Vegetarians evacuate! Middle Park Hotel's annual street festival of constant carnivorous cravings, Meatopia, returns to Canterbury Road on Sunday, 2nd March, and this time they've brought in back up in the form of Huxtaburger and southern-style barbecue connoisseurs, Fancy Hank's.
Meatopia will see marquees set up in the street outside the Middle Park Hotel, with all three outfits coming together to showcase some of Victoria's finest produce, plus over a dozen of the best meat suppliers on hand to provide their fancy cuts and expert advice.
For a flat fee of $60, punters will be able to nosh on a trio of tasty feeds from the likes of Gamekeepers Meats, Warialda Belted Galloway, Milawa Chicken and Sher Wagyu, washing it all down with fine tipples from Mornington Peninsula beers, Mitchelton wine and Gypsy Cider. There will also be Calendar Cheese platters, Ricketts Point Ice Cream and Niccolo coffee on hand for good measure.
Melbourne Pub Group executive chef, Stephen Burke, who oversees the Middle Park Hotel, says the hotel has a firm focus on exploring the more unusual corners of Victoria's meaty offerings, from heritage breeds of pig like the Wessex Saddleback to older breeds of beef including the Scottish Longhorn or Belted Galloway. Lamb-wise they'll be whipping up Dorset Downs and Suffolk Blackface.
"The idea of Meatopia came about because we have so many producers and suppliers and we wanted to create a showcase for them," Burke says. "It's an opportunity for us and for them to show what we do and give these meats a bit more exposure."
Now on its third outing, Burke says Meatopia has a great street party feel, so much so that chefs from other Melbourne Pub Groups venues flock down to join in the fun. "There's a real festival atmosphere with the chefs and the producers on hand to interact with punters and answer any questions they may have. It's one of the highlights of the year for us."
Besides all the fun of the fair, Burke hopes Meatopia will inspire festival goers to think about where they source their meat and get a little bit more adventurous at home too, relying less on generic supermarket offerings. "It's so helpful to have good relations with your butcher, fishmonger and support your local green grocer. You'll get a far better product and probably a better price too."
Fancy Hank's co-owner, Mike Patrick, used to live in Middle Park and has attended the last two Meatopias. He's looking forward to teaming up with the Middle Park Hotel boys and the Huxtaburger crew. "The Melbourne Pub Group guys approached us and asked how we'd feel about doing some sort of American food, and we said 'yeah, bring it on, that's what we're all about."
They'll get two whole hogs going over charcoal the night before on a purpose-built barbecue in front of the pub. "We'll be doing them sort of Carolina-style, then we'll pull it to order and dress it with a little bit of cider vinegar," Patrick says. "The whole southern American style we're doing is kind of in its infancy in Australia, so the more people know about it and are exposed to it, the better."