Meatmaiden Melbourne is the sister restaurant to Richmond’s Meatmother by owners Neil Hamblen and Nick Johnston (disclosure: I work for Nick Johnston in another, unrelated capacity). Taking over the space formerly occupied by the ill fated Little Hunter, this sleek, industrial CBD venue takes the offering of Meatmother and turns things up to 11. I was invited to the preview dinner to sample various dishes from the menu and learn about what Meatmaiden aims to offer Melbourne diners.
Justin Wise, formerly of The Point and The Press Club, has created a menu which not only focuses on meat (along with the smoker, there’s also a grill), but also provides a range of options for vegetarians and pescetarians. In fact, I was impressed by variety and quality of food that came out before we even got to the meat. The dishes are designed to share, and a casual attitude with a focus on honest food is apparent. In the month following the launch, Wise’s former The Point colleague Riki Day will take the reigns as head chef.
The space is very modern, sleek and industrial – those who visited Little Hunter will instantly recognise various elements of the restaurant, with the changes and improvements made by Fitzroy’s Urchin Associates equally apparent. The meat cabinet can’t be missed as you sit in the main dining area and is very impressive.
The crisps are made on site and are offered to all diners upon being seated, whether it be at the tables for a full meal or at the long bar for a drink and a snack.
The beef jerky is also made on site. I’m not too well versed on what good beef jerky should taste like if I’m being honest – the offering at Meatmaiden was certainly “meaty”, for lack of a better word, and had a chewy/soft texture.
Pickled Heirloom Veg, Chilli & Goat Curd
The pickles are one area where the step up from Meatmother is apparent. The heirloom veg provided a point of difference to the usual pickled offerings and the addition of soft goats cheese to the mix created a nice counterbalance to the pickled vegetables.
Both the BBQ sauce and hot sauce are made on site.
Oysters Of The Day With Smoked Fennel Dressing
The oysters were really tasty. They will come from different parts of Australia depending on seasonality and what’s fresh and are designed to be chewed, not gulped down in one hit which is how I usually eat them.
Cajun Seared Tuna, Horseradish, Avocado
It might be sacrilegious to say this about a seafood dish at a place called Meatmaiden, however the tuna was probably my favourite dish of the night. Slightly seared with avocado and horseradish mayonnaise, all of the components really combined nicely both flavour wise and texturally.
Grilled Mooloolaba Prawns
One of the least complex dishes of the night, these were simply good quality grilled prawns.
Southern Fried Chicken Ribs, Tequila Mayo
Another highlight of the night was the fried chicken. It was topped with a tequila mayonnaise and went really well with the chilli sauce.
Lobster Mac & Cheese
The third highlight was the lobster mac and cheese. This thing was decadent and contained a generous serve of lobster atop a classic, creamy mac and cheese. Definitely one to share amongst the table.
BBQ Eggplant, Capsicum & Roasted Tomato
The eggplant was probably the least impressive of the dishes that I tried on this night. It wasn’t bad, and the use of honey in the glaze was a great touch, but compared to the other offerings it didn’t blow me away.
NQA (“Not Quite American”) Salad
The salad might not be “Not Quite American” but it was very tasty. The lightness provided a welcome break from the relatively heavier dishes of the night. It was nice to see the relatively (in Australia) underrated pomegranate being used.
Smoked Barramundi With Charred Cauliflower
One of the guests didn’t eat meat and was given this lightly smoked Barramundi. I didn’t try it but here’s a photo for you in any case.
Hand-cut Chips With Spiced Salt
The chips were decent but not mind blowing. They weren’t quite as crisp as they could have been.
20-Hour Rangers Valley Wagyu Brisket
Moving onto the beef, the Rangers Valley wagyu brisket, rubbed with Tasmanian pepper berry, and smoked for 20 hours was amazing. It fell off my fork as I went to grab a piece and when I ate it the whole thing melted in my mouth. The smokiness was very apparent and overall it was a real winner. My favourite of the beef options.
O’Connor Pasture-fed Flat Iron Steak
The flat iron (oyster blade) was not as good as the wagyu but it was still very good. It was cooked medium rare on the grill as opposed to being smoked so was more of a “traditional” steak.
A decent selection of spirits and a 6 tap system of rotating local and American craft beers (expect beers on the taps from Rogue, Founders, Moon Dog, Mornington and Mountain Goat at launch), combined with craft beer bottles and a concise, focused wine list is what’s on offer on the drinks front. As with Meatmother, there will be a particular focus on bourbons. Hamblen and Johnston want people to have fun and feel comfortable and relaxed whether they come in for a sit down meal or for a few drinks and snacks at the bar.
After we had recovered from all of the food that had come out we were treated to dessert. Wise told us that the aim with the desserts wasn’t to challenge people, but to do classic flavours and dishes well.
Choc-bar & Raspberry Sorbet
The chocolate bar, which was kind of like a brownie and raspberry sorbet was my favourite. The sorbet was really tasty and actually vegan. In fact where possible, and if the flavours won’t be compromised, Wise is aiming to get a few vegan options on the menu.
Crack Mom’s Apple Pie With Vanilla Ice Cream
The apple pie contained, along with apple, big raisins and was very tatsy. Again, nothing fancy, just a classic dish done well. The lid of the pie was very crispy and buttery which I loved.
I was really impressed by the food at Meatmaiden. Being a preview, they team were keen to hear the feedback of those in attendance and, based on the quality of the food on offer that night and the passion of all involved, I can see Meatmaiden becoming a popular venue as it finds its groove. It opens on Wednesday 27 August.
195 Little Collins Street
Telephone: (03) 9078 7747
Tue – Sat: 11:00am to late