Le Bon Ton, 51 Gipps Street, Collingwood. Phone: 9416 4341
Are regular readers discerning a trend here?
Yes, it seems we’re methodically – without actually meaning to – checking out Melbourne’s outlets for BBQ and other things to do with the American South.
This is driven largely by besottedness with that part of the world in general.
I’d have to say, after several tremendous meals, my skepticism about what is possible and available in Melbourne in this regard is evaporating; Le Bon Ton continues that trend.
Our pursuit of this food is driven, too, by the simple fact we love it to pieces.
In this case, “we” refers to an extended CTS “A” Team that numbers six and involves Bennie, myself and four great pals who also love getting on the fang.
We wish another “A” Team member, the fabulous Nat Stockley, who would fit like a glove into this happy aggregation, was with us!
Le Bon Ton is in a former pub in the back blocks of Collingwood.
It’s a big place rather extravagantly set up, with a lot of time – and no doubt money – spent on creating a Southern aura.
The place rambles just like some old-school New Orleans restaurant, with many rooms and a beaut outdoor dining area out back.
We figured arriving relatively early on a Friday night would see us right in terms of snagging a table.
We are wrong.
The place is jumping and packed.
No matter – after a brief cocktail-and-chat interlude that actually seems just right, we are seated and thereafter very well taken care of.
Most of our group went with the $49 banquet set-up just a few weeks previously at Meatmaiden, and ended up being happy with the results.
At Le Bon Ton, we baulk at their comparative offering of the Southern Pride deal for $59, not so much because of the cost but because we simply doubt our combined capacity to eat that much food.
So we go our own ways, ordering a couple of dishes to share and getting sandwiches and a meat offering based individual preferences.
This turns out to be a winning approach for us – and allows us scope to go with a couple of pies at the end of our meal.
The original inspiration for our Bon Ton outing was fried chicken.
Here it’s served as an entree of “Southern style buttermilk soaked tenders with cracked pepper white gravy” for $16.
We get two serves that allow us one piece apiece of very good, beautifully seasoned and coated chook.
Based on a recent visit here by two of our party, we also go the chili cheese fries ($15).
As all our food arrives pretty much at the same time, the photographic situation is intense so this rather blurry photograph is all I’ve got to show you of these delicious, decadent pimped-up spuds.
We get two orders of these, too. One would’ve done.
With the arrival of the brisket (half a pound of grain-fed Riverina Angus beef for $21) we wonder just how Melbourne’s BBQ emporiums who sell their smoked meats by weight go about maintaining consistent portion sizes.
Surely there’s not someone in the kitchen weighing up individual orders?
In this case, the serve seems very, wonderfully generous, so much so that the person whose meal it ostensibly is happily shares it with rest of the table.
It’s very, very fine.
The Le Bon Ton cheeseburger of “150g Wagyu beef patty & crispy bacon w/ onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, spicy ketchup & aioli” comes with a price tag of $16 and disappears down the gob of its owner in a flash.
Two of us select the brisket sandwich of “pit smoked chopped brisket with damn good BBQ sauce & slaw” ($16) – and what a sloppy, tangy, spicy joy it is.
Mine certainly eats bigger than the photo seems to suggest.
The “debris” of meats and dressings that tumble from my sandwich are far from being the least of the pleasure had.
Through our BBQ explorations, Bennie has developed a profound fondness for pulled pork.
He devours the Le Bon Ton version – “pit-smoked pulled pork with white onion, jalapeno, sharp cheddar & special sauce” ($16) – with relish.
It, too, is bigger and more hearty than first appears to be the case.
With a view to dessert, the Pie Mistress in our midst goes for the lighter delights of Gulf-style crab cakes with streaky bacon, bell peppers, celery and Old Bay aioli ($16.5).
She reckons they’re good and crabby. The sample I am afforded tastes lovely with a herbal blush that is familiar yet mysterious.
With such an amazing spread laid out before us, the otherwise fine buttermilk biscuits ($8.50 for three and served with chipotle and honey butter) seem something like bridesmaids.
Then it’s pie time!
What to choose, what to choose?
The Le Bon Ton pies are individually baked items that cost $12.
We collectively find the …
… chocolate and peanut butter mousse pie and …
… the banana cream pie to be utterly wonderful, though in truth the former seems a little on the bitter side to me.
We’ve made pigs of ourselves.
The food and the service have been grand.
The financial damage?
The $35 per person we pay is outstanding value.
Eschewing the temptations of hanging out all night in cocktail mode, we waddle into the night.
I skip breakfast before getting down to writing this story.
Check out the Le Bon Ton website, including menu, here.
In a lovely piece of serendipity, just before departing for Collingwood I had unwrapped a new CD arrival that has this tune as its first track: