245 Johnston St Abbotsford, VIC 3067
|Opening hours||Daily 11.30am-late|
|Features||Groups, Vegetarian friendly, Accepts bookings|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9417 2293|
Craft beer is booming and Bodriggy is both stoking the fire and riding the wave. This huge new brewpub has room for 425 people and is so pleasantly flexible that you'll find all sorts of folk doing all manner of things here.
You might see a patron heading to a booth with a beer paddle (a five-tipple taster of Bodriggy's hop-forward brews), another telling Lucky to sit (the place is dog-friendly), people dancing under the mirrorball (there's live music), a table calling for more fish tacos (chef Johny Dominguez has the chops) and a gang ordering cocktails and wine on tap (beer is central but other drinks feel the love too).
Owners Pete Walsh, Jon Costelloe and Anthony Daniel opened nearby eatery Dr Morse six years ago. A few years later, the LPG conversion place across the road serviced its last yellow cab. The trio snapped it up and put in three years of hard yards to turn a big shed into Bodriggy, a happy mash-up of New York subway, Melbourne warehouse, country tavern and Latin American grill.
Chef Dominguez was born in Mexico but his desire for culinary adventure took him to Michelin-starred Monte Carlo and produce-obsessed Noma before he followed his now-wife to Melbourne. He didn't know what to expect beyond kangaroo cliches.
A stint at Vue de Monde introduced him to Australian produce, he dived deeper into fine-dining theatrics at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck pop-up at Crown, then stayed on for Dinner by Heston, the restaurant that replaced it.
Dominguez has brought the creativity and organisational skills picked up along the way to this heaving kitchen, which he designed around an Argentinian wood-fired parilla grill.
The menu interprets Mexican and Latin American dishes via Victorian produce. It's lively, drinks-friendly stuff that's more thoughtful than it might initially appear.
Take those fish tacos. Swordfish is marinated in a so-weird-it-works rub of vanilla and coffee, hot smoked with applewood then stuffed into brined jalapeno chillies. The fish-filled chillies are Bodriggy-beer-battered, fried and placed over corn tortillas. Each one is a delicious riot of spice, crunch, smoke and zing.
Beef heart skewers are done Peruvian style, painstakingly trimmed (it takes the kitchen three hours each day to remove the sinew), marinated in aji panca, a signature chilli grown locally by a Peruvian lady. Grilled to order, they're tender and deeply flavoured with sweet but persistent chilli notes, an advertisement for offal one bite at a time.
Grilled corn is a ubiquitous Mexican street food. Dominguez' dressed-up version is charred over redgum and brushed with an emulsion of aji amarillo (another Peruvian chilli), garlic and cheese.
It's then sprinkled with crisped corn kernels, feta and spring onion to create a layered vegetable treat that's smoky, crunchy, fresh and spicy. It's a striking example of the way this menu translates Latin street food for a new-style Aussie pub. Authenticity doesn't have to mean replication.
You can't cook in Melbourne today without catering to vegans. Bodriggy does it properly, most notably with a vegan ceviche that uses fish-free "leche de tigre" (lime-based marinating liquid) to dress avocado, green papaya and roasted sweet potato to create a dish that channels the spark of Peruvian cuisine while veering wildly from tradition.
Bodriggy is a fun, frothy boost for the inner north. The food's good, the drinks are shipshape and the place is cool – welcome, Melbourne, to a key new hangout.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)