10 Aug The Town Mouse, Carlton
The Town Mouse has been with us for over two years, taking over the small Carlton venue that was once Embrasse. Co-owners Christian and Amber McCabe, Jay Comeskey and chef Dave Verheul have made quite a name for themselves in this relatively short time, earning a chef’s hat in the Good Food Guide in 2014, and being voted by chefs and restauranteurs as #18 in the AFR’s inaugural national restaurant awards this year.
The atmosphere is dark but cosy with high stools, classy, glossy black tiling, and terrazzo flooring. Small tables are arranged around the central, well-stocked bar, with a few tables in the outdoors courtyard and quite a number of seats at the bar perfect for solo diners and pairs. We scored a slightly larger table by the window for our party of four tonight.
The menu consists of starters and a few raw appetisers, vegetables, meat and fish to share, and desserts. At first we weren’t sure about the size of the servings and how much to order, but the staff were on hand to help out with suggestions. No seaweed butter today. Instead we had sesame butter to go with our lovely complimentary sourdough.
We began with a few small bites. The goat’s cheese profiterole, caraway, and thyme was seated on top of some house-made honey – they have beehives on the roof – and were eaten by scooping up all the bite-sized goodness in a spoon. I initially chose the duck parfait because I don’t like caraway, but I did end up having a small taste of the profiterole and found that the caraway wasn’t too prominent. The smoked duck liver parfait and pickled cucumber were sandwiched between two amazingly thin and crispy slices of potato. There was a big parfait:potato ratio, and though it was nice to be able to enjoy the parfait, a bit more potato may have helped to temper some of its richness. It was also a little difficult to eat neatly, because one bite would cause most of the parfait to be squeezed out by the potato crisp before it broke between my teeth. Its messiness did not make it any less delicious though.
We decided to share three dishes from the meat and fish section of the menu. The duck breast and Jerusalem artichokes were dressed at the table with a lovely porcini sauce. The meat was cooked very well, and not at all dry. Though it wasn’t a bad dish, I felt it didn’t quite stand out against the others.
The Black Angus intercostals were well-seasoned, with a tasty, dark char on the outside but were beautifully, evenly pink and soft on the inside. I enjoyed them both with and without the interesting watercress and green chilli sauce (which was made with a ‘secret blend’ of herbs and spices).
Our pick of the fish options was the albacore. The fillet of tuna was presented with baby brussel sprout leaves cascading artfully over the top, and dressed with a light, but flavoursome white sauce that had a gentle acidity to it. This only just edged out the intercostals as my favourite meat/fish dish for tonight.
I don’t often order veggies when I go out, but I’d heard about the amazing things they did with vegetables here, so how could I not? In fact, we ordered two vegetable dishes: the slow-roasted red cabbage and the roast cauliflower. The chunky wedge of cabbage was amazingly tender, and full of rich flavour. Even though there was prune and red apple nestled within its leafy layers, the dish was not overpoweringly sweet. Mum was enamoured with it and immediately wondered if she could make it at home. Heh. I don’t think you’ll be getting the recipe anytime soon, mum. The cauliflower was similarly easy to cut through, and was accompanied by a scrumptious, velvety sauce and sprinkled with deliciously crunchy crushed almonds.
I was excited by the slightly unusual and refreshing flavour combinations that were presented on the menu here. Would it be strange to say the cauliflower was my favourite dish of the night, with the red cabbage coming a close second? Perhaps not a conventional answer, but The Town Mouse indeed does wonders with the humble vegetable.
The Town Mouse
312 Drummond St
Carlton, VIC, 3053
(03) 9347 3312