The Roving Marrow A Standout Foodie Adventure
The Roving Marrow has burst onto the foodie scene with unprecedented gusto after being awarded 15/20 from The Age merely weeks into service. And rightly so we think. The Roving Marrow has become a star attraction in a precinct of Carlton that we think is fast becoming another Surrey Hills Sydney with standout bars and eateries of note.
Take a run down pub such as The Astor and inject new life with a crack team of owners Darran Smith (ex Icebergs in Sydney) and his wife Ilona Phyland (fashionista) and a rising star New Zealand trained chef Hayden McMillan. Head Chef Hayden 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 early in his career. He has most recently returned from San Francisco where he headed up the Waiheke Island Yacht Club pop up for the America’s Cup.
Then add his fiance into the equation as a top notch front of house. Then take the punters on a food odyssey and gastronomic adventure unique in Melbourne. On the website, The Roving Marrow's name is explained; "roving" means traveling about especially in search of adventure, and "marrow" means core, heart, spirit, soul, essence, quintessence. The heart and soul of dining is here, as is the adventure.
Point of difference is a key in the Melbourne restaurant scene. The Roving Marrow has a point of difference in terms of its fine cuisine. You are taken on a journey of a wide variety of tastes and textures, the food simply delicious. You can't pigeon hole the food in a box, as a variety of tastes are expressed from Europe to Korea, from China to New Zealand, and then to Australia.
But also Chef Hayden believes in point of difference in terms of service, with a fascinating yum cha element in play. Small dishes on a roving trolley are brought to your table for your selection. The yum cha is a brilliant concept as you don't have to "commit" to a main, and can sample a variety of dishes as to your wants and needs.
The Melbourne dining scene can get somewhat predictable at times with many menus offering similar choices; while The Roving Marrow blows up beige with its adventure and surprises at every turn, without pretence.
The old timers in the pub wondered at first what all this nouveau food was about, but when they saw the plates coming past they warmed to the new style and many of them are now hooked.
The Astor itself has undergone a major renovation with only the bones of the original design in tact. The World Loves Melbourne was impressed by the renovation transformation with timber panels, impressive artwork, large windows, mood downlights and intimate ambience. Architect Thomas Jacobsen, the mastermind behind North Bondi Italian and the Beresford Hotel has design The Astor’s interior. We enjoy the interplay between the smart new bar and The Roving Marrow restaurant section, just a nod around the corner.
The World Loves Melbourne began with the yum cha selections from the roving trolley and the dishes came to us thick and fast. The standard of the food is first class with much technique and effort put into each small dish. We imbibed every dish on the roving trolley, round one featuring Oysters, Kimchi and pickled cucumber, Clams, and Dehydrated Kale and seaweed crisps...
The Freshly shucked oysters were fresh and tasty, the perfect way to start our meal, as were the Clams. We weren't expecting this superb refreshing if not healthy house made sweet Kombucha tea below...
The Roving Marrow impresses with the theatre and attraction of its roving trolleys. You just want it all without restraint.
Extraordinary was the Oxtail dish with accompanying warm broth poured into the glass in front of you with a dose of theatre. The World Loves Melbourne still remembers the rustic and sophisticated taste of that broth.
Suddenly it seems we were in Italian Lygon St with this Prosciutto dish, and like all the other dishes, it was about finesse and delicious flavours. Even the carrots were a talking point at our table.
The Beetroot cured Ora King Salmon (with pomegranate and fraiche) was a vibrant dish and a seeming nod to fine New Zealand produce. The World Loves Melbourne loves the texture, taste and rich creaminess of Ora King Salmon and this dish sung with the beetroot nuances.
The Biscuit with fraiche was another refreshing if not punchy dish. Crunch and creaminess.
The Chicken liver parfait with celery was decadent. With a fine Mount McLeod Pinot Noir from Gippsland we were in the satiation zone.
The Free Range Pork Belly, smoked apple, celeraic was an exceptional dish. The secret was in the smoked apple puree, giving a wonderful smoky hit to the dish, balanced by the sweetness of the apple. One of the better pork dishes we've had in a while.
Once again we ordered everything on the roving trolley as it came to our table. The Maryland duck with brussel sprouts and pineapple was another triumph; featuring thin slices of duck cooked 2 ways including with maple syrup.
Short rib dumplings engendered conversation at the table for the quality and taste of the short rib filling and exceptional casing, but it was the stunning broth that stole the show.
The Sea bounty mussel and kimchi pancake was a sensation for its light texture and smoky creamy flavours with nuance of mussels. These small dishes are smash hits. We could envisage eating 6-10 of those dumplings quite easily but were keen to taste the spectrum of dishes at The Roving Marrow.
The Sea bounty mussel and kimchi pancake was delicate and fluffy with the creaminess and sea flavours inside. First class.
And those Dumplings... Interestingly most of the dishes were presented on small black plates, while the dumplings had a glow to them against the white plating.
Hayden McMillan (pictured far right) is a brilliant creative chef that cooks the food he himself finds delicious. This may seem an obvious statement, but some chefs are confined to what they are told to cook. There's movement in the kitchen here with new dishes regularly coming on board and Hayden pushing boundaries. When we visited the restaurant had only been in operation for 7 weeks. Every dish was impressive, delicious, and with loads of technique and love.
Already we were satiated, but we were served some of the mains including this Cape Grim porterhouse, swede, miso and radish. Of course Cape Grim with it's pristine climate is the destination for some of the finest beef in the world, but the perfect cooking of this dish meant it was a melt in your mouth superb dish. The large Pumpkin, freekeh, and yoghurt was a great accompaniment.
The Roving Marrow also excelled with Flinders Island lamb rump, charcoal eggplant and ricotta.
With a bevvy of highlights, the hits kept coming. A popular dish on the menu is the Hen's egg, smoked potato and mushroom. The egg is cooked at 64 degrees and the dish is a creamy cacophony.
This restaurant experience could be compared to a band with 8 hits in the top 10. After our culinary savoury adventure, we were presented with two of the most impressive desserts we've enjoyed in a long while. That's saying something because it takes a lot to impress The World Loves Melbourne when it comes to dessert. Often fine dining experiences seem to fall away at dessert. Not so at The Roving Marrow. Caramel roasted banana, with rum soaked banana bread and coconut sorbet, lychee and milk caramel mousse was refreshing as it was decadent. Tropical nuances and a triumph of tastes and textures. Our dessert of the year so far.
Equally in contention for dessert of the year is the Red wine quince, sorrel, mandarin and chocolate. This was the dessert for those who love their chocolate and fruit hit, but don't like their desserts too sweet. Like us. The quince was the perfect combination with the chocolate hit and mit nuance of the sorbet. My friend Mario preferred this dessert to the Caramel roasted banana dessert.
For those who enjoy the experience of fine dining as well as the fine food and wine, we highly recommend The Roving Marrow as a standout Melbourne culinary experience that hits the high notes. We think you will want to return.