195 Little Collins St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
THIS IS A NAME AND SHAME. Girl with the Gris Gris, update your website! I rocked up to Girl with the Gris Gris (which is an awesome name by the way) on a Tuesday evening, ravenous and fully expecting to shove some South American nosh in my mouth. And BAM, it was closed, despite the website saying otherwise. Legends say that on moonless nights, you can still hear my howl of hunger and despair.
When I got all my fist-shaking and un-ladylike cursing out of the way, we set about finding a new place to eat. And after that fiasco, the only thing that will do is something equally as gratifying as a thick bowl of stew. A few frantic minutes of searching later, I remembered Meatmaiden, just a block and a half down the road.
Does that name sound familiar? That’s because it is. When Meatmother erupted with popularity, the owners expanded their menu of grilled meats to the CBD. Though it’s subterranean, the restaurant is easy enough to find – just look for the ominous lady and the ominous stairs. Despite the initial impression of eccentricity, the restaurant was actually a snug bar-and-grill type of place, straddling the line between mellow and genteel very prettily.
The appetiser of rustic House-Made Chips were a godsend, the smoky chilli seasoning simultaneously calmed my stomach and roused my tastebuds.
I am really getting into this oyster thing, and I have to say that the Oyster with Smoked Fennel Dressing ($3.5ea) was one of the best so far. The crisp, herbaceous fennel was a loving contrast to the smooth brininess of the oyster, tied together with a simple squeeze of lemon.
I will confess to having fried chicken for dinner just 2 nights prior, so instead of chicken ribs, we opted for the Spicy Merguez Sausage, Hominy Corn ($13). The sausage was an absolutely delight – instead of being overly fatty, the spicy meatiness was packed into satisfyingly dense chunks, moistened with toothsome hominy kernels braised in sweet tomato sauce. And if that wasn’t enough flavour, garnishing the dish was fresh coriander and crisp onion rings.
As lovely as the sausage was, it was the Cajun Tuna, Horseradish, Avocado ($15) that convinced me that Meatmaiden was onto something special. The crimson chunks of tuna were marinated in a coating of Cajun spices, before being lightly seared on the grill. The result was buttery chunks of sashimi-grade fish, melting in the mouth with accompanying dollops of horseradish cream and shavings of avocado.
For mains, there was no going past the 20-Hour Rangers Valley Wagyu Brisket ($25, 200g). This meat wasn’t just tender, it was fluffy. I went to pick a piece up, only to find it falling apart around my fork. Each slab of beef was capped with a thin layer of fat for flavour, and a coarse rub of black pepper. Though a little under-salted on its own, its gaps were filled in by the bottle of house-made BBQ sauce.
As tempting as the mac and cheese was, I ordered a bowl of Peas, Mint, Chilli, Feta ($8) to go with the beef. Each butter-coated kernel glistened like an emerald, and popped like sweet caviar between the teeth. The occasional pocket of soft, creamy feta was an additional treat.
And for dessert, the Lemon Meringue Pie ($10). I had expected a slice, but instead it was served deconstructed in a glass tumbler. I have to admit, it is much prettier this way. And it tastes better too – you never know what you’re going to get with each spoonful. Is it lemon curd and airy meringue? Tart sorbet and stretchy marshmallow? Or maybe crumbled biscuits and a dollop of cream? Regardless of what you get, the flavour profile of this dessert was bang-on, the enamel-melting sweetness tempered by a stern dose of sharp acidity.
For some reason, I expected Meatmaiden to be a casual and affordable version of Meatmother, but this girl is definitely the more high-maintenance out of the pair. It makes a lot of sense though, as the food here is far from the broad brush strokes of conventional American-styled BBQ. If you ask me, Meatmaiden combines the best of both worlds – not only do you get the simplicity and indulgence of grilled meats, it has also been refined to encourage savouring and lingering over the meal. This unexpectedly long and relaxed dinner date was nothing like what I had originally planned, but I have to say I’m glad it turned out this way.