Not so many years ago, parts of inner-suburban Collingwood were almost no-go areas after dark. Greedy Girl took very little notice of the seedy underbelly and was a semi-regular at the Japanese baths – a haven to banish the coldest winter day.

But the suburb continues to transform, due in no small part to the demise of manufacturing. Factories and warehouses are making way for, you guessed it, apartment developments. And, of course, where people live, people eat.

This particular area of Collingwood still has a way to go. Smith Street is a couple of blocks further west and the foodie scene around Wellington Street is still a little sporadic. Some of the old workingman’s pubs have already been taken over by the hipster crowd; one of these, in Gipps Street, is Le Bon Ton. Indeed, reflecting what the area was previously all about, this New Orleans-inspired restaurant and absinthe bar, is housed in what was previously the ‘Hell Towers Saloon’.

There’s still a bit of a pub vibe; the dining room (or rooms, the floor plan is a meandering path connecting various spaces) is huge and there seems to be a fair bit of outdoor space, although on a cool night we didn’t explore the al fresco options. There’s a lot of craft beer on tap as well as the absinthe and a decent wine selection.

The interiors are dark and moody and even early in the week, for the first sitting, the place is already packed with large tables. Shown to a spot for three by a waitress with an all-too-appropriate southern American drawl (from Alabama, y’all), we were excited to try meats from the smokehouse, grits and, of course, fried chicken. The absinthe would need to wait for another time.

There’s a special on offer here – the whole table can opt for seven share plates in a menu for $59 per person. Greedy Girl, gluttonous husband and Nuts About Town decided to choose their own path; Nuts About Town needs to be careful about, well, nuts and doesn’t eat red meat. Being a school night, we took the least line of resistance with drinks. Nuts About Town was driving, so stuck with water, while Greedy Girl chose a Belgian-style Witbier (actually from Colorado) while gluttonous husband took the Stone ‘Arrogant Bastard’ strong ale from California. The witbier is traditionally served with citrus, so a wedge of orange was plonked into Greedy Girl’s glass. It was quite pleasant; she made a note to try it again in the summer.

And so to the food. The style is definitely for shared plates here, so we opted for two ’rounds’ to begin with. First up was ‘chili cheese fries’. While you can get a vegetarian option, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband tucked into the traditional version with beef and bean chili with sharp cheddar on top of the fries. A guilty pleasure and quite delicious.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Texas beef and bean chilli fries

Of course, we couldn’t pass up the fried chicken. This was a smaller serving than what we’d enjoyed at Belle’s Hot Chicken but the chicken tenders were moist inside and crunchy outside and absolutely finger-lickin’ good. In southern style, the tenders are soaked in buttermilk (helping with both the moisture and softness) and the cracked pepper white gravy was a nice touch. Another yum.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Buttermilk soaked fried chicken

It was time for a sausage; we took the jalapeno and cheddar hot link. Not as spicy as Greedy Girl thought it would be, it was served sliced, ready to share and went down a treat.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Jalapeno and cheddar hot link

Greedy Girl tried grits for the first time during her last US adventure and was slightly underwhelmed by the experience but was happy to put ‘shrimp and grits’ on the table here. Again, it wasn’t her favorite dish. The grits are just a corn meal and the dish was very runny; she didn’t think it worked with the prawns either but, most of the dish disappeared.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Shrimp and grits

The Southern/Tex Mex theme continued with some black bean hummus, served with pico de gallo, ancho crema and BBQ-spiced tortilla chips. This was a nice combination but again probably a dish that comes into its own on a warm night.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Black bean hummus

Our two final plates were pulled pork from the pit smoker and a dish of collard greens dressed with maple syrup. The pork was soft perfection but after so many dishes, it was perhaps a step too far. Greedy Girl weakly managed a couple of forkfuls and was quickly defeated. Gluttonous husband and Nuts About Town were happy to take up the slack.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Pulled pork

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Collard greens with maple syrup

We were over and out – or so we thought. Nuts About Town thought we should experience dessert and gluttonous husband chimed in. What was a full Greedy Girl to do? Now, all going well, we would have shared a sweet but Nuts About Town’s allergy put paid to that. Greedy Girl couldn’t resist the chocolate and peanut butter mousse (pictured at the top of this post). It was truly decadent; the base was crushed chocolate biscuits and the combination of the saltiness of the peanut butter paired delightfully with the chocolate, a little caramel and some peanuts dotted on top. So good.

Nuts About Town chose the vanilla bean cheesecake, which also had the crushed chocolate biscuit base. She pronounced it very rich but a satisfying end to the meal.

Where to eat Melbourne Le Bon Ton

Baked vanilla bean cheesecake

And so, we prepared to depart. There was a crowd at the bar waiting for a table and the rest of the place was humming. Le Bon Ton is an intriguing spot. Greedy Girl will be back when the weather takes a turn for the better to explore more.

Where to eat Melbourne: Le Bon Ton

Beautiful original features in a dark and moody interior

Le Bon Ton
The Foodie World star rating
51 Gipps Street, Collingwood
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