I’ve written about The Toff in Town before but since that post the restaurant’s menu has completely changed focus, so I thought it was worthwhile to do another post on our recent experience at The Toff In Town, this time with pictures.
What’s remained the same is the glamorous colonial-era faux train carriage booths, complete with red leather upholstery, bamboo screen doors for privacy and a call button for service. Speaking of service, it’s still super-friendly, a far cry from the couldn’t-care-less attitude from the waitstaff from its compatriot at Curtin House, Cookie.
What has changed is that now The Toff In Town offers small, Asian-inspired eats. I never realised that the same kitchen had always serviced Cookie and The Toff In Town, and the owners decided that it made more sense to utilise the best skills of the Thai chefs for both venues. The table decor has changed a little too, as the kitsch red checked tableclothes, paper doilies and cutlery-in-a-plastic-basket pastiche of Cookie has been transplanted into Victorian-era train carriages.
I went to The Toff In Town with K and V, two vegetarians, so it was a meat-free meal except for the solo betel leaf that I ordered. The menu of appetisers, salads, skewers, grill and mains is about 80% meat and fish, so there’s just enough choice for about 3 vegetarian diners to sample a good variety of dishes – as everything on the menu is meant to be shared.
To start, sweet potato and cashew dumplings with chilli soy ($12.50). This was similar in texture to a yum cha favourite ham sui gok, meaning a wafer-thin crisp fried shell encasing a soft interior interspersed with crunchy nuts. A definite winner.
In contrast, the green papaya, green beans and tomato salad (sans dried shrimp for us) ($10.50) was a bit blah for my taste. To me it was a bog-standard coleslaw attempting to don an Asian disguise. I much preferred the smoked eggplant, tomato and banana chilli salad with mint and dried shallots ($11.50) with its Greek-Thai play of textures and flavours.
For our mains we shared the yellow curry with tofu and mushroom dumplings ($11.50) and a baked radish cake with mushrooms, bean shoots, chilli and mint ($10.50). As you can tell by the price, the curry is actually quite a small serving and is probably more suited as a dish for one, as the three of us ended up with about a tablespoon of rice each. The curry sauce was full of flavour without the dooming heaviness of excessive coconut cream and the dumplings were meaty mashed balls, their relatively bland texture a fitting counterpoint for the sauce.
The other main was my favourite dish – cubes of pan-fried radish cake heaped with a jumble of shiitake mushrooms and bean shoots with a subtle kick of chilli to transform it from Chinese to Thai flavours.
For dessert K and V had the chocolate mousse with brandy snaps ($10.50) whereas I doubled back to the appetisers for a single betel leaf topped with salmon, crab and pomelo salad ($5.50). I think both of these dishes were the least successful of the night.
I found the mousse to be grainy, as if either they’d used cocoa powder to make it (ugh) or hadn’t sufficiently whisked in the sugar. As for my appetiser, I’ve never seen ‘betel leaf’ transformed into ‘iceberg lettuce’. The ill-formed sheet of lettuce was completely the wrong presentation, texture and taste for dish, as the leaf’s waterlogged crunch overwhelmed the delicate balance in the filling.
While I’m quite nostalgic for The Toff In Town‘s previous Mediterranean food, the new menu is worth exploring. I’ve always been a fan of Cookie‘s kitchen, and now I can eat its food in the fabulously decadent surroundings of The Toff In Town.
- The Toff In Town, Curtin House, The Toff In Town, 2/252 Swanston St, Melbourne +61 3 9639 8770