Readers will know that as a somewhat recluse southsider, it takes something quite special to bring me out of my self imposed exile (not really) to the northside. Having long heard of the renovations done on Westfield Chermside, it finally took an invitation from Bootleggers to bring me up into the uncharted north for a hearty American lunch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I was lucky to be accompanied by food reviewer iHo for this meal.
Situated in the relatively new upstairs outdoors dining precinct in Chermside, it was a pleasure explore all the different options. But we were only there for one thing that afternoon, smokey American barbecue. Arriving at Bootleggers, I really appreciated the rustic wooden setup, giving it a very strong smokehouse vibe. We were quickly greeted by the head chef and seated.
The menu consisted of two pages of food in addition to an extensive drinks menu. In addition to standard BBQ fare, the menu also contained burgers, hotdogs, wings, fries and other sides, but rather than making our choice, we settled for the omakase way and let the chef serve up some of their signature dishes.
Starting off though, we had six glasses of beer to taste. From left to right, we had the Brouhaha Milk Stout, Fortitude Ginger Beer, Hasselhop IPA, 28 California Ale, Kaiju Krush and the Twisted Palm. The milk stout was quite rich an sweet, and the Kaiju Krush was fresh and fruity, but my favourite was without a doubt the 28 California Ale, which was crisp, sharp and had a nice slight bitterness to it.
We also tried two cocktails, the lychee mule and of course my favourite espresso martini. The lychee mule was fizzy and refreshing, I enjoyed the brisk minty taste and the light spice of ginger. The espresso martini was very smooth and quite sweet.
Our food started coming before long. Our first BBQ platter contained pulled pork, beef brisket, beef ribs, smoked chilli beans and chips with an assortment of dipping sauces. The beef ribs were really tender and meaty after being slow cooked for 6 hours with paprika, garlic and onion. The meat was completely infused with flavour and went really well with the garlic aioli sauce. The 14 hour beef brisket was also packed full of flavour, with a signature spice rub and bbq rum sauce. Compared to the ribs, I found it to be sweeter and it had considerable moisture locked in from the fattier portions of the meat, making it a very enjoyable guilty pleasure. In contrast, the pulled pork shoulder has been cooked for 8 hours in its natural juices. It didn't have as much of a wow factor as the other two beef dishes with their crispy caramelised edges, rather being a consistent stringy meaty texture which were slightly dry, but easily alleviated by utilising the sauces. We both also really enjoyed the chips which were lightly seasoned with paprika, being crisp, fresh and hot.
Our next BBQ platter consisted of pork ribs, coleslaw and chips. Compared to the beef, the pork ribs were cooked with cumin, brown sugar and paprika. It presented a near perfect level of moisture retention which deeply impressed me. Each rib slid out easily from the meat and the texture was spot on. This was by far my favourite of all the dishes we tried that afternoon. The coleslaw it was served with was also fresh and crunchy with a creamy sauce.
Other than heavy meats, we also had a serve of popcorn shrimp glazed with honey. These were battered in a light tempura, fresh and crunchy with the honey giving the relatively simple dish some added dimension.
Our final dish was the Smoky Maple BBQ Buffalo Wings. These were fried before basting in smoky maple bbq sauce, luckily the skin retained some crunch despite the coating. This complimented the sticky texture well. The coating also served to lock in the meat juices from the chicken, and the meat was remarkably juicy, which we also really enjoyed.
After the meal, we were given an exclusive look around Bootlegger's commercial Smoker, one of the largest in Queensland and Australia. We were given a first hand account of the processes undertaken to ensure quality and consistency of the food, and the long arduous hours it takes to cook their meat low and slow with such a juicy tender result. It definitely gave us a whole lot more context to our meal and a newfound appreciation of the efforts that resulted in the food on our plates.
Price Range: $20 - $40pp