Mary's, Mexi-Mart, Cabiria, Chianti Classico

Photography: Rodney Macuja

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Mary's, Mexi-Mart, Cabiria, and Chianti Classico.

Mary's, the very new venture from Jake "the Pirate" Smyth, of Bodega, and Gardel's barman Kenny Robertson, looks like a bar, smells like a bar, and most definitely sounds like a bar. The drinks are excellent, covering the spectrum from Reschs and Young Henry's on tap to picpoul, gamay and Washington state riesling by the glass, not to mention surprisingly drinkable Malibu Daiquiris (no, really; they're from Robertson's Edinburgh alma mater). But we're here to talk food, and in that department Mary's has a secret weapon: Luke Powell. Asking a former head chef of Tetsuya's to oversee a bar menu that runs to three burgers, fried chicken, chips, mash and gravy might seem a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but in this case the results speak for themselves. The burger (pictured) is the best and juiciest in its class (and there's been no shortage of chefs testifying to that fact), while the chicken, cooked in a frighteningly rugged pressure-fryer, is radically juicy under its crunchy, celery-salty crust. Make mine Mary's. Mary's, 6 Mary St, Newtown, NSW. PAT NOURSE

Mexi-Mart, the latest addition to the Acland St Cantina, is a shop specialising in Mexican groceries, a few seasonal ingredients (wild mushrooms at present) and sweet stuff such as dulce de leche scrolls and house-made ice-cream. Pick of the bunch, however, is the seasonal recipe kit, which includes all the ingredients you need to prepare a dish to feed four. This season it's Ancient Grains Risotto. The Paul Wilson-designed kit includes a bag of farro, house-made wild mushroom rag├╣ and chicken stock, a block of parmesan and a bag of sage leaves. You have to soak and boil the grain, chop the sage, grate the cheese and add the stock and mushrooms at the right time, but otherwise it's pretty straightforward. And the result? Sensational flavour, great texture and much admiration from the dinner-party guests. Mexi-Mart, 2 Acland St, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9536 1175. MICHAEL HARDEN

This low-lit wine bar is studded with tempting bottles. Wherever you look there's another reason to call for the carte and raise a glass. It's dangerous territory, as Cabiria's cool craft beer and cocktail lists are just as enticing. Luckily, as befits a spot named after Fellini's '50s classic Nights of Cabiria, there's food for sale, too, courtesy of recently arrived executive chef Jonathan Bryant. Try a trio of crisp crumbed croquettes crammed with creamy potato and spicy 'nduja and feel the glow. Follow up with a pared-back carpaccio plate, a raft of just-seared tender veal slices drizzled with a tuna and caper mayo and the broad wooden bar you're hugging could start to feel like home. And now, Tuesday and Sunday nights are dedicated to a "raid the cellar" deal that neatly slices the price of any bottle listed at more than $150 by half. Salute! Cabiria, 6 The Barracks, 61 Petrie Tce, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3368 2666. FIONA DONNELLY

Chianti Classico
To celebrate the launch of the 2008 Hill of Grace shiraz, Henschke winery is offering a 125ml glass with specially created main course plates at select restaurants in Australian capital cities during May for $125 a serve. In Adelaide, the Barossa winery has teamed with Chianti Classico, and it's a great match. In keeping with the restaurant's Italian heritage, chef Tobias Gush presents cotoletta alla Valdostana Henschke - a roasted veal cutlet crusted with breadcrumbs, sage, anchovy and Fontina, bravely matched with a sharp radicchio and sliced fennel salad. The sharp salad notes effectively draws the best out of this outstanding vintage, playfully highlighting the intensity of the fruit and tannin profile. Chianti Classico, 160 Hutt St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 7955. DAVID SLY

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