66 Flinders Ln
See the map
|Opening hours||Lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday|
|Features||Accepts reservations, Business lunch, Licenses, Bar, Events, Private room|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Call||03 8375 7300|
Can we just eliminate that? The name Botswana Butchery is an odd choice. The restaurant – originally from New Zealand, recently opened in Melbourne and with four locations in both countries – has almost nothing to do with the small, landlocked southern African country from which it takes its name.
The food and decor is about as un-African as you can imagine. Indeed, one of the greatest qualities of the restaurant is the use and enhancement of Australian products. The vibe in the multi-story venue is all clubby steakhouse chic, a little bland, perhaps — you could be anywhere in the world in this muted-toned, velvet-accented room, except, maybe- be, Botswana.
The explanation is that one of the chefs who helped open the original venue in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2007 was part-Botswana. Probably also sounded good.
But let’s move on. Is the food good? Is the service running like a well-greased machine, headset microphones on black-clad staff? Is the wine list wide, varied and even intermittently affordable? Yes Yes Yes.
The idea of a high end restaurant chain is not particularly well established in Australia, although I suspect that will change in the coming years. Restaurant groups are already opening venue after venue, and they will find it much easier to simply replicate an already successful concept than dream up new personalities for each new opening.
This is already happening, Rockpool being the obvious example. Indeed, Botswana Butchery has a lot in common with Rockpool, including a culinary director of the group in Australia, Angel Fernandez, who once worked there.
Botswana’s original butcher shop has made its mark offering fresh seafood, premium steaks and a handful of creative dishes – think New Zealand’s version of Rockpool, with a little less formality. This formula is pretty much exactly what they brought to Melbourne, but with input from head chef Andrew Zdravkovski.
This is one of those places where you can get everything from serving caviar ($140 to $390) to a bowl of goulash ($26), a 3 lb grain-fed tomahawk steak ($320 $), a whole lobster (market price) picked directly from its tank, or fried chicken with sauce ($35).
In this vast world of choice, I was especially grateful for the Alaskan crab leg ($39), a staple of international steak and seafood houses that is especially hard to find here. Zdravkovski, who recently worked at La Luna Bistro in Carlton North, serves it cold with remoulade, shredded iceberg lettuce and a homemade milk roll, allowing you to make your own little lobster roll with the soft bun. , if you wish it. At first I was wary of the expense, but I can see myself stopping at the bar for that dish and a glass of wine and calling it dinner.
Zdravkovski’s flair is most apparent with the more creative appetizer dishes: steamed crab ($39) served with a layer of wood-grilled eggplant and aged tofu; venison tartare ($32) that comes on an umami-rich anchovy cream and sunflower seed cracker, its deep meaty flavor a revelation.
Speaking of meat, the selection here is really good, and there’s a wide choice of pastured and grain-fed cuts from all over Australia. Zdravkovski pulls out some culinary tips even with something as simple as a steak – my medium rare Stone Ax wagyu oyster blade ($90) was perfectly cooked to the edge of the meat, so evenly medium rare I thought that she must have started her journey in a vacuum machine. I was wrong – the kitchen knows how to handle these steaks with an uncommon level of skill.
The bearnaise sauce ($5) I ordered on the side had been aerated in a siphon — essentially a can of whipped cream — rather than being prepared the traditional way. It’s a cool piece of cooking magic, and it’s more foolproof than doing it in a pan, but it does give the sauce a slight chewy texture almost like scrambled eggs. It tastes good, though, so no harm, no fault.
Aside from the name, if I have a problem with Botswana Butchery, it’s that it lacks personality, specificity, in other words, soul. But I can’t think of a better place for a business lunch, especially one that includes people who might have disparate tastes.
There’s something here for just about anyone – anyone with the considerable amount of money needed, that is. Perhaps not all restaurants need a soul, especially if they are as well presented and well run as Botswana Butchery.
Vibe Clubby chic steakhouse, with cleaver accents throughout
Essential dish Alaskan crab leg, $39
Drinks Creative cocktail menu, very nice wine list with great finds
Cost $220 for two, plus drinks