05 February 2018

Cleaver & Co are a clever crowd. You see, one of the best things about New Zealand is our desire to sponge up the best of the world’s culture – be it fashion, film, music, literature, or food in this case – and twist it just enough that it works, but not so much that it doesn’t feel like the original inspiration.

Good southern-style BBQ isn’t new to New Zealand, but it’s been a hard road finding the perfect way to open the doors for diners of all stripes. Not everyone wants to go to ribs night at the pub, and steakhouses run the risk of feeling kind of 80s, 1880s, even. And those are just the places where you can still hear the conversation at your own table.

Cleaver & Co’s formula, in play at LynnMall already and now at Sylvia Park, has democratised the BBQ pit experience. It’s a family thing, a shoppers’ thing, a date night thing, a pit stop thing, an everything. Drop in and chow down, easy as that.

The wait staff at the Sylvia Park restaurant say very few dining parties – couples, usually – manage to finish the mountain of meat and starch called the Pitmaster Platter. But of all the Cleaver & Co menu items – and there are many – it’s this signature dish that you’ve got to get, whether it’s your first time or just your first time this month.

The platter’s lead item is the half rack of St Louis Ribs but they’re outshined – or outglazed – by brisket so smoky, it’s borderline seductive. More innocent, but exciting in their own way, are the mac n’ cheese bites. They’re huge, so it’s hard to know whether the bites were modelled on the mouth of a person or a hippopotamus, but “generous portions” isn’t usually high on anyone’s complaints list and this would be the wrong hill to be fighting that battle on.

On their own the ribs, brisket, and bites would be enough to bring two diners to satiety, but there’s a fistful of slaw waiting to be had. Oh, and hiding behind it: A pile of crispy buffalo wings, Texan meatballs, and an unexpectedly good garlic bread. (It’s hard to find the good stuff.)

If you can get through all this, congratulations and sweet dreams. Your food coma will be one for the ages.

If not, congratulate yourself anyway – and there’s always next time!

Troy Rawhiti-Forbes
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