Fancy barbecue comes to the city
Even if you came to this address when it was the ill-fated Little Hunter, you’ll probably still get lost. It’s OK - even our waitress admits she almost missed her interview. Here’s the drill: take the lift down, turn right, then right again, avoiding the curtain that will take you into the kitchen. Success will land you in the gothic lair that is Meatmaiden, meaty twin to Neil Hamblen’s Richmond smokehouse, Meatmother.
Everything is a little more polished at this CBD sister. While Meatmother is bright and white and banging out some East Coast hip hop, Meatmaiden is all black walls, deep booths, copper fixtures and glossy concrete. Glass cabinets are packed with thick, marbled rib eyes, chains of sausages and racks of short ribs, all lit up by spotlights in full gory glory. It looks like Fangtasia - the nightclub from True Blood.
Dishes have also been scrubbed up for the big smoke. Your mac and cheese now comes topped with lobster like it’s wearing its nice hat to church. It’s good – a rich, cheesy mess of elbow pasta, though most of the flavour comes from a shellfish oil that soaks the breadcrumb crust than from the lump of grilled tail meat on top.
They’re throwing some high quality beef into the Myron Mixon smoker (imported from the States and running on the sweet smoke from red gum and cherry woods). This is meat for those who like it fat-rich, salt-heavy and so soft it’s gummable. The 20-hour brisket, rubbed in native pepperberry, is so marbled it’s like eating meat butter – same goes for the short ribs, served pre-sliced and draped across the bone. If you actually like to chew, get the link sausage instead. The pork is spiced up with chilli flakes, paprika and chipotle peppers then air-dried and smoked till the fat has rendered out and the skins break with a squeaky snap like you’re biting through cellophane.
The lesson here is to order sparsely, and get some greens in the mix. The NQA (not quite American) salad of citrusy shaved fennel, parsley and cucumber studded with pomegranate jewels is a fresh bowl of crunch. The mixed veg pickles provide a bracing vinegar jolt too, but why are they paired with sour goat’s curd? It creates an acid-acid clash akin to drinking grapefruit juice with coffee. Ditto for the molten-centred brownie, which is better with the vanilla ice cream we steal off the apple pie to the super sweet raspberry sorbet it comes with.
We understand the desire to dress things up to match the space, but there’s no need. Meatmaiden already has wide appeal. If you need to impress, they’re slinging well-made American cocktail classics including a solid, boozy Manhattan, and you can throw your whole wallet at a one-kilo rib eye. Or perhaps you’re in the market for the meat-free deliciousness of a whole smoked eggplant, gently infused with honey? Or the $20 express lunch and a frosty tinnie of Brooklyn lager from the craft beer list? That’s a good time, guaranteed.