Level 1, 79 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Think you know Fancy Hank’s? Well think again! Almost overnight it seems, Fancy Hank’s has moved into new digs on Bourke Street, just 2 doors up from Grand Trailer Park Taverna.
If you’ve been to the old Fancy Hank’s, then you’d know that Rustic Southern BBQ Restaurant would be a kind description for the dive bar. The new eatery is much more impressive. Retaining the beautiful bones of the house with its intricately engraved cornices and old-fashioned chandeliers, this high-ceilinged room with its leather booths and marble bar polished to a high gleam, is reminiscent of a classy 1940s American bistro. The crowning achievement however would be the beautiful floor-to-ceiling bay windows, overlooking the leafy end of Bourke Street and the iconic neon sign of Grossi Florentino.
Despite these changes however, Fancy Hank’s is still a Southern BBQ restaurant at heart. The menu and prices have been tweaked to reflect the more upmarket surroundings, but it’s still full of delicious things such as pork ribs, cornbread, and shrimp cocktail.
The alcohol was free-flowing, but I was more interested in the house-made non-alcoholics. The Sweet Iced Tea ($6), in true swingin’ Southern style, was strong, sweet, and lemony. It was the House Ginger Beer ($6) that I found the most impressive however; light, sparkly, and not too sweet, this was flavoured with the heat from real ginger roots.
After a short wait, out came the selection of snacks. The one I was most excited about was the Buttermilk Biscuits ($4ea), because if there’s even a song written about it, then it must be amazing, right? Anyway, these were crispy, buttery, crumbly, and unbelievably terrible; as in terribly good. The quenelle of whipped maple butter on the side was nutty-sweet, and spread like cream on a warm scone.
Continuing with the slightly-sweet-slightly-savoury trend was the Maple Glazed Belly Ham, Red Eye Mayo ($10). This was much milder than it sounded, the slices of soft pork belly moist and tender, and sweetened with caramelised maple mayo.
The Fried Cauliflower, Ranch Dressing, Hot Sauce ($8) was an unexpected hit, the battered cauliflower crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle, and drenched with an extremely flavourful combination of tangy ranch and hot sauce.
I make a similar version of these Devilled Eggs ($1.5ea) at home when I need a quick hit of protein after the gym, but I have to admit, as much as I have the peppery mustard flavour down, there is no way I could ever get the yolk this creamy.
After a short break, we were served the breathtaking centrepiece for the night – a platter consisting of 4 different meats from the smoker. The BBQ Beef Brisket ($22, 200g) is a crowd pleaser, its big, smoky flavours permeating through the slab of fat-marbled and pepper-rubbed meat. The Chicken ($40ea) was also surprisingly good, the slow buttermilk-brining process rendering the meat tender and evenly flavoured, then grilled until the skin is crispy, and the chicken permeated with a soft smokiness.
Unlike last time, I really enjoyed this rendition of the Pulled Pork Shoulder ($20, 200g). Made with black Berkshire pig, each slow-cooked mouthful was soft, juicy, and full of porky flavour. Finally, there was a pair of Sausage Links ($10, 200g), both of which were dense, meaty, and not too fatty, all packed into a snappy skin. I liked the rich Pork Andouille Style sausage, but my favourite was definitely the generously seasoned Beef and Black Pepper sausage.
Our meats were served with a plethora of sides, the first of which was a crisp Wedge Salad ($12). This was a delight to eat, the crunchy iceberg lettuce drizzled with a creamy blue cheese dressing, its musty pungency complemented by the addition of sweet pickled onions.
The Corn Bread ($12) was another miracle in carbs, the fluffy, slightly sweet cakes smeared with a smoky jalapeno butter.
Although I was getting seriously full by this point, I found room for the Pit Braised Beans ($14), which were satisfyingly toothsome, and slathered with a sauce layered with sweet, tangy, and smoky. Lastly, there was a bowl of Coleslaw ($12), which is usually my least favourite salad, but I actually didn’t mind this version with its delicate threads of crispy cabbage and lighter mayo.
Thankfully, dessert was restricted to a small serve of Cafe de Monde, Doughnuts and Coffee Pudding ($12). This may not look like much, but the coffee caramel was spectacular, and tasted fantastic smothered over the dense sugar-dusted doughnut. And once I ran out of doughnut, I ate the rest of the sauce with my spoon.
For those of you who loved the old Fancy Hank’s – fear not. Although the new venue has repackaged the beloved American BBQ house into something more fashionable and upmarket, the food is still the same robust, hearty goodness that everyone has come to expect.
Rating: 14/20 – actually fancy this time.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Fancy Hank’s.