MELBOURNE | Piqueos in Carlton North is one of my favourite places to eat at in Melbourne. It’s a great space with friendly, passionate staff and some really tasty South American food, with a particular focus on Argentina and Peru. I’ve never had a bad meal when eating there. The thing about a city like Melbourne, especially when you’re as involved in the world of food and drink as the team and I at The City Lane are, is that you can get so caught up with all that’s going on that it can get hard to return to your favourites as often as you like.
It had been a while since I’d been to Piqeuos, so when I was contacted by co-owner Shaun Burke with an offer to come in and try their new carne a la llanera, with the lure of “half a cow, a lamb, pork and several chickens slow cooking from 6am” I cancelled my plans of staying home in my pyjamas (hey, it was the first weekend I had free in a long time!) and pencilled in a visit to see what carne a la llanera was all about.
By this stage, I imagine you’re asking yourself the same thing that I was when I first became aware of this – l-la what? A Llanera (feiminine) or Llanero (masculine) is a Venezuelan or Colombian herder. The Llanero have a unique culture, of which cattle form an important part. Llanero cuisine is based on meat, fish, chicken, chiguire, rice, arepas, and other starches. Carne a la llanera is basically barbecued meat, llanera style.
The usual menu at Piqeuos might be Argentinian and Peruvian, but head chef Juanito Berbeo hails from Colombia and once a month on a Sunday he’s given the opportunity to set up a barbecue at the back of the restaurant and cook the food he grew up with, using the asado skills he learned from his father. At Piqeos the whole range of meat was on offer and we tried everything except the chiguire which wasn’t on the menu (Google it and you’ll see why).
No visit to Piqueos is complete without some ceviche, and this visit was no exception. We tried the local line caught fish (snapper on this occasion) with tigers milk, corn and sweet potato. It was sweet, sour and super fresh. The left over liquid was so good that we saved it and used it with some of our meat later on.
You can order any one of the meat options on offer at llanera or do the sensible thing and go for the plato mixto “mixed plate” which gets you a bit of everything. The plate below was perfect to share between 2 people. There’s a reason why slow cooked barbecue has such a following and the fact that the meat at carne a la llanera has been cooking since 6am is evident. The flavoursome meat is beautifully charred on the outside and tender on the inside.
Everything was great, but highlights included the blood sausage, the chicken, the beef and, would you believe, the quinoa. There’s something about this part of the world and they way the cook grains and rice. No matter what else is on the plate, even when it’s a meat heavy menu, the rice and grains always seem to stand out.
Summer is almost here, and the days are getting longer and warmer. The plan at Piqueos is to do a llanera at Piqueos on the last Sunday of every month, and we’ve already rounded up a group of friends to return again during the summer. You should definitely do the same.
Llanera At Piqueos
When: Last Sunday of every month, from 12:00pm
Price: Varies per menu item
Where: Piqueos. 298 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, Melbourne