Butchers Grill (no apostrophe ) is nowhere near High Street, but is in Bourke Street, a few doors down from where I work in the city. We'd gone from High Street, where places were too dark (the Wesley Anne); to Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, where everything was full to the City. The plan leaving Fitzroy had been to go to a Korean BBQ place, but it was being dismantled/brought undone. We'd walked through bitter winds, tried a few other places full of suits and settled on Butchers, which obviously had plenty of tables from the window.
It's a grill room in the style to which I had become accustomed when I worked at the (then anachronistic) Southern Cross in the mid 1980's, but brought up to date, if that's not a contradiction in terms. Dark red timbers, red and gold wallpaper, chandeliers and a wall of wineracks and stained-glassed windows. But it's not quite right.... This is a style that requires a total commitment: the customer can't be allowed to see behind the facade (or even that there IS a facade). But the real world kept poking out: from behind the bar where the post-mix pipes had a cheeky Matrix-like effect; to the veneer of veneer; and to the stained-glass that looked like it had come from a colonial-style home in 1979.
It was getting late by the time we sat down, and the full meat event was a bit more than we'd planned on, so we skipped entree and straight to the serious business: grilled meat all round. Lamb cutlets were cooked rare and perfectly. The chevapchichi were ok, but not particularly special (especially with the memory of these so recent). They were reasonably finely ground and evenly cooked - no high temperature flavour but still retained enough fat to keep them juicy.
Chunks of pork and chicken came on long, long skewers with token squares of red onion and green capsicum. The pork was wonderful and had really taken on the grill flavour. Despite being happy to eat every part of the pig except the squeal, I like to imagine I'm discerning when it comes to our four-legged, pink skinned friends. The chicken, on the other hand, was a bit less inspiring. Insert gently damning faint praise here.
The green salad tasted like it had been dressed with a commercial dressing. F's garlic mash was very good, generous with butter.
The food highlight for me was a smoked sausage, which was coarser than the chevapchichi, but which had the rosy inner glow of a snaggle that's been slightly cured, and a deep, smoky flavour. Everything came with a mild, fresh paprika relish.
Butchers promises much and delivers in part. When you dress up like Miss Havisham, expectations are created; great expectations in fact, and these weren't met. The food was good (and not particularly expensive) and we did have a lovely bottle of wine. But the food wasn't great, the service didn't quite meet the surrounds and the people at the next table were laughing like drunk toads mating with hyenas. Not that it's fair to hold Butchers responsible for that.
So in summary, while Butchers looks like a stately club, John Howard's green tracksuit was poking out from under Miss Havisham's wedding dress. She also sang "Happy Birthday" at the top of her voice and flirted with the camp waiting staff.
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