Carlton Wine Room has reopened after two months of renovation, with a new team behind it.

“Approachability is the word that kept coming up when we talked about it,” says co-owner and manager Andrew Joy. The striking 19th-century building on the corner of leafy Drummond and Faraday Streets is certainly inviting.

Changes go beyond a fresh coat of white paint. There’s a new marble bar – the back bar is laden with rows of backlit glassware instead of spirits – and an oval communal table in the middle of the high-ceilinged space.

This gleaming white room is just a small part of the restaurant; the venue is deceptively large. Many long-time diners here would have only spent time on the ground floor, but there are in fact five levels to the place. From the bar, take hold of the cylindrical balustrade and head upstairs to a spacious second dining room. Keep going up and you’ll find two private event spaces, each taking up an entire floor.

A bluestone original cellar has also been renovated and converted into a private dining den for 20.

“We’ve tried to focus on usability,” says Joy, formerly the manager at Marion.

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The menu is comforting and concise. “It’s an elegant take on modern Australian food that works well with wine. There’ll be generosity in there, we want it to be a place where people are happy to go two or three nights a week,” he says.

The menu falls to head chef John Paul Twomey, formerly founding head chef at Cutler & Co., development chef for the McConnell group and most recently head chef at Gilson in South Yarra.

“We’re trying to go a bit classical, we’re going backwards instead of forwards,” Twomey says. “It’s modern Australian with a European influence. It’s seasonal, so there are a lot of vegetables on the menu now … carrots, tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers,” he says as he peels figs for a salad.

Twomey recommends starting with the kingfish crudo – a monochrome dish of thick slices of raw fish nestled into a smudge of creme fraiche and topped with rough slices of translucent napa cabbage and shaved horseradish.

Shaved things reappear in "the antithesis of a vegetarian dish”: grilled broccolini with feathery shavings of cured egg yolk, fat lardons of bacon, and a parmesan, cream and egg yolk sauce. It’s like extra smokey, creamy carbonara, with broccolini.

An already-established favourite is the half roast chicken; it is tender and crisp-skinned and sits on a light, mousse-y aioli, with big raw sorrel leaves laid flat, confit rounds of potato, and jus on the side.

“We wanted light and balanced dishes. We don’t use much chilli because it conflicts with the wine,” says Twomey.

The 100-bottle wine list, written by co-owner and ex-Coda and Tonka sommelier Travis Howe, is not bound by one style or region.

“It’s a snapshot of what Travis is really enjoying,” says Joy, a wine-producer himself. “For us wine is a conversation and it always moves.”

On the fizz menu you’ll see France a lot. Germany, Austria and Slovenia pop up frequently in the whites section, and if you keep going to reds, Italian drops get a full page. The team will also open a different “staff bottle” each day. It’s off the menu – just ask if you’d like to try it.

The Carlton Wine Room
172–174 Faraday Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 2626

Hours:
Mon 12pm–11pm
Tue closed
Wed 4pm–11pm
Thu to Sun 12pm–11pm

thecarltonwineroom.com.au