A sense of anticipation filled the air as I walked through the door, past the neon tiger and took my seat at the newest restaurant from the gastronomic genius Davis Yu and his creative and design partners Maison Davis and Hecker Guthrie. Davis has brought to Melbourne other well known gems The Millswyn and Touche Hombre.
Claremont Tonic feels like a trendy home filled with assorted bric a brac collected during many travels around the world. Among the treasures are assorted jars filled with plants, a world globe, a strange duck with wings stretched and a model dinosaur skeleton. The soundtrack is moderately loud rock music, but not too loud that it is impossible to have a conversation. The staff are suitably cool in their Claremont Tonic branded denim shirts, black jeans and bandanas.
The menu is an interesting mix of the best bits of Asia with a cheeky Claremont Tonic twist. The menu is set out to take diners on a journey starting with small dishes, moving on dishes from the land and sea, larger format dishes and even a small section celebrating the humble vegetable (mum's everywhere would be impressed). The finale comes in the form of some very clever "Happy Ending" desserts.
Claremont Tonic also focuses on cocktails with some amazing creations on offer and a rather handy chart broken up into sweet, sour, spicy and dry which enables one to quickly choose their preferred elixir based on how they take their drink. The names are all very tongue in cheek with such classics as "Chroming with Keith Richards", "Sex in the Jungle", "Lost in Translation" and the famous "C Bomb", which is a whole cleaved watermelon filled with organic vodka, rhubarb juice and mint leaves. Complete with enough straws so the whole table can join in the fun. They also have a reasonable wine selection with options by the glass, beer, sake and whisky and some delicious juices and herbal teas for the non-drinker.
With so much to choose from and take in, we were very appreciative of the assistance of our waiter who walked us through the menu and his favourites. To start the night we choose the "Sex in the Jungle" cocktail, which was a refreshing and tangy mix of lemon vodka, cointreau, pomegranate, cranberry and lime juice. Yum!
From the small dishes we decided on the "Pork Bun Animal Style", which was pulled pork belly, pineapple and a quail egg encased in sweet soft brioche. Very similar to the New England Lobster Roll from Golden Fields and just as tasty if not more so.
Next up was a dish I had read a lot about "The King of the Chimichangas", which is such a clever dish. Basically a Japanese take on the Mexican taco. The dish comes with two lightly battered and tempura fried nori shells, which become the crunchy vessel for a delicious wooden box of flavours, including raw salmon, avocado, sea salt, wasabi, mayonnaise and rice. The idea is to start from one end of the box and scoop all the delicious flavours into your nori shell. This was my favourite dish of the night.
For main we settled on the "Red Rooster" which was a roasted 1/2 Milawa chicken, slaw, lemon, mayo and lip smacking chicken gravy. Very very tasty! I love my vegetables so I couldn't pass up a plate of "Wok and Roll" which was a classic plate of stir fried Asian greens including silverbeet, gai lan and bok choy with black beans and garlic.
I am usually not a fan of Asian desserts, generally it is always the same ho hum banana or pineapple fritter or even classic fried ice cream. Claremont Tonic has some of the most interesting desserts I have seen in a while and I couldn't resist opening the reserves to try some.
We choose "Gingerbreads" which was a spiced carrot cake, salted caramel, sesame ice cream & pistachio. Seriously yummy! If I could complain about anything the "happy ending" was over too soon! A larger serving would have been most welcome. The freshly made custard tarts were also delicious and I highly recommend waiting 15 minutes to taste these babies!
Do yourself a favour and get to Claremont Tonic before all the cool kids do! Best news is they take bookings, no ridiculous queues to battle!
15A Claremont St South Yarra VIC 3141
(03) 9827 0399