Small Victories is now serving dinner Thursday to Sunday. The Carlton North restaurant, which opened this June in the building that used to house the Rathdowne Street food store, is expanding its initial breakfast and lunch offering and we can safely say that you’re in good hands.
At the helm in the kitchen is chef Alric Hansen (Bar Lourinha, Rumi, The Crimean), while front of house runs smoothly under the watchful eye of Ben Farrant (Gills Diner).
“Our food is designed to share,” says Hansen. “We just want people to come in, have something to eat and drink and be social. It’s a casual vibe.”
There is a strong focus on local, seasonal and organic produce at Small Victories. Wagyu pastrami is cured in house and ‘local salami’ comes from the continental butcher in Nicholson Street.
Hansen is a keen forager, heading out every morning to gather wild flowers, herbs and leaves to utilise in his inventive menu. Recently he’s been picking wild onion flowers, wild radish flowers and nasturtiums, as well as pea shoots and wild rocket.
When asked about his favourite dish on the dinner menu, Hansen nominates the organic carrot salad; the carrots are roasted with salt, herbs and spices, making them “earthy” and “deceptively tasty”. The salad is finished with fresh curd (made from organic cream), puffed seeds, legumes and date paste.
Curious dessert items include whipped buffalo mozzarella with strawberry sorbet, white balsamic and black pepper meringue. “I’m not a fan of overly sweet desserts. I prefer that final course to walk the line between sweet and savoury,” explains Hansen.
But those with a sweet tooth will be excited to see that one dessert item is simply referred to as ‘Chocolate’. This comes as a platter of sorts, with chocolate presented in a “myriad of forms”, according to Hansen. “We change it a lot. At the moment it’s dark chocolate ice cream, white chocolate mousse, caramelised white chocolate crumb and a chocolate and honey liquid, which is set.”
Various aperitifs, cocktails, ciders and craft beers are on offer, and the wine list features a bunch of interesting tipples, from a Waiheke Island Chardonnay to a Coteaux de Giennois Rosé from the Loire.
The space is sparse but comfortable, its warmth helped along by the vintage, timber-based turntable on show. The large marble bar is studded with stools, and there are a handful of tables and a cosy back room with banquet seating. But on a breezy summer evening, we recommend nabbing a table on the footpath under the leafy canopy.
The whole operation might seem quite humble, but booking yourself into this Carlton gem will provide a victory that is far from small.
617 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
Tues & Wed 8am–4pm
Thurs to Sat 8am–10.30pm