Bar Carolina

This La Dolce Vita ad­di­tion to the South Yarra din­ing scene is a good ex­cuse to dress for dinner.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - FOOD & DRINK - By Larissa Dubecki

GOSH, THE ITAL­IANS do glam­our well. With no­table ex­cep­tions (Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni; Al Pa­cino’s shirts dur­ing the 1980s), it’s a na­tion that breeds good taste. And Bar Carolina, the new ad­di­tion to Joe Mam­mone’s bou­tique Ital­ian sta­ble of Il Bac­aro and Sarti, ex­udes Latin charm from its ter­razzo foyer to its bar clad in char­coal steel. And we haven’t even men­tioned the quo­rum of lilt­ingly ac­cented wait­ers who mar­shal the crowds, one ‘ciao bella’ at a time.

It’s a slim cor­ner spot mak­ing Toorak Road great again, and another mem­ber of the restau­rant club (hello, Lon­grain) that was laugh­ingly de­layed in the con­struc­tion phase but has made up for it by un­veil­ing a tri­umph of de­sign. At once mod­ern and clas­sic, the Chris Connell-led fitout is a seam­less melange of her­ring­bone par­quetry and sleek wall sconces that scream both ‘im­ported’ and ‘ex­pen­sive’. It’s beau­ti­ful – a sit­u­a­tion that ex­tends to the clien­tele. Mel­bourne is no stranger to great Ital­ian restau­rants. From the lux­u­ri­ous min­i­mal­ism of Rosetta and the aris­to­cratic tra­di­tions of Grossi Florentino, to the ex­cit­ingly au­then­tic likes of Pasta Ada­gio and Tipo00, we’ve got the lot. Bar Carolina shows ev­ery sign of fol­low­ing its older si­b­lings into Mel­bourne’s Ivy League of Ital­ians, with a menu that serves two masters – old faith­fuls and tech­nique-driven mod­ern twists, two sides that mostly man­age to hap­pily co­ex­ist with just a lit­tle whiplash for the un­wary.

For the for­mer there are fried zuc­chini flow­ers stuffed with gar­licky salt cod bran­dade, the kind of dish you’d ex­pect to find in some hill­top vil­lage trat­to­ria in the Puglian hin­ter­land. In the same camp, capretto brasato – slow­cooked baby goat with broad beans and rib­bons of salted ri­cotta – is the kind of dish that could adorn any ta­ble from a hum­ble os­te­ria to ris­torante level.

Pasta hounds ought to bee­line for the tagli­olini. The thin strips are anointed with a luxe com­bi­na­tion of More­ton Bay bug meat, the umami thrum of porcini mush­rooms and a thicket of dried chilli sliv­ers on top. It proves not all good pasta is ugly. For those will­ing to push the boat out a lit­tle more, there’s no bet­ter place to start than the vitello ton­nato, a ver­sion of the clas­sic that should have in­verted com­mas thanks to its topsy-turvy ren­der­ing with poached veal cubes and raw tuna sashimi joined asun­der by pick­led shimeji mush­rooms and dainty dabs of an­chovy mayo. Some will call it a trav­esty; we call it de­li­cious.

Aperol Spritz is Bar Carolina’s spirit an­i­mal, but the wine list is cause for huz­zahs. Start with a $22 glass of Ruinart Cham­pagne then move onto a list of mostly Ital­ians, both na­tive and abroad. A fresh and fruity Mara­bino chardon­nay from Si­cily, at $70, is just the ticket across most of the menu, but the list by the glass is both grat­i­fy­ingly long and sat­is­fy­ingly priced.

At dessert, the orb’s a show­stop­per that has the ladies in Camilla kaf­tans at the next ta­ble coo­ing over the white chocolate bauble that spills a tiramisù-flavoured cen­tre. For some it will be the high­light of their din­ing year; for others, too much fuss for some­thing that didn’t re­quire a re­dux in­volv­ing cof­fee jelly. But above all Bar Carolina knows its crowd – and for this crowd too much is hardly ever enough. 44 Toorak Rd, South Yarra 3141. 03 9820 9774. bar­carolina. Mon-sat 5.30pm-late; Wed-sat noon-3pm.

Pasta hounds ought to bee­line for the tagli­olini

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