The Carlton Wine Room
A new chapter for Carlton’s dining scene has been ushered in.
THE NEW GENERATION of restaurateurs is rising. They’re the experienced, fiercely educated alums of the juggernauts of the previous era. Andrew Joy (who worked under Andrew Mcconnell at Cumulus Inc, Cutler and Co and Marion) and Travis Howe (who worked under Mykal and Kate Bartholomew at Coda and Tonka) have taken over the Carlton Wine Room and enlisted Mcconnell’s longtime right-hand man, John-paul Twomey, to head the kitchen. Essentially, they’re the dream team.
After a quick refurb, the venue feels dusted off, opened up and less stuffy. They’ve made use of the natural light and licensed footpath, which shakes off the austerity of the past. A lick of white paint and classic Thonet furniture, and they’re laughing. It seems the neighbourhood has taken to the facelift, as the venue is packed every single night, inside and out, since it opened. The good news is, it takes bookings. When you’re seated, the crew hands you a one-pager of aperitif and cocktails before you even see the food menu – old school. The full wine list contains 100 bottles. This isn’t particularly large, but this is one of the most approachable, decipherable and balanced wine lists we have come across. Balance means having something for everyone: the traditionalist, the new-wave drinker, the newbie drinker, the flashy drinker. The tidy number of bottles means the list has a chance to evolve quickly, or flow with the seasons. Howe is on the floor, recommending and dispensing his knowledge with eloquence and efficiency. He never missteps.
The food is classic Twomey: uncomplicated and not overworked, but highly delicious. Starting on oysters makes sense when you’re clutching a Martini or a glass of sparkling, but if you prefer a cooked starter, the garfish is the way to go. A piece of Conservas Emilia garfish arrives on fresh, squishy ciabatta, next to a wedge of tart green tomato under a rain of aioli. This makes for a messy-to-eat open sandwich that’s well worth the clean up. Duck and pork croquettes are lifted with vinegared prunes, and they come as hefty fried bricks. No wonder the staff are vocal about offering half serves. Just as exciting is the whole snapper cooked on the bone, served in a pool of buttery tomato sauce under a salad of sweet raw fennel and olives. The grilled broccolini is tossed with batons of fried smoked pork under cured, grated egg yolk and a parmesan cream. This is when Howe slides over to the table and offers a half-glass pairing of Domaine Macle Côtes du Jura chardonnay, and the oxidative wine picks up the umami from the cheese and yolk. It is evident that the food has been designed around the wine and not the other way around.
With the recent closure of the Town Mouse, the Carlton Wine Room couldn’t have opened at a better time. And like its predecessor, it feels like a breath of fresh air on a dining scene gone stale. 172-174 Faraday St, Carlton 3053. 03 9347 2626. www.thecarltonwineroom.com.au. Wed 4-11pm; Thu-mon noon-11pm.
The venue is packed every single night