Update: As of May 15, 2020, Love Tilly Devine has reopened and is slinging a $50 set menu. Walk-ins are welcome for a drink and a snack, but they highly recommend you book in advance online.
Michael West gives good toast. Briny clams on crisp fingers of garlic bread, say. Or shiny fillets of sardine garnished with curry leaves. Or mussels, plump and slathered with spicy rouille. And then there’s the parmesan toasts with Japanese Vegemite – little rounds of bread freighting a blizzard of Reggiano cheese on top of a dark, umami-rich goo that West concocts from tamari and shio kombu. All this needs, you think to yourself, is a bloody good glass of wine. And this being Love, Tilly Devine, one the country’s original and best purveyors of wines from off the beaten track, that is not a problem.
You might say half the battle is won just having Iggy’s bread on hand. But West treats the Iggy's (the best bread in Australia) as the precious resource that it is. Fresh, the bread is offered simply sliced with good olive oil. Beyond that it becomes one of his magical toast products, each of which pass the can-I-eat-this-with-a-glass-in-my-other-hand? test with flying colours. And if there’s any bread left over after that, he finds more inventive uses for it still. One of the tastiest upcycles is his fiori or fusilli (West loves a corkscrew shape, it seems, or else just likes the aesthetic fit with a room full of bottles and corks), the pasta tossed with buttery leeks, a decent hit of chilli, and the crumbs of bread turned into crunchy pangrattato.
The space that passes for a kitchen at LTD is not what you might call large, but from it West produces wonders. He’s an alumnus of Automata, and it’s tempting to connect his love of Japanese accents with his time spent cooking with Clayton Wells. He throws seaweed in with the burrata, spikes the hollandaise for the asparagus with the seven-spice called shichimi togarashi, and uses yuzu-kosho, the chilli-hot citrus paste, to bring sparks to slow-roasted cabbage bejewelled with beads of salmon roe.
Rare is the bar-snack menu where dessert seems like a better idea than another tilt at the wine list. Not so Love, Tilly Devine today. West takes a mousse of dark chocolate, sets it on toasty pumpkin seeds and then – brace yourself – splashes it with Fernet Branca. The perfect bittersweet finish.
Time Out Awards
2019Best Bar Food
2012Best New Bar