386 Rathdowne St Carlton North, VIC 3054
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat 5pm-11pm,Sun 3pm-10pm|
|Features||Bar, Gluten-free options, Licensed, Outdoor seating, Romance-first date|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9349 4748|
Behind lace curtains in Rathdowne Street's cutesy shopping village lies the ultimate clubby retreat, a narrow salon that appears to have evolved over decades but actually opened in 2007. Eccentric collectables (military field telephone, the grille from an old Wolseley car, a model ship) dot the walls, and bar staff alternatively spin vinyl and clamber up a ladder to fetch top-shelf digestives and spirits. Clipped to the ladder is a compact handwritten menu offering plates of cured meat sliced to order, cheeses or Sicilian white anchovies, starters such as a warm tumble of calamari, chorizo, rocket and toasted almonds or richly marbled beef carpaccio, and a few unpretentious but carefully prepared mains - three sweet pan-fried garfish under a scattering of capers and chopped parsley, perhaps, or twice-cooked pork belly with potato salad. Simple desserts might be refreshingly sharp lime sorbet or berries with house-made icecream. Come early for first dibs on the dishes and you may get to choose the evening's wines by the glass.