For Christian McCabe, the idea behind a good restaurant doesn’t have to be revolutionary. The foundations of good food, good drink, good design and humble hospitality sound inherently simple, but executing this formula effectively can yield an experience well worth returning for.
These basic foundations are embodied in McCabe’s latest offering, The Town Mouse. Set just behind Lygon Street in Carlton’s residential streets, the restaurant and bar is the newest addition to the neighbourhood. It skirts a line between glamour and comfort; it’s fine dining without being a big deal.
“It's showing people a good time,” says McCabe. “Most of them can probably cook themselves dinner and can certainly open a bottle of wine, so they're looking for something other than just physical sustenance or convenience when they come out to eat and drink.”
With solid experience running the legendary late-night bar Honky Tonks and Wellington’s award-winning The Matterhorn, New Zealand native McCabe has returned to Melbourne with sister Amber McCabe and her husband Jay Comeskey for this latest venture.
Their move to Melbourne was not a calculated one. Stimulated by the city’s rapidly growing food scene and enthusiasm for eating out, it soon became both the home and inspiration for The Town Mouse. With their Drummond Street site having been a restaurant and meeting place for over 100 years, they felt compelled to continue the tradition.
The restaurant’s identity furthers its connection to place, with the typography echoing the city’s architecture, streets, history and happenings. Designed by Suzy Tuxen at A Friend of Mine, the design incorporates Melbourne’s iconic grid into the crisp, modern signage, menu design and a website.
The menu was largely developed with head chef Dave Verheul and the wine list was devised with the help of young sommelier Lachlan Barber. The rich dishes (such as the venison with cocoa, beetroot, fig and hazelnut) have been matched with a wide selection of wines, most of which are organic or biodynamic and sourced from small providers.
The emphasis on sharing is both on trend and fits perfectly into Melbourne’s social cohesiveness, says McCabe. “To be a regulars’ restaurant, people need to be able to come in and just have a drink and a few small things at the bar, or stop by on their way home and join a table if they see someone they know through the window.”
The vision behind The Town Mouse is a reflection of how McCabe and his clan believe dining and life should be experienced every day. “Just because something is nice, it doesn't mean it should be saved for a special occasion,” he says. “Being with friends and family is special enough.”
The Town Mouse
312 Drummond Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 3312
Wed 5pm-11pm Thurs to Sun 12pm-11pm