Josie Bones. The term conjures up scenes of grizzly murders (is that a tautology?), bones buried in backyards, museum displays of human skulls, and The Lovely Bones – the book turned movie by Alice Sebold. The term doesn’t make me think about food. Except maybe of a cannibal scraping meat off human bones and sucking the marrow out. Hold on – what kind of sick thoughts does my mind harbour?
Josie Bones is the food baby of Masterchef couple Chris Badenoch and Julia Jenkins. It is a restaurant in Collingwood featuring meat – including various offal – and beer. Nose to tail eating and beer, more specifically. Given that my only experience of cooking and eating offal in the past 20 years (aside from Mum’s tripe, and chicken feet at yumcha) is asking for a pig’s trotter for cooking pho, and saying it was for my dog, and that I mainly drink beer in the form of shandies (but I once had a beer spider – beer and macadamia icecream – as a dare to impress a boy), it seemed pretty crazy of me to suggest to Mum that we eat at Josie Bones for dinner last night. But I am glad we did.
Its exterior and interior may keep vegetarians away. An illustrated bone hangs overhead, marking the street number. If my dogs were alive, they’d find a way to get the sign down and taking it home to hang above their kennels.
Cast iron pig’s trotters greet diners. My Mum loved these, remembering reading about them in The Age a few weeks back. Pig’s trotters were a big treat for my dogs too.
And inside, a digital print of a skinned rabbit is the main artwork. It may freak some people out, but I thought the light and shade on it made it really beautiful. I’ve seen many skinned rabbits on the kitchen bench at home – that my Dad had caught or bought, or prised from the jaws of my dogs.
At Josie Bones, the drinks menu is far bigger than the food menu. The food menu is one page. The drinks menu comprises about 30 pages wedged onto a clipboard. Chris Badenoch was renowned for cooking with beer during his time on Masterchef – and Josie Bones certainly reflects this.
The drinks menu is divided into two sections: Beer and Not Beer. There are too many beers for me to count, or make any educated decisions about. I was drawn to the page featuring fruit ales.The knowlegable wait staff helped me choose this raspberry ale. It was interesting. It was like drinking raspberry puree with a hint of beer. I think I liked it, but then I didn’t know. Then again, I am not a beer fan.
The staff were very helpful and paid a lot of attention to detail – I saw they ensured wheat beer was in the correct glass, discussed the right amount of coasters to serve with the drinks, and served the bills on a tray with a lego or similar plastic toy animal. A cute touch.
During our first drink, we were served the most delicious sourdough bread that I’ve ever tasted – it’s from Loafer Bread in Scotchmer Street Fitzroy. The butter was handmade by the chef.
I loved sitting atop barstools and being served on a beautiful timber bench. Chris Badenoch sat at the end of the bench, eating, drinking beer and making notes with a colleague. Julia Jenkins came to talk to him every now and then.
We sat flicking through Chris’s book between courses. I bought it for Dad’s birthday last year and now Mum can’t wait to revisit it.
When it came to selecting dinner, I remained conservative. It was enough for me to eat at a restaurant serving offal, for now. Maybe next time.
Mum chose offal – trotters, octopus and bone marrow, and lamb’s tongue. Despite the rather graphic depiction of meat on the wall and door, the presentation of the food on the plates disguised its true source.
This is Mum’s octopus and bone marrow cigar with green mango salad. She said it was great.
Here are her pig’s trotter fritters. I tasted a bit and it just tasted like regular pork. Nothing to be afraid of.
Mum said the best part of her meal was the lamb’s tongue with eggplant relish. I didn’t photograph this one. She raved over it, wanting to cook the lamb’s tongues she has in her freezer.
My meal was not Heart Foundation approved. But the doctor said to eat more, and I figure the fat will go to moisturising my skin from the inside. Well, I can dream? It’s the Last Meal kind of food.
I had a plate of pork crackling. Wow. I smiled all the way to the last piece.
Next up was an oyster with crispy nori and a jelly that I think was beer. The oyster was raw and salty, just how I like it.
My main course was slow cooked pork belly with crispy skin and pickled peach. Sticky and moist pork, and tangy peach. So good.
While the meals at Josie Bones aren’t big and hearty, I didn’t go hungry. The meals are meant for sharing though. The woman next to us was sharing a board of various salamis, including horse salami, and the guy on the other side had lamb tartare – raw lamb.
My piece de resistance was this:
Amazing. Creamy, deliciously ripe and pungent washed rind goat’s cheese, like brie but better, served with my favourite fruit and toast.
The wait staff asked if I was sharing. I immediately said no! This cheese board was heaven, and again, I smiled all the way through it.
After our meal, Mum was bold enough to go to speak to Chris. I went up after a few minutes too. Mum was telling him of the food she and Dad grow at home, and butchering their sheep. They talked about brains and smokehouses. And both of their eyes lit up during the conversation about caul fat. Chris was genuinely interested. He is really personable, and a definite food lover.
Mum told him I was going write about our time at Josie Bones. He said he recognised me from somewhere, perhaps I’d been in before. I said no but said I am on TV. He was interested to know about No Limits, and then we got talking about good and bad reviews, and of course, food. I told him I’m a big fan of Masterchef.
He said that while he’d love to serve a whole pig’s trotter on a plate, Josie Bones is about making offal more palatable and less confronting to diners. It’s about getting offal out there, and respecting the whole animal enough to use all its parts.
Chris was happy to pose with me for two photos.
My dinner at Josie Bones got me thinking about the importance of sourcing local produce, and that offal isn’t scary. Next time I will delve further into the menu.