MELBOURNE | Hiding in Ross Street, a short walk from South Melbourne Market, is Meatworks, a restaurant with a heavy focus on meat, but in a very informal way. The City Lane was invited to attend as a guest of the restaurant.
At first glance, Meatworks seems unfinished. But this look is both intentional and functional. For while the ladder leaning near the kitchen is there for access to storage in the loft above while builders complete the finer points of the interior, the uneven bricks on the door frame, painted over in white, instead reflect something akin to a farm house, albeit a stylish one. And though all of this may seem out of place within the terraces of South Melbourne, this well-lit haven instead seems right at home in its surroundings
Meatworks Co. is the long-gestating dream of owner and hospitality entrepreneur Lindsay Jones-Evans, which started with a polite interest in cooking poultry and evolved into the very meat-focused, and very wholesome, feel you see in the restaurant today. From the tin mugs to the serving plates (which, to be fair have been the go-to serving items for meat focused restaurants ever since they were popularised by London’s Pitt Cue Co 4 years ago), Meatworks appears to have been be created to reflect a strong feeling of homeliness, even if it’s not a look that resembles yours. However, Meatworks’ claim to fame is, as you would expect, it’s braised, smoked, and roasted meat, coming from a hand-built in-house wood smoker.
Of note, our menu sample was presented as part of a large dinner so unless you also have a large group, the serving sizes depicted below may not be exactly like your experience.
Pulled Pork Burger
In the very burger-centric and burger-aware city of Melbourne, finding a new angle is always going to be a tall order. For the Meatworks burger, their goal is clearly to let the meat do the talking. While the filling is all that is to be expected from a modern burger, the smoked and cured pulled pork makes for a different and memorable flavour. As we noted in our previous article, How do you solve a problem like a burger, this is clearly a place that doesn’t think there is a need to.
Smoked Brisket Vietnamese Baguette
As with the burger, the simplicity of the baguette works because of the focus on the meat, which in this case was the smoked brisket. In some respects, having noted this as the second time the meat was the star attraction, it’s odd to think how little we can pay attention to the quality of the meat when served baguettes or burgers.
Sweet Smoked Salmon and Pomegranate Salad
In a place where smoked and cured meat is clearly meant to be the focus, it’s always nice when the salad is given a little attention. This combination of salmon, pomegranate, fresh mint, buckwheat and freekeh is very light and refreshing, and while compared with the other options on the menu it probably wouldn’t be my first choice, it is very much a great alternative.
Spicy Silken Tofu
As anyone will tell you, Tofu, like the more modern uses of cauliflower, is in every way a chameleon ingredient. While I’m fairly certain it’s made up of something resembling soy beans, by adding the food equivalent of a hat, wig, or any other disguise, a canny chef can greatly transform it into something even the most committed carnivore would fail to recognise. As with the excellent salmon salad, at a place like Meatworks, the tofu wouldn’t be our first choice, but it is a very fine addition to the menu.
Smoked Meat Platter
This was the last to appear at the table but it was by no means unwelcome. Filled with pulled pork, braised beef ribs, smoked brisket, and sticky lamb ribs, this was less about discovery and more about affirmation. Everything is smoked onsite and with or without the addition of the restaurant’s own sauces (barbecue, tomato relish, and an incredible specially made chilli), each piece is every bit as good as the photos reflect. Although very different, those out there who are happily enjoying Melbourne’s obsession with American barbecue will still likely find a lot to like about this, while those carnivores who haven’t will probably find this an effective gateway to the aforementioned obsession.
The sides aren’t anything to sneeze at either. The pickled carrot and cucumber salad served with spiced peanuts, fried shallots and herbs was quite tasty, as was the roasted corn with parmesan and chipotle mayonnaise.
There’s a lot to like about Meatworks. The decor is simple and rustic, as are the plates and containers, and there is nothing to complain about if you’re looking for meats cooked in a considered and honest way.
While we had the advantage of dining in a very family-table style situation, the dishes individually hold up well to scrutiny. We were impressed by what we saw at Meatworks.
28-30 Ross Street
Tue – Sun: 7:30am to 4:00pm