Third Wave Cafe, 189 Rouse St, Port Melbourne. Phone: 9676 2399
There are least a couple of reasons Consider The Sauce is not making merry with the growth of American-style BBQ availability in Melbourne.
One is geography.
While we’re not averse to crossing the Maribyrnong for a good feed, planning to do so contradicts our general ethos.
That’s an ethos that routinely, weekly sees us heading out to eat, getting to the end of the street and then deciding whether to turn left or right.
More often than not, at the time we leave home we have no idea where we’ll be eating.
Another factor is cost, although it does seem many of Melbourne’s BBQ offerings try to beat the cost pain by pitching themselves as bar or snack food.
But that leads to another, related factor.
For me, BBQ is about great slabs of meat, flavours going ballistic, lusty sides and generally pigging out.
“Pulled pork sliders” – shredded pork on bread rolls – just don’t impress me that much.
So I was intrigued to get an email from Greg from Port Melbourne’s Third Wave Café.
His establishment has featured twice at Consider The Sauce – see stories here and here.
The café has won friends for its dedication to great coffee and a menu that includes many solid dishes of the Russian persuasion.
But those were not what Greg wished to discuss with me – his focus was very much on Third Wave’s new baby, its comprehensive BBQ menu.
So far only available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the new menu sees Third Wave transforming from daytime lunch and coffee spot to night-time restaurant.
That’s quite a change of direction.
And it’s a significant investment of time and money by Greg and his team, one on which the clock is ticking – Greg needs a word of mouth buzz and customers coming through those night-time doors, and quickly.
When I meet Greg, a marketing man before his move into the hospitality industry, he tells me that in some way he wishes the internet – and food bloggers – had never been invented.
He reckons it would make life easier – or at least simpler.
But he also reckons that in a situation that finds Third Wave moving in a whole new direction, one that involves a sense of urgency in which the place’s Facebook page and established customers are unlikely to be adequate for the promotional cause, bloggers are his best bet.
He knows it’s a gamble, and that even should he get bloggers through the door, there’s no guarantee they’ll like the new food, let alone feel inspired to wax lyrical about it.
But he has profound faith in his product.
On that basis, would Bennie and I like to try the Third Wave BBQ goodies on a complementary basis?
And if that goes well, would I entertain the idea of helping organise a gathering of like-minded bloggers to do likewise?
Sure, we’re up for that!
(Full disclosure below.)
As Bennie and I head for Port Melbourne, I’m hopeful but try to keep expectations in check.
Even before Melbourne’s current BBQ phase, my experience of ribs and the like in Melbourne has been one of abject mediocrity.
But, on the other hand, this will be Bennie’s first taste of this food genre – and I’m confident that if it’s any good at all, he’ll love it to pieces.
At the heart of the Third Wave BBQ menu are five meat offerings, one of fish and seven sides.
With the exception of the pork ribs, the small and large servings of which go for $28 and $53 respectively, the meats clock in at about $16-$19 and $29-$36. The sides range from $7 to $15.
Keep in mind, when looking at the pictures that accompany this story, that Bennie and I were served sample dishes of all the meat/fish offerings and four of the sides in order to have us experience a broad taste of the new menu.
But based on the half-dozen other occupied tables around us, the small serves are very substantial indeed. A half-serve and a side per person should be plenty and cost about $40.
That’s not exactly cheap eats territory, but it seems fine if it entails eating lusty BBQ in a glorious over-the-top fashion that I have never before found in Melbourne.
And as we’re about to discover, it does just that superbly.
Our first look and taste of the new menu comes with Greg introducing the three house-made sauces.
One with apple, one with bourbon, they’re of differing piquancy and spiciness and all delicious.
We proceed to enjoy all of them throughout the course of our meal.
Once the dust settles, the sauces would seem to offer ideal prospects for another future Third Wave commercial enterprise. If I was Greg, I’d already be having the labels designed.
But as he told me at our initial meeting, for him sauces should be the mere capping off of great meats smoked and cooked most excellently.
The place’s BBQ has those in abundance.
Let’s put it simply – the Third Wave BBQ dishes are without doubt the very best I have experienced in Melbourne and right up there with the greatest BBQ offerings I have previously eaten in the US.
Yes, really, that good.
We start with the salmon and chicken.
(For full details of the smoking and cooking of each dish, please refer to the menu below.)
Bennie loves the salmon, but I find it hard to get excited about it. Maybe that’s down to a Kiwi upbringing that involved almost weekly eating of smoke fish.
The chicken impresses me a whole lot more with its great flavour and tenderness.
Next up are pork and beef ribs (top picture).
Oh my – these are incredible!
The pork ribs are fall-apart tender and produce great, delicious mouthfuls of pure delight.
The beef ribs are quite different but just as good. The staff have nicknamed them “dinosaur ribs”, such are the size of rib bones involved.
At a nearby table, a diminutive elderly gent is doing battle with a half-serve of these beef ribs. In an arm wrestle between punter and meat, we’d hesitate to nominate a winner.
By comparison with both sets of ribs, the beef brisket looks rather demure.
Yet it, too, is amazing – so tender, juicy and delicately smoked. So much so, in fact, that I enjoy it without the addition of any of the sauces.
As with the beef ribs, the brisket is served with a creamy horseradish sauce. It’s fine, but we do prefer the tangy BBQ brews!
By this time, Bennie and I are entering the realms of meat fatigue.
Perhaps that’s why the lamb shoulder doesn’t charm us quite as much as the more full-on meats that precede it.
And maybe, too, that’s down to the same Kiwi upbringing that saw lamb as at least a weekly affair.
It’s nice, but I can’t help but wonder whether lamb and smoking belong together. The house-made mint sauce is an oily number but supremely flavoursome.
But Greg tells us that some Australians simply can’t go past lamb.
For sides we have confit kippfler potatoes, glazed mushrooms, crispy coleslaw and pancetta peas.
They’re all fine, but apart from the juicy, rough-cut slaw, they are not your usual accompaniments to American-style BBQ.
We’re cool with that – we’re not about to start playing the purist game here.
In terms of sides, Third Wave is playing to its European/Russian strengths.
Besides, much as regular BBQ sides can very enjoyable, all too often they’re not that well done.
As we’d driven over the bridge to Port Melbourne, Bennie had asked what would become of the planned blogger do if we reckoned the food was no good.
The answer is, not a lot.
But on the basis of a terrific meal, I’m excited and happy to proceed.
Until June 6, Third Wave Cafe is offering a Thursday night special – buy any food item an get another free.
The Third Wave Cafe website is here.
Our meal at Third Wave Cafe was provided without charge by the owners in return for a story on Consider The Sauce. The food we were served was chosen by the staff in order to have us experience most of their new BBQ menu. Third Wave Cafe has not been given any editorial control of this post. Kenny has been engaged by Third Wave Cafe to help organise a blogger tasting gathering.