Carlton’s The Town Mouse may only seat 42 diners but it is far from meek. The restaurant, which opened in early 2013, was previously home to the award-winning Embrasse. Housed in a Victorian Terrace with a shop-front façade, The Town Mouse blends seamlessly into Carlton’s village-like atmosphere. Having cast aside the ornate trimmings and dark curtains of the previous occupant, The Town Mouse has created an open, bistro atmosphere that is complimented by its black-tiled walls, high stools and central bar.
When we arrived at the restaurant the tiny dining room was buzzing with jazz, conversation and cocktail shaking. We opted to sit in the courtyard because of the hot weather, the outside area is less bustling, its redeeming feature, however, is the music: a jazz and blues compilation that bleeds out into the courtyard creating an intimate and sophisticated ambiance.
We began our meal with a few oysters and a game of chilli roulette, or as The Town Mouse calls it, “Friggitello Peppers with Green Goddess Sauce.” The dish is comprised of lightly fried Friggitello Peppers served on a silky avocado purée. When the peppers arrived, my dining companion informed me that one in a dozen peppers is super spicy, “a real kick in the crotch,” he said. Never one to be deterred by a little spice, I dug in, lavishly coating the peppers in the Goddess sauce. Thankfully for me, it was my companion who bit the bullet and turned red – but I don’t think he regretted a mouthful.
The main was bite size, charred pork loin and boudin blanc (a fancy kind of sausage). We paired it with two side dishes: string beans on a bed of orange and rosemary ricotta; and heirloom tomatoes with basil, tofu curd and a gazpacho and sesame dressing. The heirloom tomatoes were definitely the highlight and were amongst the sweetest tomatoes I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The dish looked like spring on a plate and when the tofu curd melted like custard it was serious food porn.
The Town Mouse’s food easily rivals any other contemporary restaurant in Melbourne. And I must admit that I did get food envy when a table of six were presented with a mammoth hunk of lamb shoulder. The 900g slow-roasted beast was rich in fat, cut like butter and begging to be devoured. I will definitely be returning to tackle this meat monster.
The Town Mouse is located at 312 Drummond St, Carlton.
* Photos not taken by the author are taken from http://instagram.com/thetownmouse