A SLICE of New York cool has landed in Newcastle with the launch of MEET.
The Brazilian barbecue restaurant, which is re-branded simply as M, shifted from Honeysuckle last week to a customised warehouse space in Darby Street.
The industrial New York-style venue incorporates a vast 200-seat dining area that adjoins a cosy bar, with entries on both Darby and King streets.
A spectacular floor-to-ceiling glass panelled wall separates the two areas. Skylights above the wall filter in light during the Friday to Sunday lunch service, while at night, festoon lighting illuminates the dining area.
There are large tables for big groups, including a round table with a ponytail palm as the centrepiece, as well as smaller tables on a raised deck area and along a mirrored wall that looks across to the expansive open kitchen.
It is the perfect view point to soak up the buzzing atmosphere. Making the move to Darby Street has not only allowed MEET to grow in size, but expand its menu.
In addition to the restaurant's signature churrasco dining, MEET has introduced a share plate menu that leans towards a more refined style of barbecue based on the idea of ordering as you would from a tapas menu.
Small plates include barbecue corn with smoked chilli, dried ricotta and lime ($5); beef tartare with smoke creme fraiche, truffled dwarf peaches and sorrel ($19); lamb ribs with spiced labne and za'atar ($22); or school prawns (over coals) with garlic chives chilli, samphire and lemon dressing ($18).
Larger plates include whole baby barramundi served with herb butter and fennel salad ($45); wagyu flap with seaweed and horseradish butter, charred greens and pickled cucumber ($34); "Little Joe" rib sirloin with mustards, smoked truss tomatoes and jus ($49); and, for the vegetarians, brassica medley of vegetables with goats curd, grains and nuts ($26).
Sides include shoestring fries or salad ($9 each), while the dessert menu offers churros with dulche de leche ($10); Whipped St.Agur (fluffy blue cheese) with truffled honey, muscatels and lavosh ($15); and bbq banana "split" with vanilla gelato, candied pecans and cinnamon ($15).
Brazilian-born chef and co-owner Daniel Pires describes it as an "evolution".
"There was a little bit of nostalgia on our last day at Honeysuckle, but it's a good feeling because we have evolved into something better," Pires told Weekender on the eve of the restaurant's re-launch.
"We always wanted to change a little bit and move forward, and the only way we could move forward was to go to a bigger place.
"The way we see ourselves is we have evolved to be able to do pretty much anything.
"Of course, we still have the Brazilian barbecue, but on the share menu we have French influences, Asian influences . . . we have a bit of everything."
All food is cooked over charcoal in a variety of South American barbecue methods.
That includes MEET's churrasco menu, the all-you-can-eat experience where a selection of meats, poultry and sausage are carved onto your plate at the table, served with a selection of sides such as salads, vegetables, beans, cheese, and tasty house-made sauces.
"The churrasco is exactly as it was at the other restaurant, so the sides come out in progression and it's the same for the meat," Pires says. "We always try to match the sides with the meats and vegetables served at that time and we carve on the table.
"The only difference in the kitchen compared to the other one is it has a parrilla, which is an Argentinean barbecue. It's pretty popular not only in Argentina, but in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia. It's become popular in Brazil just now.
"It's grilling over charcoal and the food goes very close to the charcoal, so it's a very intense heat on the proteins and vegetables we cook in there.
"We have the Brazilian barbecue too, as well as a smoker, which is more a traditional American barbecue."
MEET had planned to move weeks ago, but the opening was pushed back by almost two months to allow for the restaurant's enormous exhaust fans to be installed.
"Because everything is cooked over charcoal, the company we used had to fabricate specific for us and that's something they hadn't done before. They customised it for us, so that's why there was a delay," Pires says.
The restaurant includes a private dining section, known as the chef's table, where groups of up to 12 are treated to a specially designed menu in the space sectioned off by sheer curtains.
The table is to the side of the main dining area and is close to the kitchen, with the idea that diners can watch the chefs at work and discuss the meal as it is being prepared.
The "farm to table" experience will focus on locally-sourced seasonal produce.
"We have a questionnaire that we put together and they give us a bit of information about what they like and then based on that, we design the menu," head chef Rafael Tonon says.
"It focuses on what is in season and a little bit of what's on the menu here, plus some special stuff, but it is designed specially for that group.
"It's a bit of a surprise because they don't see the menu until they arrive."
Tonon advises allowing 48 hours notice for bookings at the chef's table.
Share plates are also available in the bar (at the Darby Street entrance) where general manager Ronnie Stricke says people can pop in for a bite and enjoy a great cocktail, with a focus on Brazilian cachaca and "really good whiskeys".
"We want people to be able to come in and have some really nice little snacks, but also have a really nice cocktail."