Disclosure: I visited The Roving Marrow twice. One visit was as a guest of the restaurant and second time on my own dollar.
Roving Marrow met me in a time in my life where I was absolutely craving bone marrow.
No, I promise I’m not pregnant.
I was initially excited, as I thought perhaps the concept might have something to do with offal and all the funny little bits of animals I like. Somewhat unfortunately, this is not the case.However fortunately, The Roving Marrow, residing in Lygon Street’s iconic Astor, does deliver delicious modern Australian goodness, with a fun serving twist.
I had the great opportunity of visiting twice, once with my dad, and once with Brad and a couple of friends, so pretty much have gotten to eat the whole menu…although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already changed since I’ve been last!
Walking into the Astor, you can definitely see the results of the facelift immediately. Dark, and sophisticatedly moody, you immediately feel like you’re being enveloped into comfort, and a log fire wouldn’t seem too out of place in the classic, yet contemporary fit out.
The kitchen is headed by Hayden McMillan, originally from New Zealand, but fresh back from a jaunt in San Francisco (honestly with the weather at the moment, why did he ever leave?). The menu is a produce-driven contemporary European, but with yum-cha style service thrown in. Go figure. More on this in a bit.
Both visits, we start with their cold brewed kombucha iced tea, brewed upstairs by their tea sommelier (who was also a flavour consultant for T2 previously). It is a gorgeously refreshing way to start a meal, sweet, cool and just a touch tangy.
At Roving Marrow, when you arrive, you are given a menu with a couple of hot entrees, mains and desserts to choose from. However, eyes should really be up to see the white ‘yum cha’ trolley pushed to you, with a variety of cold entrees and nibbles to get you going, meaning you never know what’s going to be available! Happy surprises indeed.
And if what’s on the trolley isn’t enough, the staff do make regular intervals around with trays of different goodies, or second rounds, should you be in the mood.
Oysters are always a stunner, served natural. I was also a fan of the clams, infused with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (I think) and vanilla, giving it a refreshing but surprisingly sweet flavour profile (however Brad wasn’t a big fan of this dish as it was too sweet for him).
A goats cheese dip with taro, kale and seaweed (again I think…) chips is intensely creamy and absolutely velvety on the tongue.
The oxtail master stock, with oxtail at the bottom is perfect in these wintery months; this is probably what vitality tastes like! Chicken liver parfait topped with salted and caramelised peanuts, served with celery sticks is also a surprisingly sweet twist on a favourite that I still quite enjoy.
One of my favourite entrees though, might have to be these scone biscuits topped with triple ream cheese and crunchy caramelised onions on the top. Heaven. Pure comfort, with plenty of crunch, but with the creamy cheese in-between. Levels of yum are high on this one.
I also loved the beetroot cured Ora King salmon with pomegranate and fraiche, with an absolutely extraordinary saturated colour and such a beautifully smooth texture as well.
One entree that didn’t hit the mark for me though, would have to be the kimchi pancake, that could have punched me a little harder in the face with flavour, and was overall a little bit soggy and uninspiring.
It’s definitely hard to keep yourself in check as all the entrees come swarming around you, as my dad and I discovered on our visit, leaving little room for the mains!
The mains menu is short and sweet, intentionally obviously, as like me, you’re likely to get a bit carried away with the entrees!
The market fish (definitely didn’t take enough notes on my visits…) with cauliflower, spinach and beurre noisette is cooked well, the fish tender and lightly charred, and the cauliflower just melting in your mouth.
The Flinders Island lamb rump with charcoal eggplant and ricotta is one of my favourite mains at The Roving Marrow, cooked to blushing medium perfection and with an overall intense smokiness, which seems to be transferred from the eggplant to the meat.
When my dad and I visited, we sampled the Hen’s egg with smoked potato and mushroom, which although a little on the salty side, might actually be my favourite main from the lot. Just pumping with umami and flavour, this is pure comfort, as the soft poached egg just comfortably melds into the rich broth.
From mains, to desserts!
The red wine quince, sorrel, mandarin and chocolate is definitely one for the adventurous, not so sweet dessert lover. The red wine in the quince is quite intense, and a bit savoury, the chocolate sneaking in later on the palate later to give you that cacao fix. It’s a hard one to describe, and not one I would recommend lightly, unless I knew the other person’s taste!
I absolutely though, adore the caramel roasted banana, milk caramel and coconut dessert. This is your typical dessert lovers dessert! It’s a little bit tropical, but still suitable for the cooler weather with the rich hits of caramel, and the vast array of textures, from the cold ice-cream, paper thin dried coconut, crunchy dehydrated lychees and warm and comforting caramelised bananas. It makes me feel like a kid. A very grown up kid.
I personally enjoy what the Astor is doing, the food is interesting and the service a little bit different to match, but totally friendly as well. The staff are knowledgable and incredibly attentive. However when I visited on my own dollar with Brad, we spent $70 a head, including a bottle of wine to share on a table of four, and despite sharing a couple of entrees, getting a main each and the three desserts to share, Brad left feeling a bit hungry, and as he’s not really a sweet guy at all, didn’t enjoy the food as much because a lot of the savoury dishes even, had quite sweet flavour profiles.
So would I recommend The Roving Marrow? I think I still would, but with context. Are you looking for easy and fun nibbles (and all of those scone biscuits), but maybe not a full meal to catch up with a girlfriend? Perfect. Are you willing to spend a bit of cash to get a filling meal but with an interesting dining experience (that you can actually book a table at and not wait an hour at the bar hoping something will open up)? Yup? Totally fine. Do you want to support a produce driven seasonal menu? Yup? Well there you go.
It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and perhaps not the best value for money in Melbourne, but worth visiting if you’re in for something a bit different.
Cnr Lygon and Elgin Street
418 Lygon Street