Nieuw Amsterdam

106-112 Hardware Street, Melbourne, Victoria

Nieuw Amsterdam's upstairs restaurant.
Nieuw Amsterdam's upstairs restaurant. Photo: Penny Stephens

Dani Valent

If only we would stop throwing those shrimps on the barbie for a second, we would realise that Americans have much to teach Australians about barbecue. That is, the slow, smoky barbecue that's an obsession in the United States' deep south, using cheap cuts such as ribs (from pork, beef and lamb) and beef brisket (from the chest). You can tell Nieuw Amsterdam is a fan because there's a good chance you'll stumble into a fragrant, smoky fug when you arrive.

The handsome upstairs restaurant is the fetching gentleman to the basement's speakeasy sleazebag. Both have their allure; the restaurant is bright by day with large arched windows and semi-secluded nooks. The bar throbs all night.

Lunch: Beef brisket barbecue meat tray.
Lunch: Beef brisket barbecue meat tray. Photo: Penny Stephens

On either floor the drinks list is so creative and expansive that it would seem churlish to leave sober. If you don't fall for the lamb-fat-washed mint julep then you're made of stronger stuff than I. (Fat-washing entails steeping alcohol in butter or lard then filtering it to create flavoured liquor. In this case lamb, whisky and mint are kookily logical bedfellows.)

Chef Nick Stanton (ex-Woods of Windsor) brings high-art appreciation to lowbrow food to create enjoyable dishes that are more about indulgence than authenticity. Beef brisket, cooked for two days in a water bath until it gives up all resistance, is smoke-grilled then placed on a lunch tray with oozy mash, thick gravy and peppered slaw. There's a fancier dinner version of the brisket with carrot salad.

Nieuw Amsterdam isn't just about the South, nor indeed Amsterdam (the name recalls the 17th-century Dutch settlement on Manhattan's southern tip). The menu is peppered with New York classics such as the Reuben sandwich and clam chowder. There's a Japanese inflection to the excellent shrimp salad with sesame, soy beans and miso mayo and a vaguely Vietnamese view from the vehemently victorious pork sandwich with pate and crackling.

Dinner: Beef brisket with carrot salad.
Dinner: Beef brisket with carrot salad. Photo: Penny Stephens

The kitchen's outlook is freewheeling but the food is rock-solid and free of pretension. In fact, the only pretence on my visit was when I imagined I could fit in dessert, but it was a chocolate delice with molten centre, so you can see why I had to try.

Rating: Three stars (out of five)

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106-112 Hardware Street, Melbourne, Victoria

  • Cuisine - American (US)
  • Prices - Lunch, $13-$22; dinner, $13-$23; desserts: $12-$14
  • Features - Bar, Accepts bookings, Licensed
  • Chef(s) - Nick Stanton
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Daily noon-late
  • Author - Dani Valent
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3 comments so far

  • yes yes yes. Melbourne you are really missing out. Drive through the south in the US and you can't go far before your nose picks up the scent of slowly smoking BBQ. I can't wait to try this place and have to pray to the Q gods that they got it right. But, if I see beetroot anywhere on the menu I'm not even walking in the door. If your'e gonna do it, do it right.

    Commenter
    ozzy interloper
    Location
    Date and time
    May 05, 2014, 10:41AM
  • Why does a BBQ place go out of its way to present it's food like regular restaurant food? Looks to me like an upmarket grill to me.

    Commenter
    Frizz
    Location
    Date and time
    May 05, 2014, 1:58PM
  • I am a big fan of American low n slow BBQ. My passion for it came from my few trips to the southern part of US for work. I have around 5 different bbqs at home, gas and charcoal and an offset smoker which I use almost every weekend (weather pending) to smoke pulled pork and ribs. I love the experimental aspect of smoking meats, turning a cheap cut into something tender and amazing, refining my dry rub recipes and the ritual of tending / controlling the fire and smoke during the 8-12hr smoking process. I see the emergence of US style BBQ restaurants in Melbourne which is good, in my opinion, in broadening people's views of BBQ'ing, instead of the usual cremation of snags and meat on a gas hotplate. But anyone who has the passion and perseverance in learning at home can pull something off (pun intended) just as good if not better than these restaurants and surprise themselves and their friends if they put in the effort. The recipes and process are quite simple.

    Commenter
    Eric
    Location
    Date and time
    May 05, 2014, 9:48PM

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