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Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Oxford Tavern, Petersham

American barbecue meats at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham

Topless waitresses. Jelly wrestling. Girls girls girls! As a kid, I'd always press my nose up against the car window when we drove past the Oxford Tavern. The neon lights seemed like they were winking their enticements when we stopped at the lights. My parents would always laugh and say it was highly ironic that the police station was just across the road.

That all changed late last year when the Drink 'n' Dine group took over the site, adding to its portfolio of eateries that include The Norfolk, The Carrington, The Forresters, Queenies and House of Crabs. The pokies have gone, the carpet's been replaced and the food has been revamped into an American-leaning menu of tacos, burgers and schnitzels.

The Oxford Tavern, Petersham
The Oxford Tavern

Live hot bbq neon sign at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Live hot bbq

There might not have been a heritage listing on the neon signage, but I'm glad they've kept them anyway. The Live Hot Girls now reads Live Hot BBQ although the saucy female outline remains.

Black Betty smoker at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
The new Black Betty smoker

The indoor bar area is large but dimly lit which is probably why you'll find the majority of people outside in the beer garden on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It's a mixed crowd of locals: a smattering of young families and older folks but most of the crowd are in their twenties and thirties. The vibe is relaxed and casual, but nicotine-sensitive diners should note that smoking appears to be permitted out here.

The beer garden has been offering barbecue meats every weekend since Australia Day this year, but things really started cranking in late July. That's when their vertical smoker kicked into gear, a double barrelled beast christened Black Betty.

Black Betty menu at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Black Betty menu

Drink 'n' Dine Executive Chef Jamie Thomas is passionate about Black Betty. He's the one putting the dry rub on meats and manning the smoker most weekends. He's putting a broad selection of meats through the smoker: beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Black Betty is in smoke mode for about 45 hours a week he reckons.

Drink 'n' Dine group chef Jamie Thomas carving meat at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Drink 'n' Dine Executive Chef Jamie Thomas carving up barbecue goodness

The meats are all lined up in the display cabinet. All you have to do is tell Jamie how much you want of each. It's carved right in front of you, weighed on a sheet of greaseproof paper, and then transferred to a tray waiting for you at the pick-up window.

Barbecue pick-up section at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Barbecue pick-up section

Tray of barbecue meats at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Tray of meats 

Jamie Thomas delivering our bbq meat lunch at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Jamie hand-delivering our lunch

Barbecue is the kind of thing you need to eat with a large group of people. That's why I said yes to Jamie's invite to have lunch with a group of fellow food bloggers. I was glad to have a fellow drinking partner too - John and I shared a jug of the peach mojito, ordered at the bar for $20.

Barbecue meat plate and Chef Jamie Thomas at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Time for meats!

So yes, Jamie chops up a little bit of everything and hand-delivers the trays to to our table himself. A few minutes later he brings over tubs of kale and edamame salad, "just to make you guys feel healthy", he says with a guffaw.

Black Betty barbecue tray with burnt end beans, bread rolls and slaw at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Mixed barbecue tray

There's enough protein here to make a carnivore weep with joy. Everything's piled up high, angling for space on the tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bread rolls and coleslaw come free with every order.

Beef brisket at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Beef brisket $8 per 100g

We hand out cutlery to everyone but noone really uses it. It's just one helluva meat fest. I'm in with my hands, tearing off hunks of meat, picking up ribs with my fingers, and dunking practically everything in puddles of their housemade barbecue sauce.

Pork ribs, beef ribs and lamb ribs at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Pork ribs $7 per 100g; beef ribs $8 per 100g; and lamb ribs $6 per 100g

The pork ribs and the beef ribs are a little on the dry side but nothing a good whack of barbecue sauce can't fix. The lamb ribs come off much better, protected by a layer of fat that renders itself into the meat. When I chat with Jamie later he admits he's still on a learning curve with the smoker. "Working with a smoker is so temperamental," he explains. "It depends on the weather, how warm it is or how windy it is... when any one of them shifts it can completely change the temperature in there."

Pulled pork and lamb ribs at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Pulled pork $6 per 100g and lamb ribs $6 per 100g

Smoked pork sausage at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Smoked pork snag $7 and smoked chicken $8 per quarter

The smoked pork sausages are amazing: thick, smoky and sweet with juicy chunks of fat embedded. And I can't get enough of the smoked chicken either, almost silky with succulence, with a lingering smokiness in the flesh,

Burnt end beans and beef brisket at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Burnt end beans $6 and beef brisket $8 per 100g

The brisket isn't as fatty as the ones you'll find in Texas, but here's a satisfying blackened sheen to the skin. The burnt ends are added to the housemade beans, adding an incredible smokiness to every saucy mouthful.

Housemade bbq sauce at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Housemade bbq sauce

You can make up your own mini sliders with pulled pork on the soft and fluffy sweet buns provided. Douse the lot in barbecue sauce. Ignore the grammar nazi inside your head that wants to add a comma and correct the typo on the sauce bottle that reads "Refridgerate after opening people".

Kale and edamame salad at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Kale and edamame salad $6

But otherwise Jamie's right on the veggie front. The kale and edamame salad is enough to make anyone feel virtuous, even after consuming a week's worth of protein in one sitting. The sweet pops of edamame beans pair brilliantly with the curls of sauteed kale, and offer much needed relief during the orgy of meat.

Beef brisket and pork ribs at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Beef brisket $8 per 100g and pork ribs $7 per 100g

Barbecue diners at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Barbecue diners

Black Betty barbecue menu at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Black Betty barbecue menu

Barbecue meat tray at the Oxford Tavern, Petersham
Barbecue feast

The Oxford Tavern, Petersham
The Oxford Tavern by night

And there's more to come at the Oxford Tavern with plans to develop the first floor into a brand new offering. Jamie's tightlipped on what they're hoping to open, but I'm planting a seed now that I hope it involves fried chicken. Twice-fried.

Grab Your Fork dined as a guest of the Oxford Tavern.



The Oxford Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Oxford Tavern
1 Canterbury Road, Petersham, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8019 9351

Opening hours:
Monday to Thursday 12pm - 12am
Friday and Saturday 12pm - 3am
Sunday 12pm - 10pm

Black Betty barbecue only available Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm until sold out


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
House of Crabs, Redfern
The Norfolk, Redfern
The Forresters, Surry Hills

Petersham - Casa Brasil
Petersham - Madeira Grill

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/10/2014 03:52:00 am


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