Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Heartattack and Vine, The Palms Bar & Grill, Mandoon Estate, and Sean's Kitchen.
Heartattack and Vine
Carlton newcomer Heartattack and Vine has melded seamlessly into the neighbourhood - no mean feat when its neighbours (Jimmy Watson's, Tiamo, King & Godfrey, Readings, Donati's Fine Meats, et al) have clocked up several hundred years of business between them. Perhaps sensing that a young upstart trying to shake things up on this venerable block of Lygon Street would come off second best, the owners (from Brunswick cafés Wide Open Road and A Minor Place) have created a split-level space that's easy on the eye, and feels as though it's been around forever. It feels particularly established at night when it morphs into a cicchetti bar, and you order at the bar from a rotating array of snacks in an illuminated timber and glass case. Fried olives stuffed with anchovies are very good, as is the baccalà, slathered on toasted bread and topped with house-made pickles, and the pretty combination of smashed peas, bocconcini and red onion. Arancini are stuffed with diced porchetta and sugo, while asparagus gets wrapped in guanciale and grilled. There are good drinks too - Italian and Spanish vermouth, Coburg Lager on tap and a short, sweet list of wines by the glass - plus pastries and espresso in the morning and porchetta rolls at lunch. It's a clever and thoroughly satisfying blend of the old and new schools. Heartattack and Vine, 329 Lygon St, Carlton, Vic, (03) 9005 8624. MICHAEL HARDEN
The Palms Bar & Grill
Eyebrows were raised when Alchemy owners Brad and Angelica Jolly revealed they'd chosen a shopping centre as a location for their third venue. But the pair don't mind smashing preconceptions, as their second venture, G-Doggz, a hotdog hole-in-wall in Fortitude Valley, has proved. Sitting on the handsome curved banquette at Palms, there's a breezy holiday atmosphere at play. Beach house-style interiors are casually chic, with pops of acid yellow and blue bold enough to match the Med-influenced flavours on offer. King prawns arrive sweet and lightly charry with a squiggle of squid-ink aïoli and a knot of watercress, while a ceviche of kingfish is intensified by a sprinkle of bottarga. It's clever cooking and appropriately accessible. Grilled chicken may be light on the promised harissa, but an intensely savoury jus beneath makes up for it. Add in a sparkling water feature, and a little filtered sunlight from above, and it's conceivable even the most mall-averse might be persuaded to make a day of it. The Palms Bar & Grill, Garden City Mt Gravatt Shopping Centre, Cnr Logan & Kessels rds, Mt Gravatt, Qld, (07) 3422 1870. FIONA DONNELLY
You're probably familiar with Mandoon Estate the wine label. Now meet Mandoon Estate, the sprawling eating and drinking wonderland. In terms of both acres and ambition, this is one of the bigger ventures to hit the Swan Valley, and between the estate's brewery, cellar door, beer garden and playground, visitors have all sorts of ways to amuse themselves. Then there's Mandoon's airy fine-diner, perhaps the most compelling reason to look Caversham up on Google Maps. Michael Hartnell keeps his plates modern and tight: tender, silky toothfish is perched on a smear of bright chimichurri, while a rich, fudgy duck egg accompanies tender duck breast. There's similar polish to a textbook chocolate fondant presented with popcorn ice-cream, although the same can't quite be said of the service. Still, the odds remain firmly in the diner's favour, not least because the estate-grown and brewed beverages are on point. Another item for your summer to-do list, wethinks. Mandoon Estate, 10 Harris Rd, Caversham, WA, (08) 6279 0500. MAX VEENHUYZEN
Having refurbished the former Adelaide Casino restaurant, chef Sean Connolly presents what he calls a New York-style casual eatery at Sean's Kitchen. This translates into a wildly eclectic menu - from a displayed "museum" of Italian, Spanish and local hams, to clean Japanese sashimi, a mod take on Waldorf salad, an "orgy of mushrooms" and a giant Germanic pork chop with pan-roasted apple and pear slices. Most eye-catching is a duck pie floater - an open pie stacked with shredded duck meat and liver on a bed of warm mushy pea purée. Connolly says this comes from his repertoire of "greatest hits"; funny to think he's serving it only 20 metres from the former site of Adelaide's famous streetside pie cart that made beef pie floaters a South Australian street-food icon. Sean's Kitchen, cnr North Tce & Station Rd, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8218 4244. DAVID SLY
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