The internet is a funny thing, especially among bloggers. When you meet people that you've known online for years it can either be strange (if they're nothing like they are on their blog) or you can just slip into a natural comfortable friendship. That's what it was like recently when I met six lovely Melbourne food bloggers.
Town Mouse was Daisy's idea. She had arranged for the booking and had managed to gather everyone - for that I was both thankful and extremely excited. She and her boyfriend Mr Bao had even picked me up while Shellie and Ewen had come to my talks at MWF. It was just like having family in Melbourne!
Town Mouse is based in Carlton on Drummond Street. The name is based on Aesop's fable "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse" as the restaurant sees themselves as a little bit city in a little bit of suburbia. The decor inside is casual with blue tiles and bar stool tables. We make our way outside where there are regular tables. We take a seat outside under the heaters where there is no time limit (inside has a table limit of two hours). Service is friendly and we go for the $70 chef's tasting menu where they bring out the best of the menu. Adrian arrives and then Sarah and then we have our group of seven.
I don't usually go mad for bread but this house made sourdough has a moreish texture. With big pockets of air and a chewy, spongy texture and that distinct sourdough flavour I spread it generously with seaweed butter-that most umami of butters. I like it so much I have a second piece. Play yes I did and I wanted a third but I sat on my hands instead...
The smoked duck liver parfait is served on a crisp, wafer thin slice of potato and collapses as soon as it hits the tongue with a range of textures from creamy and crisp. The richness of the smooth parfait is balance with the slice of pickled cucumber.
The goat's cheese profiterole is a mouthful of creamy goat's cheese mousse filled choux pastry with a hint of caraway seed and thyme. It is secured to the plate with a dab of the honey. Our waiter points out a rooftop area near where we are sitting where they keep a bee hive that provides them with the honey for these.
Daisy plays "mum" and mixes this dish up as directed by our waiter. The sour vide shaved calamari looks just like rice noodles and is served with dabs of oyster cream, cucumber, dill oil and fermented apple juice. The shaving of salted cucumber could be perhaps a bit smaller or in pieces to make sharing easier.
Cabbage is a bit of a theme on the menu and features in several dishes, many of which we try today. The veal tartare is small cubes of tender raw veal, soured cream and is seasoned with light amounts of horseradish, ginger and celery. This all hides under a cone of roasted cabbage pieces, sweet from roasting.
The beef neck is meltingly soft as befits a confit and is served with dried mushrooms, walnuts, stout and chick weed giving it a distinct savoury, umami quality.
The heirloom kale is served as a pile of crisp kale leaves with a slow cooked egg, quinoa, comte cheese and mustard and is my favourite side. I immediately want to order another bowl of this and it goes with the meat dishes particularly well.
The Brussels sprouts are served sliced in half with a buttermilk, lemon and mint dressing. They're not as crisp as stated on the menu but the flavours are good.
I had assumed that the beef neck was the main but no, two other meat mains come out. The slow roasted saltgrass lamb shoulder is a thing of beauty. I slice off some of the tender meat along with the skin and fat and dress it with the tahini dressing. It also comes with a side of buttered savoy cabbage and bacon which isn't bad but I'm more smitten with the other sides.
The potato couscous isn't actually couscous. It is made out of potato (in much the same way that cauliflower rice is made). The vadouvan is an Indian spice mix with French Colonial influences and the whole dish it is given texture from almonds.
I mentioned cabbage right? This slow roasted red cabbage is a dish that has been on the menu from when they opened. Red cabbage can be slightly bitter but here the bitterness is offset by sweet flavours. They sous vide the cabbage and then stuff it with prune and red apple and cooked again before being given its final dressing - a blanket of finely shaved parmesan.
This main however was my pick. Whilst the lamb was perfectly cooked, the beef intercostals (the meat between the ribs) just melt in the mouth. Each slice has got a great crust but inside is meltingly soft. It comes with a watercress and green chilli sauce that is strong in garlic that adds a flavoursome punch to the meat.
Dessert time! Visually this reminds us of a Mont Blanc and it's a lightly sweetened dessert with slices of buttermilk poached pear topped with roast chocolate, pear sorbet, walnuts and caramel. The pear still has a little bite to it and it's pleasant and Shellie's favourite.
We're not quite as wowed by the ricotta doughnuts. The mandarin gives it a marmaladey aspect but the doughnuts would be great with a filling or a sauce.
We all enjoy the refreshing aspect of the lime posset. It is a slender slice of lime posset with green apple foam, white chocolate shrapnel pieces, dill, matcha green tea and is edged on two sides with thin sheets of sugar.
The favourite dessert for many of us is the brown butter souffle that arrives as a two parter dish. There's a brown butter souffle, all nutty goodness with a restrained but present brown butter flavour. But once paired with the rum butterscotch and cultured butter ice cream it is a sensation on the tongue.
It's getting late and we make our way to our respective destinations but not before lots of photos and selfies!
So tell me Dear Reader, are there many people that you have only talked to on the internet but have never met in real life? And if you've met any in real life, how was it?
The Town Mouse
312 Drummond St, Carlton VIC 3053
Phone:(03) 9347 3312
Lunch Friday to Sunday from Midday
Dinner Wednesday to Sunday from 5:30pm