When our waitperson was taken aback with my innocent statement “he’s a big eater” I was surprised. Equally, she was surprised having thought I’d said “he’s a big vegan”. As we had a laugh, we both nodded to the fact that you don’t bring a big vegan to Le Bon Ton.
Le Bon Ton is hallowed by night owls who grace the dining room through to the early hours of weekend mornings. Today, we are far more civilised venturing in for a late lunch. I had never been to the pub previously here, but it looks no different from the outside to all those years ago; grungy and a complete dive.
Inside however there is inventiveness and detail, especially in the beautiful bar area. There are several different areas that are spacious and comfortable. The floorstaff we encounter are friendly and know the menu backwards. Their guidance on what and how much to order is good, and it is easy to grab their attention for another beer.
This is Southern American barbecue, from Louisiana to Texas. We are hungry, deciding to order several dishes to share between myself, Catherine, and her aptly named brother, Angus. To begin we share Baja fish tacos and the fried chicken. The chicken is perfectly cooked, has huge flavour from the generous seasoning, and comes with plenty of jalapenos to provide some kick, softened by the white gravy. The tacos are a good size, with a finger of crumbed fish swimming in avocado and the cream of roasted peppers (called Poblano). The smoked corn salsa works in well for another punchy starter. Great beer food!
For main we focus on one of the meat dishes available and try several sides. We choose the Otway Ranges pork shoulder which like the other meats is cooked for twelve hours over iron bark and fruit woods. It is fantastic, the slow cooking making the meat extremely tender, and the marinade doing the rest. Along with the pork we tried the mac and three cheese, tangy coleslaw and fries. You can’t beat great fries, especially when they are this seasoned, teetering on the edge of oblivion, but not quite falling over it. The spicy ketchup served with them is addictive.
Of the other sides, amazingly I liked the coleslaw more, even though I could taste the onion for a while after finishing. The mac and three cheese wasn’t as creamy as others and probably needs to be served in cast iron, clay or the pan to keep it hot through the meal. Even average mac and cheese is good though and this one is duly finished off.
There is a good selection of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits (focussing on Absinthe). Catherine tried the lilypad which she enjoyed, served with a very interesting leaf on top that I can’t name but it is spicy! Angus and I stuck to some well known US beers like Sam Adams Boston Lager and Coors.
It took a while to make it to Le Bon Ton. Now that I have confirmed it is a great place, hopefully my memory bank will remind me the next time I’m in need of a great feed at 2am after a big Friday or Saturday night. Though lunch or dinner at any time here is equally exciting.