We wouldn't have known about The Town Mouse if it weren't for a crowded eating area at the Queen Victoria Markets and a solitary gentleman sitting by himself at a table with two extra, empty chairs. We almost never do this in Sydney but C and I had a box of pesto and crackers and a whole load of tiredness so we asked if we could join him at his table.
Thankfully, John agreed happily and we got to have a lovely conversation over a short lunch. When C and I mentioned wanting to take J, our Melbourne host and all-round guru out to dinner, he recommended this place.
The place is relatively upscale, especially with wine but being a non-drinker does have some benefits. J, C and I shared most of the plates, in the endeavour to try as many varieties as possible.
Overall, a positive experience with some star dishes but portion sizes were relatively small for the price point.
When we called to book the day before, the only available time was 8:30PM, which was relatively late for dinner but we were in Carlton earlier than expected and decided to test our luck at finding a table.
We did get a table outside but, unfortunately, got caught in the abrupt Melbournian temperature change and ended up shivering after dressing for a 35C day and suffering through the evening in 19C temps. The warmth of the food really became important through the latter half of our meal.
The complimentary bread came to life with the small container of almond butter, which was indescribably fragrant and was an unexpected highlight of the meal when the sun went down.
C ordered a smoked duck liver parfait and I ordered a goat's cheese profiterole - absolutely miniscule, bite-sized pieces but with an interesting combination of flavours. Mine was resting on a bit of honey/caramel, which set off the savoury taste of the cheese very nicely.
Poached chicken, king oyster mushroom, ricotta, avruga and salad burnet. Interesting flavours and quite sharp in its taste. The chicken was cooked tenderly.
This was the potato cous cous, lemon, vadouvan, almond & thyme - a little forgettable without any particularly distinctive flavours that jumped out at me, but quite refreshing nonetheless.
Duck breast, pressed carrot, pickled quince, turnip, bay leaf and gingerbread. The dish was a delicate mass of different textures and flavours - from the roasted lettuce leaf to the variety of sauces. For its price point, though, the portions were not very large - or maybe it felt that way because I only got one bite of duck and wanted more.
This was the actual highlight of the meal - Slow roast red cabbage, prune, parmesan and apple. Quite literally a whole red cabbage slow roasted, the sweet tang of the prunes and spiced apples were perfectly counterbalanced by the saltiness of the parmesan. In the chilly breeze and in a thin shirt, this was an utter godsend for the stomach, being both warm and substantial.
The dinner ended on a great note because of the cabbage - I think the chilly wind outside and the fact we were sharing dishes substantially contributed to the feeling that the portion sizes were not enough but I would still recommend the place for the taste (and for the red cabbage and almond butter).
THE TOWN MOUSE 312 Drummond St, Carlton Opening: Lunch from 12:00 ~ (Mon - Sun) | Dinner from 17:30 ~ (Mon - Sun)