It’s Valentines Day and I’m going to a date with my partner, cue the “Nawww!” To be honest, it’s not really that cute: we’ve been together a long time and St Valentine’s day of relevance doesn’t mean much to us, but it is a good excuse to eat somewhere a little more upmarket than Chinatown.
We chose The Town Mouse, an old converted terrace in Drummond St, Carlton. The building, black shiny tiled walls, avant-garde font theme, backless chairs, young and hip staff are archetypal of the “new, high class” Carlton that has well and truly broken free from its former working class immigrant identity.
The self-described “neighbourhood restaurant” character is contradicted when the snappy maitre d’ accosts us with “You’re ten minutes late. I was about to call you.” Time is money in new Carlton. Nonna and Nonno would be rolling in their graves.
Despite the pretentiousness of the restaurant’s desired image, the food was undeniably superb. We started with some oysters that were served with chardonnay sorbet and lemon and also cured duck-fish with sourdough miso sauce. I actually felt the cool duck-fish melt in my mouth.
All of the dishes are designed to share, so for mains we had ‘pork hock, charred carrots, shallots, yeast & yoghurt’ and ‘lamb flank, courgette, pistachio, fennel & mint’. Both were prepared to perfection – soft and fragrantly flavoured – and although they were small serves, we left with exquisitely full bellies.
The Town Mouse does not identify with a specific cultural influence, however the sharing design of the menu is reminiscent of European food cultures, the serving of yoghurt with the lamb appears middle-eastern and the use of miso is with the raw fish is very Japanese.
I’m always bemused that it is a must for every Melbourne restaurant desiring high status to include Japanese influences as a mark of their haute cuisine. Ironically, ten years ago, the mark of culinary sophistication would have been French influences.
Interestingly, Australia hasn’t experienced mass immigration from either France or Japan, so is the perceived sophistication of these cuisines symbolic of their exclusivity in Melbourne?
Grandiose aside, indulging in The Town Mouse certainly makes it hard returning to dates of fried dumplings…
Until next time Squeak.