Review: Ela Carte does Lady Carolina
175/177 Lygon St, Brunswick East
When you hear Paul Wilson has had a go at another Latin American menu, well, I for one am not going to take too long to try it.
He wowed us at the Newmarket, had a lot of fun at Acland St Cantina, and Lady Carolina almost feels like a relaxed combination of the two.
Out the back, a fun astro-turfed courtyard sees punters enjoying Peruvian pisco and tacos served out of a vintage food truck – it’s the Latin Street Kitchen.
Inside, it’s a little more grown up, but still exuding bright colour and stylish charm, and a bit more to choose from on the menu. The fun starts with something as simple as guacamole, but simple it isn’t with five varieties on offer. We went with a combo of three – and the green goddess was the standout. Tangy, with green tomato and fresh broccoli – it was super more-ish and perfectly scooped up by the nixtamal corn chips.
Plenty of ceviche on offer, here’s the real Peruvian influence other than the drinks list. The Cloudy Bay storm clam ceviche packed a visual and literal punch. The dressing is make with Peruvian purple corn which gives it its vibrant colour, plus some lime juice, chilli, garlic, ginger and some yellow chilli sauce and choclo corn. Plenty of spice in there, and some nice chewy clams, it was a great dish.
Smoked black kingfish ceviche was stunning – firm fish cured with lime and gently smoked over aromatic wood, it comes with a piquant Pecan sauce that used rococo chilli. There’s a small side salad with Chayote pear (chokoe), green mango, horseradish, black quinoa, red mizuna and native Australian finger lime pearls.
We tried some of the tacos of the day, the pork belly was succulent with fabulously crunchy crackling, but it didn’t stop us ordering the heritage suckling pig for main. Slow roasted over aromatic woods, it’s served with barbecued spring onions, achiote mustard and a jug of bitter orange mojo.
On the side we went for a seriously good roasted cauliflower salad – drizzled in coconut yoghurt and complemented with goji berries, pepitas, chia seeds, shaved coconut, red onion, jalape?os and herbs.
The Sweet, Sour and Salty grain salad surely was as healthy as it tasted. Those grains of the moment – farro, freekeh and black quinoa – paired with jicama, peas, broad beans and sprouting mungbeans, herbs, sherry vinegar dressing and a generous dollops of goats curd.
It was easily some of the tastiest, more distinct food I’ve had in a while – fun, creative, and tasty.
There were whacky soft and hard drinks – including a cocktail served in a cacao pod (looked crazy, tasted great).
Service was brilliant. All in all ? Lady Carolina felt very Brunswick – cool, but not too cool, laid back but not lazy; innovative but welcoming. A great option in the north.