One of Melbourne’s buzziest food strips welcomes back a local icon as The Astor on Carlton’s Lygon Street reopens with an innovative new restaurant and bar concept.
Within The Astor is The Roving Marrow dining room, which was formerly Percy’s Bar and Bistro run by four–time Carlton premiership player Peter ‘Percy’ Jones. The Roving Marrow is a significant part of The Astor’s transformation by restaurateur Darran Smith and head chef Hayden McMillan. The menu is produce-driven and features contemporary European cuisine with interactive, yum cha-style service.
The result is a unique dining experience that aims to break down the formality of fine dining and bring the fun back to food. The menu is designed to share with a wide assortment of smaller dishes served via trolley and tray and more substantial mains, as well as cheese and dessert, à La Carte.
The kitchen is in safe hands under the guidance of Head Chef Hayden McMillan. McMillan is a young gun of New Zealand’s epicurean scene, having previously worked with renowned New Zealand chefs Michael Meredith and Simon Wright and was made head chef of Auckland’s Tribeca restaurant very early in his career. Most recently McMillan returned from San Francisco where he headed up the Waiheke Island Yacht Club pop up for the America’s Cup.
The Astor’s interior is focused on preserving the hotel’s original character with a modern refresh. The atmosphere is moody courtesy of being grounded in dark wood with rich finishes in brass and mirror that are hardwearing and age gracefully.
We commenced our dinner with a number of delicious small dishes from the “yum cha” service.
Our favourite entree, the shortrib dumplings in masterstock was flavoursome, well-seasoned and boasted rich flavours. It was a perfectly executed, expertly balanced and intelligent dish.
Yet another highlight was the dish of duck salad. The slices of duck breast were cooked to perfection with the beautifully crisp hazelnuts and caramelised brussel sprouts adding texture and the bits of bacon adding salinity.
Continuing the trend of stunning dishes that preceded it, the dish of Flinders Island lamb rump, charcoal eggplant, ricotta and brie impressed. The lamp rump was cooked perfectly to a tender and juicy pink. The charcoal eggplant boasted a wonderful smokiness which paired exceptionally with the ricotta and brie. A wonderful finale to our savoury courses.
Our first dessert of Granny Smiths, butterscotch, buckwheat and cardamom was an interplay between interesting textures and seductive aromas.
The striking dessert of passionfruit, white chocolate, liquorice and coconut was an explosion of flavours. The layer of meringue was delicately thin and crisp and paired beautifully with the mellow and luxurious white chocolate. The tartness of the passionfruit produced a balanced dessert.
The Roving Marrow’s approach to food stands out from what is commonly available in upmarket restaurants. Thought-provoking but not pretentious, The Roving Marrow is a welcome addition to Melbourne’s food scene.