If you consider yourself a little geographically challenged, take a quick look at a map of the US and it’s easy to figure out the influences behind brothers Will and Mick Balleau and big sis, Katie. Hailing from rural New Mexico, the boys grew up with Texas to the right and Mexico proper over the border to the south, so it’s too hard to piece together their slow march to conquer Melbourne, with Richmond’s Mexican joint Chingón up first and then Collingwood’s wildly successful southern BBQ smokehouse, oyster and cocktail bar, Le Bon Ton.
And here’s where things get even more interesting. While their dad hails from the US, their mum’s an Aussie from Brisbane who just so happened to work for the United Nations in New York, so the Balleau kids are pretty darned familiar with the Big Apple too, hence there’s just as much authenticity in their latest, most ambitious project, Elgin Street’s two-storey Five Points Deli and Longhorn Saloon in Carlton.
Drawing on the Art Deco-inspired sheen of the turn of last century hey day of New York’s deli scene, when almost every block had at least one competing for local trade, the ground-floor Five Points Deli with hand pressed copper and dark timber popping against rich colours will feature a big, long counter behind which will be a team of white shirt and paper-hatted chefs under the guidance of Le Bon Ton’s sous chef, Jamie Hook.
‘We’ll be using a lot of the same flavour profiles in different ways,’ Will says. ‘Rather than doing a Texas-style brisket, like you see in Le Bon Ton, we’ll be have smoked and cured pastrami, New York deli-style. There are one or two iconic, 120-year old delis left, but if you rewind to 1910-1930, there were hundreds. I wanted to capture that Manhattan golden age.’
Lunch punters will be able to line up at one end of the Five Points Deli counter, order their sandwiches, bagels, soups or salad, and then progress along the queue watching Hook and his crew cut the meats, assemble the greens and plate up as they go. There are plenty of diner tables to perch at downstairs, with lunch served from midday to 4pm, but unlike Chingón and Le Bon Ton, they will throw open the Five Point Deli doors for brekkie at 7am.
‘The cook line will be like an old-school hotel breakfast buffet,’ Will says. ‘The chefs will be back there with stations of bacon, eggs and waffle and so on. You’ll pay a set price and you get a bottomless cup of coffee, too. I love staying in a good hotel and getting your day together that way.’
Former Nieuw Amsterdam start-up chef, Nick Stanton, joins the team overseeing Longhorn Saloon upstairs, which takes over when Five Points winds up for the day. Half rough-and-ready saloon bar cranking the tunes, half civilised dining room with gilded ceiling, chandeliers and big banquettes, there will be a New York wood-fired steakhouse vibe at Longhorn.
‘All of our venues are very, very personal for us,’ Will says. ‘We designed and built them ourselves. It’s fun cultivating our passion. We live and breathe it.’
Five Points Deli and Longhorn Saloon opens late February
118 Elgin Street, Carlton
Image Credit: Nick West