The Carl­ton Wine Room

A new chap­ter for Carl­ton’s din­ing scene has been ush­ered in.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - THEATRE & DANCE - By Jess Ho

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

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