When discussing the laneway bars and hidden haunts of Melbourne, Meatmaiden is the kind of place that should make it on to any well-considered list.
From the face of the eponymous maiden as you walk through the street doors, the steel staircase that leads you down, and the soft lighting that welcomes you once you’re in, Meatmaiden conjures a feeling you’ve escaped the city.
And, if the name didn’t make it obvious enough, the meat cabinet filled with local cuts hanging from butcher’s hooks to dry-age should drive home the fact that this is, first and foremost, a place for carnivores.
Opening in 2014, this large barbecue, grill and steakhouse – with a sprawling dining room, cosy booths, dedicated cocktail bar and 125 person capacity – followed the group’s cult American BBQ venue in Richmond. Meatmother paved the way in a city now overflowing with American-style barbecue joints, until it closed last year, with owner Neil Hamblen admitting the momentum and following Meatmaiden garnered over the years meant the focus shifted to their larger CBD venue.
Meatmaiden also delivers the space to do things a little differently, not least bringing in a large, custom built smoker imported from the States and a dry-ageing meat fridge, in which large sides of porterhouse are aged in house for up to 40 days.
And, if it’s beer you want to wash down your cuts of meat, there’s options aplenty. Craft beer always played an important role at Meatmother and when Meatmaiden opened six taps allowed for far more options to work alongside the food menu. Victorian breweries feature most prominently across a tap list that changes regularly and doesn’t shy away from limited releases or the more out-there styles many restaurants in the CBD still avoid. It’s also one well augmented by a bottle list and as well as a boilermaker list for those looking to enjoy a meeting of malts.
The cocktail list features twists on classics – often meat or smoke based – and the backbar is kept well stocked with myriad spirits, with a big focus on whisky and bourbon. Should you prefer wine with your steak, like the beer list, the primary focus is given to the Australian producers, augmented by a smattering of international choices.
It’s a drinks list that makes for a venue in which you could happily enjoy a drink without a rib eye or slice of brisket in sight. But combined with the quality food on offer, it means even on Meatmaiden’s busier nights, any time spent waiting on a table can be put to excellent use.