Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of Mr Big Stuff
With the sea of American dude food and Southern-style soul food that's hitting Melbourne at the moment, it can sometimes come across a bit same same sometimes, but when I saw the menu for Mr Big Stuff online, I was chomping at the big to get in to try it out.
Taking up residency where Senoritas used to be in Meyers Place, I feel like I've slipped on a pair of 70's glasses and been transported into a sea of orange tints, afros, funk and giant lapels (as see on the DJ). It's a bit of a time warp.
Having never been to Senoritas before previously, I was surprised by how small the space is, but they've made good use, squeezing in quite a lot of tables and filling up the space nicely.
The drinks menu reads fun, with options such as 'Cold Pressed Kool-aid', 'Egg Cream' and 'Cold Brew Iced Tea', all available as alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Maybe it's a touch hipster, but it makes for a fun read.
Suffering from drinking a bit too much the nights previously, I opt for all non-alcoholic drinks this particular night. I try 'Vanilla Ice Ice Baby', a cold brew vanilla black tea with fresh cold pressed apple and lemon juice. I enjoy that it's not too sweet, and is quite refreshing, although I wished more of the vanilla notes of the tea would come through a bit more.
However, once I tried the 'Kickin Kiwi' Cold Pressed Kool-Aid, I immediately wished I had just stuck with that from the beginning of the night as I find it much more full of flavour, cold pressed kiwi juice with a bit of fresh lemon juice and soda. Yum. Will be a winner when summer comes around!
I also don't normally take note of this, but I was pretty impressed with the beer list, all of the beer coming from the states. Brad settled down with a Brooklyn Lager, but I enjoyed seeing a number of Rogue's beers on the menu, as well as some interesting options such as a Pumpkin Ale.
We started our night with pig's ear chips with cayenne salt.
Can I just say: yum. We had actually had some fried pig ear's as a garnish on a dish at the Merricote the week prior, but a whole plate of the stuff? Totally awesome. It's going to be the fried whitebait of 2014, just you wait. Sliced into small strips and fried perfectly, I hoed into these crunchy little morsels with a barely a moment of hesitation. Seriously, get one serve for you and another for your date, you will not want to share!
We took the waiter's recommendation of having them alongside the pickled okra, the slight vinegary tartness a nice complement to the richness of the fried ears. Having had some slimy okra the night before, I loved how fresh and crisp these were (good product talks for itself!)
One of the items on the menu that excited me the most was the roasted bone marrow with pickles, smoked salt and some toasted sourdough. Squirming with excitement as it was placed on our table, I was merciless and ensured I got the biggest piece to spoon out and smear all over a slice of bread. Oh my, rich, oily and so much more. Definitely not for the faint hearted. Bone marrow is something that should definitely see more love on menus…suppose it's only a matter of time really though.
I don't normally do items on menus with more than two cheeses, as I am somewhat aware and conscious of what I'm eating, but I just could not resist trying out the mac and cheese with three cheese. Um. Run, don't walk to this. Filling the air with it's decadent aroma and dusted with perfectly crunchy brioche crumbs, I adored this hot and rich pan of goodness. Stretchy, stretchy, cheesy goodness.
We also felt it was necessary to try the fried chicken and waffles, having missed out on it last year when Brad and I visited America. I had always thought it to be a weird combination, but after trying it I can see why people like it…but it's still a bit weird to me.
I loved Mr Big Stuff's waffles, soft and fluffy and not overtly sweet. The fried chicken was surprisingly spicy and aromatic, with a light batter that crumbled off the chicken, revealing juicy and tender meat. Brad was weirded out by maple syrup with the chicken, but loved it on the waffles, maybe it's something you just need to be brought up with to fully appreciate…? Definitely worth a try if you're in though!
It was wonderful to see a healthy selection of offal on the menu, moving from pig's ears and bone marrow to 'Tongue & Cheek', a plate of veal, grilled tongue, braised cheek and a decadently smooth sweet potato puree. Warming and rich, it was a little full on and could have maybe used a little more acid to balance it out a bit. I found the tongue was perhaps a little more charred than I would like it, but I went totally gaga over the cheek which had been obviously slow cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
A side of some of the best corn bread I've had, served in a hot pan and naturally sweet with an abundance of corn, was perfect for mopping up all the yummy leftovers left on the 'Tongue & Cheek' dish.
I was at bursting by the time we finished our mains, but felt the need to have some sweet stuff (as always) and opted for the apple pie with cinnamon and spiced rum. Having just had Kong's apple pie the night before, my expectations were pretty high and it was definitely hard to have anything else live up to that. Having said that I enjoyed the mini pastry pockets that were lovely and flaky, heavily dusted in cinnamon sugar, and piping hot, although I would have liked a little more apple in the filling as it felt a bit empty.
Mr Big Stuff's got some good stuff going on (hurr). There's a couple of things I can nitpick at, but for the most part I enjoyed the dining experience which was fun and chilled out and I think the menu's showing plenty of promise. With it's cheeky attitude I'd be interested to see the longevity of Mr Big Stuff, as I feel it's almost a touch on the trendy side, but I certainly hope it sticks around for a while as I will definitely be back for fried pig ear's and to try the sweetbread nuggets next time…
P.S The grey geometric wall is made of this foam stuff. Go poke it. Go on now...
16 Meyers Place
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