Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Two Small Rooms, Hakata-Maru Ramen, Boney, and Proof.
Two Small Rooms
Service is still training-wheel wobbly under the new regime at this Toowong institution and the wine list brief to the point of curtness, but dishes like the espresso-brined spatchcock (pictured above) with its intensely savoury mushroom sauce, show definite kitchen-smarts and respect for tradition. You can also expect the likes of beautifully rendered citrus-braised lamb paired with celeriac purée and a punchy white anchovy and parsley salad. This spot remains resolutely more about the food than its two (and a quarter) small rooms. It's a testament to the new owners' enthusiasm to ensure that by the end of the evening even crusty locals are ordering digestifs and looking like they want to move in. Two Small Rooms, 517 Milton Rd, Toowong, Qld, (07) 3371 5251. FIONA DONNELLY
Yeah, we're sick of tonkotsu ramen too. Or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves, and yet here we are at Hakata-Maru. Hot on the heels of noodle nerd-magnet Ramen Ikkyu, it's another Chinatown food-court ramen-ya of note. The Market City setting is thoroughly no-frills, but the prices are commensurate with the situation, the soup is decent (tonkotsu-style pork broth is the base for most of the menu) and the slender, Hakata-style noodles are made and cooked with care. Hakata-Maru Ramen, shop 3, level 3, Market City, 9-13 Hay St, Haymarket, NSW, (02) 9281 6648. PAT NOURSE
Pony, the legendary late-night den of iniquity that closed last year, has been reanimated and renamed by the team behind Cookie, The Toff in Town and Revolver Upstairs. Now called Boney, the venue has retained its late, late licence (open until 7am on weekends) and still has a full dance-card of bands and DJs in the upstairs band room. Downstairs - cleaned up but not sterilised - now attracts a lunch and dinner crowd drawn to Karen Batson's bowerbird menu of continent-leaping food. Jalapeño doughnuts with corn salsa and maple butter stands out straightaway, as does fried buttermilk chicken with pickled chilli mayo, zucchini pancakes with cured kingfish and steamed carrot buns with cucumber and seaweed salad. There's also a daily chafing-dish lunch special (moussaka, perhaps) and an aperitivo-style happy hour special (usually from 5-7pm) that teams a cocktail with a snack - the Vesper Martini with Thai pickled mussels is one such winner. Boney, 68 Little Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9663 8268. MICHAEL HARDEN
The small-bar scene continues to grow in Adelaide with Proof, opened by the team that created Press Food & Wine on Waymouth Street. Located in an alleyway around the corner from Press, it's the sort of place where bartenders in waistcoats serve classic cocktails alongside fine wines. Don't be surprised to see Press chef Andrew Davies at work here until the early morning, shucking oysters and preparing luxurious toasties. Try the mushroom ragú and Taleggio version or a clever jaffle enfolding Davies' spin on French onion soup. Proof, 9a Anster St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8212 0708. DAVID SLY
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