The elegantly dishevelled Curtin House is a multifaceted vertical laneway with Cookie its unlikely beer-hall-meets-Thai-restaurant triumph. Come for the craft-hipster aesthetic - paper doilies, children's books, cartoony murals - and then stay for the culinary prowess of Karen Batson. Pad Thai, with its authentic smokiness and tang, answers any skepticism that Cookie is more about booze than food, while meaty baked scallops are smartly balanced with heat, herbaceousness and the subtle sweetness of pomelo. The most fiery dish is the jungle curry: pinkish strips of duck breast set in a red curry with apple eggplants, baby corn, and Malabar spinach. Chill afterwards with an offbeat basil and lime-inflected panna cotta. Service here is reliably upbeat, while the 88-page wine list, broken up by region, is better annotated than most textbooks, and separate beer and cocktail lists aren't far behind. It's a must-do Melbourne experience.
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