Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest
So, I’ve discovered that my brother isn’t the best dining buddy - he’s not much of a small talker. But I have found, that I actually kind of really love American BBQ. I’ve always enjoyed it, but now that I’ve had some really good brisket, I’ve realised how much I like it, crave it and actually appreciate it.
Fancy Hank’s, after a food truck, and a stint in Queen Victoria Market, has found a more permanent home at Level 1 of 79 Bourke Street (just a few doors down from Grand Trailer Park).
Walking up, they just feel like their doing Melbourne right. The space feels clean, bright and smartly dressed, yet also relaxed. The aromas are drool-inducing and the vibe is just right. Be sure to say hi to Puffing Billie, who’s on your immediate left when you walk in, the custom made offset smoker who’s responsible for the amazing smells, and who will be doing a lot of the work getting the flavour into your food.
Although there’s a good alcoholic drink list going on, Fancy Hank’s has collaborated with a winery for their house reds and whites, which are easy drinking, their non-alcoholic offering is also intriguing and delicious. My brother gets the house made ginger ale, which just punches you in the face with ginger intensity, and isn’t too strong on the sweetness - I almost like it better than my wine.
The food menu is a great selection of snacks, sides and smokers, so whatever size of meal you’re after, you can put it together at Hank’s.
Start with the butter milk biscuits for pure heaven on earth. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Warm, light, fluffy and oh so buttery. With the whipped maple butter on the side, it’s utter perfection. Dangerously easy to gobble on down.
Devilled eggs are creamy and cool little mouthfuls, the yolks are so smooth. Maple glazed belly ham with red eye mayo is not as intense as I think it’s going to be, instead the ham is tender and gently sweet.
I’ve been seeing a lot of deep fried cauliflower, usually in the tempura style though, so it’s nice to have a change of flavours and have it with ranch dressing and hot sauce instead.
Although I was almost filled up on just the ‘snacks’ (really, those biscuits could be a total meal right?) and on to the main affair. The platter with all the meaty goodness, featuring Puffing Billie’s good work (or so I assume).
Beef brisket, from Gippsland Victoria, pasture fed with marble score 2+ and covered in a black pepper rub is exactly how I like my brisket. I’ve been developing a greater love for this, and am so happy all the American BBQ places are opening up so I can indulge. It’s so tender, meaty (obviously) but with the fat rendered beautifully through. Done simply, but so well.
I’ve not usually been a huge fan pulled pork, but I liked the flavours in Fancy Hank’s, made from Black Berkshire pig shoulder, from Western district Victoria, with a paprika and brown sugar rub. The chicken is from Northern Victoria and buttermilk brined - it’s tender, but not the most exciting dish on the plate for me.
The sausages though, are a treat. Made daily, we had the options of beef with black pepper or pork andouille style. Get both, obviously - they are fabulously dense and moreish, without being overly fatty. I really enjoyed the beef with black pepper - really well seasoned.
And although the meat is stellar, and definitely the star - I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed some of the sides to go with it.
Namely, the wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, onion jam and pickled radish. This was the last of the sides I ate, as, let’s be honest - it looks a bit boring, but was one of my favourite things that evening. The crunch of the greens, and the combination of the blue cheese dressing with the onion jam is just heaven, the sweetness of the onion offsetting the richness of the blue. Forget quince and cheese guys - blue cheese and onion relish is the place to be (although maybe not very good first date food if you think about it). Don’t be like me and diss a salad.
Pit braised beans with molasses, smoked bacon and sour cream were gone once I got a mouthful - my brother has a tendency of eating a LOT of the things he likes, the coleslaw was refreshing and the corn bread with jalapeño butter was so light and fluffy.
To finish the evening, Cafe du Monde, doughnuts and coffee pudding which isn’t totally sexy to look at, but was very nicely done. The coffee flavour was strong and aromatic, and the doughnuts weren’t just air, there was some body to them and they soaked up all that caramel goodness nicely.
Fancy Hank’s has good vibes splashed all across it. Although there were plenty of staff, assumedly because the restaurant was full of chatty bloggers, they were all warm and friendly, but also professional. It’s cosy without being too close to anybody, and the food and grub are incredibly approachable. If you want a nice sit down dinner, without the pomp, or the price tag, I think Hank’s is filling that gap nicely. It’ll be stellar once the rooftop bar is open too!
1/79 Bourke Street