy and beignets that took us back to our visit to New Orleans.
The space itself is quite the contrast to the outside, with the black brick matching the Hammer & Tong food truck parked inside and the column heaters creating a rather industrial environment. Whilst there are a two covered areas with a number of tables (which we think the people of Brunswick will be thankful for given this year’s early onset winter!), the rest of the space is quite sparse, with only one large wooden table available. Given the nature of the food which isn’t exactly “eat on the go” like a lot of other food trucks we think it would be good, and easily possible, to fit a few more tables in to create a bit more seating capacity – we ended up sitting on the edge of one of the large planter boxes.
Upon arriving at the venue we were almost immediately handed a complimentary meat platter consisting of beef brisket, beans, slaw and a buttermilk biscuit (for those who aren’t up with the lingo of the American South think of a scone but less sweet). If we had been up to date with our Twitter thread we would have known that on this particular day free meat plates were being handed out to the first 50 customers. Bonus!
Meat Platters ($22.00)
The brisket itself was a bit dry, although we would like to go back for a second try as this might have been because the complimentary plates had been circulating the venue for a little while. It did however combine well with the mustard sauce which was a little tart and helped to cut through the density of the meat. The beans and slaw however were great, as was the buttermilk biscuit which had just the right level of crumbliness without being too dry.
Once we had whet our appetite for smoked meat we couldn’t stop at one plate so we went back for another meat platter, this time with pork belly.
Even though we had tried pork belly from a smoker before, the pork belly at BCKYRD Brunswick came out completely different to other versions we had tried (for example, at Bluebonnet BBQ), and also from pork belly prepared in the Asian or Modern Australian style. This said, we really liked it, the meat to fat balance was spot on, the meat itself was very juicy and had excellent flavour despite not having that smoked taste at all, which was actually a nice contrast to the aromas emanating from the smoker.
The drinks list was short, as is to be expected, with standard soft drinks being accompanied by the Pipsqeak cider and the Sample Pale Ale ($9), which is what we choose to combine with our feast of meat. This was a nice refreshing drop which successfully kickstarted our drinking day without being so bitter as to the taste of the meat. We were also given some boiled peanuts which were a pleasant snack while we planned our next move.
Whilst we had consumed plenty, we felt it would be remiss to leave without having some dessert so we decided to sample the beignets. These came in two varieties – chocolate whiskey and salted caramel – we went with the second option.
The beignet was not entirely like those we had eaten in New Orleans at the famous Cafe Du Monde, the ones at BCKYRD Brunswick were more dense and not covered with nearly as much sugar (although the latter was not exactly a concern for us). However, this is not to say that it was bad – in fact quite the opposite! The inside of the beignet was a little on the doughy side, as if it had not been fully baked through, which we quite liked and found gave it an interesting texture, although we were a little disappointed to find that the salted caramel was provided as a sauce on the side rather than inside the beignet. The sauce was a good balance of sweet and salty, the only thing we would have changed would have been to provide more as we ran out pretty quickly.
Overall we think that BCKYRD Brunswick is a much welcome addition to the Brunswick strip of Nicholson Street and are confident that however the menu develops from here that this Hammer & Tong offshoot will continue to impress.
18-20 Nicholson Street
Fri – Sun: 11:00am to 9:30pm