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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Jimmy Grants

George Calombaris is widely known in the foodie world, if not for his enthusiastic, friendly-but-firm guidance to Masterchef contestants, then for his ever-expanding portfolio of successful Melbourne eateries. Along with his partners, Calombaris is responsible for the somewhat cult-ish Hellenic Republic, new-ish Greek restaurant/bar Gazi, sophisticated The Press Club, consistent Good Food Guide Hat-winner PM24, pasta joint Mama Baba south of the river, classy Middle Eastern-focused Maha Bar & Grill, and more. A month or two ago, he added Jimmy Grants (113 St David Street, Fitzroy): a funky, clean souvlaki joint not at all like the fluoro-lit, greasy, early-morning kebab pitstops you're probably familiar with. Jimmy's (not to be confused with the nearby Jim's Greek Tavern) is presided over by Chef Travis McCauley of Hellenic Republic, and is already a runaway success.

Kitchen counter

Named after the Australian rhyming slang term for 'immigrants', Jimmy Grants gives a cool nod to Australia's (and Calombaris' own) immigrant heritage. Confident industrial design gives the site the feel of a converted garage, with features such as an aeroplane and ocean liner painted by artist Dan Wenn on the white brick walls, rustic exposed light fittings, blue and white retro tiling, white wooden stools, and a folding counter at one end of the kitchen, reminiscent of Melbourne's so-hip-right-now food vans.

These people were not happy with my photo-taking.
So I blurred them a bit NYERRRRR

Happily, Jimmy Grants is licensed, offering wine, ouzo and beer, including Mythos Hellenic Lager. Its hours also cater for the traditional takeaway crowd: 11am to 10pm daily. I met friends there for a quick midday meal on a Saturday in August, not long after the venue had opened. A lively buzz emanated out onto the street, and customers loitered territorially inside, waiting to order from any one of the counters, or for their prized food to appear (fortunately not a long wait). The lanky chap who served me was warm and generous with his time, despite the myriad demands on his attention. Appreciated, buddy. 

We started with a grain salad, a dish handballed from Hellenic Republic, for which I am utterly grateful, as it was DELICIOUS. 

Grain salad


We then devoured a souvlaki each, all beautifully wrapped in crisp blue-and-white paper and presented upon a white plate. The bread was deliciously doughy, the meats beautifully cooked, and fresh, 'clean' (as my mother would say) flavours enhanced each souva, with additions such as mustard aioli, honey, fresh herbs, cucumber, even a few potato chips. 

My friend was a fan of his Patris (prawn)

Nonna Maria (chicken)

Mr Papadopoulos (lamb)



Apparently, a pork option will also be available soon, adapted with a Korean Kim-Chi twist, for something different. 

Desserts, provided by Darren Purchese of Burch and Purchese, include a "Jimmy's Wheel", which had sadly run out the day we were there. We settled instead for the house-made Greek doughnuts, and OMG they were AMAZING. 

Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey

Word on the street is that a home delivery option is on its way for the Fitzroy venue, and new venues will be opening in the CBD and Ormond. 

I was highly impressed by Jimmy Grants, and recommend you get your buttola there in a hurry to sample the wares. 

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Town Mouse

Long overdue for a catch-up, my chef-ex-housemate and I met for dinner one cold evening in July. Naturally, being interested in food, he's a good one to take to new restaurants, and I'd heard The Town Mouse (312 Drummond Street, Carlton - in the old Embrasse site) described as a cool little local.

Cool, indeed, it is - a far more modern, schmick affair than the comfy, chilled-out "local" I'd envisaged. It didn't match my expectations, but that's not to say it wasn't pretty excellent.

I arrived early and waited for a bit under a heater out the front. The fairy lights overhead added a magical touch (but then, I'm a sucker for pretty lights) - as did the gold lettering of the restaurant's signage. Through the window, I could check out the goings-on inside: it seemed very clean, bright, and not overly busy, but it was early yet. By the time we left, it had filled up completely.

A central bar in a strange, rounded, sort of kidney shape seemed to be the hub, with seating along its edge, good for individual diners or couples. Table seating around the room comprised tall, bar-style, wooden tables with stools - not overly comfortable, but funky and space-saving. The hard floor and white/black design base made for some strange acoustics, and overall I'd say the design favoured aesthetics and impact over comfort and practicality. They did have business cards printed with glow-in-the-dark lettering though (apparently by Press Print), which were pretty cool. (And memorable!)

A helpful, friendly Kiwi lady helped me decipher the solid wine list. I was interested to try what was termed an "orange" wine (and not from the locale, either): it was actually orange in colour, or close to it - more like a soft salmon hue. Like pink sparkling or moscato, the skins of the grapes are left on for a time during the fermentation process, colouring the wine and sometimes adding further sweetness. This one was not overly sweet though, and was utterly delicious (I think it was the Italian one by the glass on their wine list). It was also biodynamically produced, something I'd like to learn more about with respect to my problem with sulfites. One glass turned into two, which turned into a bottle to share. Magic! I also very much liked the mouse printed on the glasses as a measurement marker.

Better representation of the wine's actual colour

When my friend arrived, we ordered, and thus began a journey through some aesthetically amazing and technically impressive dishes. They all tasted excellent and were perfectly cooked, so I won't bore you with detailed descriptions, but the captions identify them by how they're listed on the menu. Oh - except for the roast cabbage, which is their signature dish and TOTALLY DELICIOUS. It's surprisingly filling and oddly diverse in flavour, which I wouldn't normally expect from a dish based mainly on one, traditionally 'samey' tasting item.

The Town Mouse menu, as nicked from their website on 2/09/2013


(My description)  DELICIOUS crusty bread with DELICIOUS seaweed butter

Goat's cheese profiterole, caraway, thyme & [house-made] honey

Oysters served with chardonnay vinegar sorbet & lemon

Venison tartare, pickled radish, nashi pear, ginger & wasabi

Pork jowl, charred octopus, ink, turnip, kohlrabi & chickweed

Slow roast red cabbage, prune, parmesan & red apple

Smoked hapuka, salt baked celeriac, lemon verbena, matcha & lime
(I'd actually made a note that this was Barramundi, hmm)

All of these dishes were fantastic, however, of a much higher standard than I'd expected for a little local wine bar. By extension, this also meant dinner was a more pricey affair than I'd expected. But I didn't mind - it was worth it! I would recommend The Town Mouse for more of a weekend event or dinner though, rather than popping in for a few tidbits on the way home.

Having said that, we quite happily finished up with a drink or three for the road. Behold, the martini:

The Town Mouse is absolutely worth checking out.

The Town Mouse on Urbanspoon