Dining Review · Melbourne · Modern Australian · Top pick

The Town Mouse

If I were to sum up the experience at The Town Mouse, I would called it an underrated overdrive of the tastebuds. Haha, does that sound like a mouthful? Well read further and I’ll explain!

I thought of this place when my high school friends suggested to meet up for 1 last dinner before one of them was to relocate back to Perth. My friends do quite like a good meal and I knew that the one who was moving back to Perth had tried quite a few giants in the Melbourne culinary scene so I wanted to pick a place that she had never been before and still looked promising enough for a nice night out in Melbourne.

I then thought of an ex-manager at my previous company who had recommended this place on her Facebook wall. This is 1 person I know who had always been spot-on on restaurant recommendations, having been with her for a few client lunches/dinners. And this is 1 person I knew who cooked really well. So for someone who knows her food to rave about this place, there’s gotta be something there!

So even though at that time, the Town Mouse was not as famous in the blogger sphere and was not yet included in the Hot 50 restaurants in Australia, I decided to ditch the trend of following foodie recommendations’ and media reviews and go back to the old method of following the word of mouth, reserving a place for the 4 of us.

And that is how we got to this place.

312 Drummond St , Carlton 3053
312 Drummond St , Carlton 3053

Being located at Drummond Street, the Town Mouse was tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Lygon Street. And it had a cosy setting, with only 7 tables in the restaurant (although now I heard that they have outdoor seating). But don’t let this humble-looking location fool you – this little Town Mouse does pack a punch!

We were first served with complimentary bread and seaweed butter.

Complimentary bread & seaweed butter
Complimentary bread & seaweed butter

Again, don’t let the ordinary-looking bread & butter fool you. This is no usual butter – the seaweed in it just brings it on to a whole new level. Bread had never tasted so good before!

The waitress said that we simply must have the Goat’s Cheese Profiterole which was the speciality of the restaurant. So being first-timers, we decided to follow her recommendation.

Goat's Cheese Profiteroles - $3 each
Goat’s Cheese Profiteroles – $3 each

And were we glad we listened to her! These innocent-looking balls had beautiful goat’s cheese oozing out, with a lovely honey twang and slight crunch from the caraway. You just would not expect such dynamic flavours from these delicate little balls!

But what we didn’t expect, was this stunner of a dish:

Steamed diamond shell clams black mussels with clam bisque fennel and rosemary oil
Steamed diamond shell clams black mussels with clam bisque fennel and rosemary oil

The flavours in this dish were nothing short of impeccable. The flesh of the shellfish were soft and juicy, almost bordering on the raw side, which rightly showcased the freshness of the produce. And the bisque, the bisque:

Bisque exposed
Bisque exposed

Besides the lovely blend of fennel and rosemary oil, I thought I tasted a hint of seaweed which was the same as the seaweed butter. It was creamy without being too heavy. When the waiter set this dish on our table, he provided us with more bread for us to ‘mop up the lovely juices’ and that was exactly what we did!

Forget about the mussels in Boston or the famous chilli mussels in Perth – this is THE mussels dish to have!

With such wonderful starters and warm service, the mood was high as we caught up about our past and updated each other. Who would have thought that I would be catching up with my old school friends in Singapore here in Melbourne? What a globalised world we live in!

Next up were our 2 meat dishes.

Smoked barrumundi
Smoked barrumundi
Duck breast - $33
Duck breast – $33

The Smoked Barrumundi was fresh and the Duck Breast was lovely, albeit a little dry, if I were to really find a fault. Otherwise, these dishes were all of a high standard, although not quite reaching the outstanding levels of our starters.

We also ordered a vegetable side:

Slow Roast Red Cabbage with parmesan, prune & red apple - $14
Slow Roast Red Cabbage with parmesan, prune & red apple – $14

Again, this seemingly simple dish got us gushing over it, as we ooohhh and aaahh-ed over the tender cabbage melting in our mouths, with the cheese adding body to the taste, and the apples giving the dish a playful sourish kick.

My friend who was leaving for Perth actually loved this dish and I’m glad she did! So don’t think of this dish Hmm-I-think-I-can-cook-this-up-at-home; clearly, alot of thought has gone into putting the ingredients together and there is beautiful technique displayed into how well the cabbage was cooked. I doubt I would be able to get such an effect with my homecooking skills!

By this stage, we were already getting quite full but we decided to give the desserts a go.

Chocolate Tart with Thai flavours
Chocolate Thai Tart

We all thought that this was the only letdown of the night. The Asian flavours just did not work with this Western dessert for us. And because we could taste the Thai flavours (I cannot quite remember the ingredients now), we were not sure if this was psychological or not, but we thought that the chocolate, which is the main feature of the dish, actually tasted like soy sauce!

So this dessert was a little too adventurous to us and this really shows how food engages all your senses – what you think or perceive of the food can affect your tastebuds!

However, thankfully, this dessert saved our tastebuds for the night:

Lemon & yuzu curd with white chocolate, coconut sorbet n rum jelly
Lemon & yuzu curd w white chocolate, coconut sorbet n rum jelly

Haha this shows how good this dessert was – the girls did not even wait for me to snap a picture! They were all scrambling in to polish off the dessert, destroying that nice white chocolate roll!

The lemon & yuzu curd gave a nice sour cut to the sweetness of the white chocolate, with the coconut sorbet tickling our tastebuds to give it a lighty airy finish. The only element I did not quite enjoy in this dish was the rum jelly as the booze taste was too strong and bitter. But otherwise, a dessert that played off well with a creative combination of tastes!

We had such a good time and that is a testament to the slogan of The Town Mouse: Come in for good times. So if I were to sum up my experience at The Town Mouse, it was simple, underrated, yet packed with explosive beautiful flavours, getting your tastebuds on the overdrive. It was a cosy casual ambiance but yet, it is evident that the people at The Town Mouse do take their food seriously.

I unexpectedly enjoyed my experience there and this place got me so excited that I dragged Ms Slim & Ms CC again here one night. They are my 2 good girlfriends and I just knew that this place was special enough for us 3 to enjoy this place together. So stay tuned as part 2 of my Town Mouse experience is in the works!

The Town Mouse on Urbanspoon

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