The Town Mouse has been on my ‘to do’ list for so long, I’m ashamed. Living in Bayside, it’s quite a hike over to Carlton, especially when there are so many epic gastronomic obstacles (distractions) in between. I finally made my way on a train and tram (please, they have Chenin Blanc on the menu, I’m not driving), and visited this little glammed-up (mouse) hole in the wall restaurant on Drummond Street.
Don’t let it’s size or lack of main street location fool you though (it’s a trap!), The Town Mouse holds its place as one of Melbourne’s top spots for serious foodies. If you’re after a tasty dinner, best book ahead, as this intimate dining space fills up fast. The service is great, with dedicated and informative bar staff quick with a recommendation (and a fantastic grasp of the extensive international wine list), waiters with smiles all around, and care taken to explain the details of some wickedly intricate and interesting flavours.
We started with bite size morsels of Goat’s Cheese Profiteroles, with caraway, thyme and honey, along with Duck Liver Parfait with cucumber, sandwiched between crisp potato. Apart from looking adorable (in an elegant way of course), these little appetisers are delicately put together, but swimming with flavour. The crisp outer shell of the profiteroles are spot on, and packed full of fantastically smooth goat’s cheese. The cucumber surprisingly packed a punch too, and held it’s ground against the rich duck liver parfait.
With our tastebuds roaring with delight and our tummies begging for more, next came the Veal Tartare with soured cream, horseradish, ginger and celery. This was a pleasant mix of flavourful meat, really tangy horseradish, and crisp celery chip saltiness. The portion size was perhaps a tad too generous (gasp, I can’t believe I just said that!), and the flavours might go better appreciated as a smaller serving. Another dish that could do with being downsized would be the Slow Roasted Red Cabbage, with prune, parmesan and red apple. While absolutely scrumptious, and a truly unique pairing of flavours, this dish is huge for what you’d expect. I loved it, but I also would have loved it at half the size.
But dishes that I could eat all day and please don’t downsize EVER? The Creamed Corn with creme fraiche, tarragon and dried citrus for one. I know, creamed corn, right? This dish hits all the right comforting, spine tingling and toe wriggling spots. A spoonful of this will put a smile on your face.
The Smoked Pork Jowl with green cabbage, hazelnut and sour pear was also rather stunning, with heavy smokey tones reminiscent of a blazing campfire, and beautifully tender pork so soft, they serve it with a fork and spoon—no knife for you!. The Braised Lamb was also tasty, with globe artichoke, lemon, courgette and charred kale. The kale was definitely king in this dish, with charming smoky crunchiness.
Desserts were spot on, with a Lime Posset with green apple, white chocolate, dill and matcha for the ambitious lovers of citrus and cheeky creaminess. For those suffering from a slightly protuding and still digesting stomach, order the Yoghurt Semifreddo with preserved feijoas. This dish was a true highlight for me. It’s cute and rustic, and really sets your tastebuds to tangoing. The feijoa is so sweet and full bodied, with the yoghurt semifreddo appropriately taking a mild and refreshing backseat. I’m still dreaming about a never-ending bowl of this.
We may have ordered over ambitiously, but at a place like The Town Mouse, it’s all about #noregrets. Be prepared for a lot of heavy and rich dishes, (which no complaints here), great for winter weather. The food and overall dining experience at The Town Mouse definitely serves as a tummy (and heart—awww) warmer.
The team is set to open a new two level spot in the CBD soon (aiming for August), with a more casual plan in mind. Can’t wait!
Rated out of 10
The Town Mouse
312 Drummond Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 3312
Monday & Thursday, Dinner from 6pm
Friday to Sunday, Lunch from 12pm, Dinner from 5:30pm
(Closed Tuesday & Wednesday)
All images are copyright © Megan Osborne.