Sep 25, 2015 Bars
Words and photos by Alice Harbourne.
It’s been an uncompromising winter, hasn’t it? But there’s finally the promise of dry pavement in the spring air, and it certainly coloured my mood en-route to Juke Joint, the newly opened second home of Auckland craft beer champions, Brothers Beer.
I’ll put my over-enthusiastic reaction to the fact Juke Joint has a sandpit for children to play in down to my spring elation. I don’t have children, I’m (probably) not going to play in it, and come to think of it, I don’t think I even liked them as a child, I always associated them with my mum’s response to why we weren’t allowed our own, because “dogs wee in them”. But here I was, in sunny Mt Eden, stoked that children will be as excited as parents to visit this freshly-sprung beer and sandpit paradise.
Juke Joint is housed in a huge ex-leather factory situated on quiet side road Akiraho St. It’s a mega version of the original Brothers Beer at City Works Depot; it’s about five times the size, with a grassy courtyard, outdoor seating area, and a much larger high tech brewery, complete with touch screen controls.
The same garage-like aesthetic of the original bar remains, with retro armchairs and cult toys filling the cavernous space with nostalgic charm, though the landscaped area outside feels more polished. But where Juke Joint deviates from the original formula, and from the general Auckland restaurant trend, is in its canteen-style ordering system.
Instead of a menu, you get given a little ordering sheet and a branded pencil that you use to curate your own tray of barbecued, smoked and slow-cooked meats with Deep South-inspired sides, which you pick up from a school dinner-style counter.
I tried a bit of everything: the 14-hour beef brisket dipped in house-made espresso BBQ sauce, perfectly salted pastrami, sloppy beans made interesting with chewy bits of burnt brisket fat, sticky, toffee-like ribs and fresh, acidic coleslaw and dill pickles. The weight of my greed rapidly rendered the tray lining transparent, reminding me of that episode of The Simpsons where Dr. Nick informs Homer: “If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain!”. Shame, as I could definitely eat here on the reg.
As frustrating as it may be to admit, the Auckland dining scene is largely driven by trend. As a result, it’s easy to dismiss menus that focus on recreating other cuisines “authentically” if they don’t recruit native chefs from whichever region fashion dictates is popular at the time.
The “brothers” of Brothers Beer: Anthony Browne, Andrew Larsen and Nick Anderson-Gee, avoid falling into the pastiche food trend trap in two ways. Firstly, they did their research: they spent a few weeks travelling around Texas and the southern states with their chef, Sara Simpson, eating five times a day, returning with a NZ$50,000 smoker to recreate some of the dishes they tried.
Secondly, they say they don’t really care about being trendy, and I believe them. They just want to have fun, and by serving food that demands rolls of kitchen towel on every table, by building a sandpit and permanently parking a classic Morris Minor (previously their delivery van) inside for children to play in, they’ve made it easy for everyone that visits to have fun too.
Juke Joint provides yet another reason to be excited for summer: it’ll soon be playtime.
5 Akiraho Street