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The Roving Marrow (closed)

Restaurants Carlton
4 out of 5 stars

It’s quite possibly the weirdest name of 2015, but dismiss the Roving Marrow at your peril. At this reborn Carlton pub dining room lurks one of the most exciting discoveries of the year...

OK, so now we’ve got the name out of the way let’s hit the substance of the Roving Marrow. There’s a lot of it, too, at the revamped, repurposed, rezhuzhed pub formerly known as Percy’s and now restored to its original name of the Astor. These days any of the old stagers who once called its front bar home are likely to walk out blinking in amazement at the transformation wrought by new owner Darran Smith, formerly manager at Sydney’s Icebergs.

It’s a slightly groovalicious makeover of timber paneling and burnt orange leather banquettes. Downlights peek out of X-shaped, high-shine steel beams that wouldn’t have been out of place at Studio 54, and disco tunes don’t shy away from the theme.

And they do yum cha, of all crazy things. Saturday and Sunday lunchtime, $55 a head will buy you unlimited trolley-driven snackage such as Sydney rock oysters with a stunning briny granita that kicks boring old red wine vinaigrette to the curb, or Sea Bounty mussels with kim chi pancake, or smoked brandade with marrow and horseradish. No, we’re not in Chinatown anymore – this is yum cha, Euro-style. Get down to bargain-town, Melbourne, although it has to be said that the other five services a week, where you could eat your fill for under $60, are no slouch in the value department either.

So kudos to head chef and New Zealand transplant Hayden McMillan, who obviously knows a thing or three about excellent, slightly off-piste texture/flavour combos without getting all weird science-y about it. It’s a fine line, and despite his young years he’s a master, riffing on an east-meets-west theme with his pumpkin and bone marrow-filled dumplings in heady, aromatic masterstock with toasted pepitas lending toasty crunch. He says dumplings, I say ravioli, but whatever the case, they’re a treat, shaved horseradish imitating parmesan scattered on the top for more cheeky diner discombobulation.

He does another feint with pasta where the fettucini ribbons are actually made from mozzarella. The trickster. Just add chevre whipped into a levitating frenzy of lightness, and peas just-blanched so they retain their kernel of hardness among the soft textures, and pea puree, and baby basil and little cubes of pickled daikon that stare down the richness. A stunner. And then go see if you can’t not fall in love with pork belly, roasted Chinese-style with a layer of salt for superior crackle action, ladled in buttermilk and lightly dressed red cabbage (although the braised red capsicum didn’t make complete sense). And then at the end see if you can’t hit the Granny Smith dessert, so very like a deconstructed crumble that’s been elegantly re-constructed, and get the bill, and leave smiling vowing to return very, very soon.

By: Larissa Dubecki


Venue name: The Roving Marrow (closed)
Address: 418 Lygon Street
Opening hours: Wed, Thu 6-11pm; Fri, Sat noon-3pm, 6-11pm; Sun noon-4pm
Transport: Buses:
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