Thank god. The old mosaic welcome on the front doorstep is still there: ‘Come in for good times.’
That was always the promise of The Town Mouse, the old Carlton stalwart that used to sit at 312 Drummond St. And most of the time, it delivered. But the world turns and Melbourne moves on, and sadly so did The Town Mouse (RIP, old friend).
Fortunately, Alf France and Jeff Green snapped up the famous space when it closed in early 2018. And keeping with Melbourne’s Lion King-esque circle of life, from the bones of the mouse has risen something new: say hello to ALFIE’S Wine + Grill.
Now don’t panic. There’s been a few cosmetic changes to the space, but the guys have stayed true to the overall heritage mood. ALFIE’S is cosy, refined, convivial and delicious, just like its predecessor. Nominally, it’s serving up ‘Modern Australian’, but a lot of the menu revolves around the flame-blasting Japanese hibachi grill, so ‘Smoky Modern Australian’ might be closer to the mark.
Here’s how you do it. Start the night with a croquette double act: a couple of serves of ham hock, burnt pineapple and jalapeno, and two of the porcini and parmesan with smoked Jerusalem artichoke. The mains range from subtle black barley risottos to belt-loosening Torello Rosé veal T-Bones and O’conner hanger steaks with Bordelaise. Pro tip: you’ve gotta try the charred cauliflower with parsley crumb and Milawa blue cream cheese. Best cauli we’ve had outside Miznon. And that’s saying a lot.
You don’t chuck ‘wine’ in your restaurant’s name without a good Somm in your pocket, and ALFIE’S is lucky to have Cam Moore (who also looked after the vino at BEAU, Alf and Jeff’s other venture in Beaumaris). In Cam’s own words, the ALFIE’S wine list is a “ripper”. Batting 80 bottles deep, and featuring “small and unique” winemakers like Ricca Terra, Flotsam & Jetsam, Inkwell and Pittnauer.
Lock this place in for your next pre-Nova dinner sesh. The Town Mouse left some big shoes to fill, but ALFIE’S wears them with style.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis