51 Gipps St
Collingwood, VIC 3066
This visit to Le Bon Ton has been almost 10 years in the making. The reality is a little less dramatic than it sounds; I simply just never got around to it when it initially opened (when I was still a wee baby pharmacy student!), and then I moved up to Sydney for half a decade. But here we finally are, in what is now a stalwart of the American BBQ scene. LBT may be located in your typical dank-looking local watering hole, but as you wind through the rabbit warren, red velvet curtains part to reveal gilt ceilings and old-world glamour, before finally opening out into a generous beer garden. As for the menu, the selection of meats cooked low and slow look good, but the real difficulty lies in choosing from the delectable range of sides. This is the kind of place where there is well and truly something for everyone, even down to the pups, who all get their own personal water bowl brought out to them in the beer garden.
Rating: 13/20 – let the good times roll! (that’s what it means)
Must-order: sweet and sour brussels sprouts.
A BBQ place can’t be truly great in my books unless they do a good Brisket ($29, half pound). Unfortunately, this was pretty ordinary. Despite being grain-fed Angus beef, this was still pretty dry, and the accompanying BBQ sauce too sweet. It’s not the worst I’ve had, but it’s definitely not great either.
The Smoked Pork Belly ($23, half pound) on the other hand was fantastic – all smoky fat and succulent meat. The sauce was great too, the mellow apple and habanero sauce a no-brainer pairing for the rich pork.
The House Made Sausage ($14) – pork, beef, and pepper today – fell somewhere between the brisket and pork belly. Firm and meaty with a snappy casing, this was nonetheless not as flavoursome as others I’ve had in the past. Still good eating though, especially when mixed and matched with the other sauces on the table, and a bite or two of pickle.
The sides dishes are where it’s at. The Sweet and Sour Brussels ($16) is like your favourite bad Chinese takeaway turned yee-haw. The nutty and slightly bitter flavour of the brussels sprouts were mellowed out by deep-frying, their rich flavour a natural contrast to the moreishly tangy sauce. I would even go as far as to say – do I dare? – that it’s better than sweet and sour pork.
The Corn Bread ($12, half pound) was another winner, the dense cakey loaf good with brisket and BBQ, but even better with the accompanying whipped maple butter.
To finish off, a classic Key Lime Pie ($14). Tbh, this was more lemon meringue tart, though the lime sherbet on top was good fun. Alas, the search for a true key lime pie continues.