Cultural feminists can go to town with Nicholas Poelaert’s new Carlton eatery, Embrasse.
Its pretty plating, delicate flavours, hushed environs and penchant for all things plant are to the female as the noise and heft of the Little Creatures Dining Hall are to the male.
A place for Kir Royales and elegant nibbles with your ma or a gal pal, not for a birthday slap-up with a boyfriend who’s on the wrong side of a six-pack and hasn’t eaten since his fried egg and sauce sandwich that morn.
Luckily there’s the aligot – a side of voluptuous mash so cheesy it requires circus-like twirling to transport it from pan to plate.
It’s quite at odds with the remainder of the menu but a most suitable sponge for a boozy boy (or warm hug for a pre-menstrual lass – one could imagine).
Mash aside, the restaurant’s essentialism extends beyond ideology into the gastronomic, and you’ll fare better if you order dishes that lend themselves to this softly-softly preparation style.
Take the meli melo a veritable Pollock of vegetable colours, blanched and buttered, or daubed as pastes, purees, crumbs or flowers, each tasting like a caricature of itself.
An oyster and yabby in a consommé speckled with borage and shellfish powder likewise enchants, as do the complimentary spoonfuls of trout and crème fraiche, or Roquefort and beetroot.
Yet the birthday boy’s mllk-braised pork belly, stripped of the crisp and bold flavour one expects of the cut, seemed naked and wan.
His venison tasted similarly underdressed, longing for more sauce or seasoning to cover its shivering bits.
The desserts, however, delight.
Mandarin three ways is just that. A mushroom of meringue and parfait sits atop a cakey forest floor strewn with moss-like flecks of sorrel granita to make a chocolate Midsummer Night’s Dream.
One for the Titanias, not the Bottoms.
Embrasse, 312 Drummond Street, Carlton