The Townmouse – Carlton, Melbourne

It’s places like these that really do separate the mice from the men. Chic industrial finishes belie the seamless complexity and beauty of the dishes here. This is what gets me really excited about food – cracking creativity pulled together with subtle sophistication and the greatest respect.

The menu is short, but by no means simple. It’s perfectly suited to a great night out with friends, but just as apposite for the lone diner – as is the service. I never fail to appreciate the easy, warm welcome and comfort some establishments are so deft at lavishing on solo travellers.

Parfait PSThe wine list is equally impressive – comprehensive and clearly crafted to complement a universal menu. A stunning variety of wines by the glass are happily conducive to the little taste travel the menu maps out. Profiterole B copy copyA sweetly oaked, subtle French chardonnay starts the journey in style with a blushing pink, silky smooth smoked duck liver parfait and carries through just as well with the goat’s cheese profiteroles with caraway, thyme and honey.

The menu is expertly fused from a diversity of the world’s best cuisines and you can literally go from France to Italy and Spain on one plate.

Chicken A Delicate poached chicken with ricotta dumplings, pickled king oyster mushrooms, Spanish avruga butter with savoury herbs and subtly infused garlic oil make the perfect entrée – or main if you start with tapas as I did and pair it with a veggie dish. Perhaps some summer beans with preserved orange and rosemary ricotta, or some slow roasted red cabbage with prune, parmesan and red apple?

If you’re curious like me, this is one of the few places you can try orange wine and I highly recommend it. I tried the 2008 Denovolo Italian orange and I’m pleased I did. It’s complexity is completely at home with the menu, although I would recommend it with a more robust dish than the chicken.

You’ll find The Townmouse at 312 Drummond Street, Carlton – a short but happy deviation from Lygon Street.

Note: I apologise for the poor quality of these photos – I literally popped in for a quick bite (sans my real camera) not expecting to be so utterly wowed and had to resort to my trusty iPhone.

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Billy Kart Kitchen – Annerley, Brisbane

BillyKartJust a few months old and nestled in a seemingly unlikely location, Billy Kart Kitchen has quickly become a local favourite and popular all-day breakfast and lunch destination.

IMG_0925The setting is vastly different to chef/owner Ben O’Donoghue’s last venture at Southbank Surf Club, but the menu is a nod to his unchanged food ethos – fresh, simple and seasonal. The menu is concise, a little playful and thoroughly modern with superfoods, organics, pickles and some very young wines on offer.

The pulled pork I’d heard so much about wasn’t available the day we visited, so we opted instead for a rib eye steak with bearnaise and spice crusted Blue Eye with fennel and celery.

IMG_0929The trevalla was a triumph. Plump, moist flesh that pulled apart with a feather touch under a crispy crust of dukkah-inspired spices and herbs. I would give anything for the recipe for the fennel and celery dressing, which worked sublimely with the crunch of the vegetables and smokiness of the tomato salsa. A truly exciting dish that I would be hard-pressed to forego even if I could get the pulled pork .

IMG_0934Although not my  husband’s favourite cut, the steak was perfectly prepared and the bearnaise sauce silky simplicity.

Also on offer is a range of cakes, bagels, Campos coffee and owing to its corner-store roots – freshly baked bread, milk and newspapers.

Billy Kart Kitchen is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch and Friday evenings for dinner.