Lady Carolina, Melbourne

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Lady Carolina, Melbourne.

Followers of chef Paul Wilson will know the big man is fond of big flavours but also capable of bringing admirable levels of finesse and balance to the table. Take the "naked" guacamole at his latest venture (as creative director), Lady Carolina, a Latin kitchen and bar in East Brunswick. One of five versions of guacamole on the list (others contain everything from chorizo to goji berries), the entry-level version provides texture and flavour with just the right amount of acid and a beautifully judged underlying hum of chilli heat. Teamed with light and nicely splintery nixtamal corn chips, it's a good way to get into the relaxed Lady Carolina spirit, especially if you've decided to give the pisco cocktail list a nudge - perhaps the signature Inca Punch, a blend of pisco, lime, pineapple, chicha morada syrup and soda served in a cacao pod (pictured). There's good ceviche, too - classic Lima style, with discs of sweet potato, white corn and onion in the mix - and tacos that arrive on colourfully painted bamboo holders in meat and vego versions (a kale taco was underwhelming; the pork belly was much more sprightly). Also good is a jerk-spiced chicken, nicely juicy with signature Wilson spicing that lets you feel the heat without being overwhelmed by it. The room, with its timber floors, high ceilings, strings of lights and indoor plants, is raucously noisy but the din suits the fun-time Cuba-meets-Peru-meets-Mexico mood and the sharp authenticity of the flavours.


Lady Carolina, 175-177 Lygon St, Brunswick East, Vic. Open Tue-Thu 6pm-late, Fri-Sun noon-4.30pm, 5.45pm-late.

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