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Rosa’s Kitchen

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So.. it’s been a long time between blogging. It’s just simply too time consuming.. coupled with the guilt that I have all these other things I should do and don’t do, namely work and tax. But, Saturday night’s experience was so delightful I really want to just tell everyone how wonderful it was.

Rosa’s Kitchen.

Rosa Mitchell has returned to the CBD and is now dishing up delicious Sicilian fare in Punch Lane.

Small intimate venue, seating approx 40.

Chalkboard menu which rotates every fortnight or so. Antipasto, 4 pastas, 5 mains.

I love a small menu, quality over quantity any day I say.

We started with the antipasto platter.

antipasto - small $22

antipasto – small $22

We opted for the small serve, which was pretty substantial. There was fried ricotta, cauliflower fritter, charg-rilled eggplant, pickled zucchini, olives, some cured meat (I forget what!) and a tomato salad. Everything was fresh and delicious. Wonderful start.

For the main affair, I couldn’t decide between a pasta and a main, so the wonderful Miss M went halvies with me so we could have the best of both worlds.

orichette with cauliflower and anchovies - $22

orichette with cauliflower, saffron and anchovies – $22

The orchiette was cooked perfectly al dente. The dish was well balanced and very rustic. Simplicity at it’s best.

garlic stuffed calamari, green beans - $32

stuffed calamari, green beans – $33

Oh. My. God. Heaven. After my first bite of the calamari I wished I wasn’t sharing. I’m not sure what the calamari was stuffed with exactly but I think perhaps some breadcrumb mix with garlic? This dish was executed perfectly. I couldn’t think of a way to improve it.

We ended with a massive slice of chocolate and orange cake which was big enough for the three of us to share. It was perfectly light and fluffy.

Service was impeccable, and the wine list was brief but thoughtful. We drank Soave $10.50 (my favourite!) and Grillo $9.50.

Rosa’s kitchen. Simple, but stunning. Exceptional value, I can’t wait to go back.

Rosa,

will you be my nonna?

x

-Jess

map

22 Punch Lane, CBD

Open:  Tues-Sat, Lunch  and Dinner.

Rosa's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Written by glutamatejess

March 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Merchant

with 3 comments

Merchant
Rialto

495 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000

T:  +613 9614 7688
F:  +613 9614 7211
E:  enquiries@merchantov.com

Hours: Mon-Sat Lunch & Dinner. Closed Sunday.

web

Merchant is the latest venture by Guy Grossi, adding to his empire which includes includes the fine dining institution Grossi Florentino, and adjoining Grill and  Cellar bar, and Mirka at Torlano. It is situated at the base of the newly revamped Rialto building, with a wooden boat outside to add to its Venetian theme.

Merchant is a casual restaurant – the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and the decor colourful and unpretentious. Guy Grossi envisaged an osteria – as wiki defines where “the emphasis is generally placed on maintaining a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine.” Osteria in Italian literally means a place where the owner “hosts” people.” And the night we dined – Guy Grossi himself was only two tables away from us, hosting his guests. It is Venetian themed – to celebrate the culture of his family.

The large open kitchen churns out items at amazing efficiency from the menu which is broken down into cichetti (small eats), pasta, risotto, meats, seafood, sides and desserts.

The wine list is heavily focussed on wines from Northern Italy, with a couple of Italian beers on tap.

We begin with a Bellini – which are brought to our table, a champagne flute filled with a yummy peach puree – topped up with sparkling wine and then stirred gently at our table.

From the chicetti – we choose

Fòlpo saorio $15

Fòlpo saorio $15

The fòlpo saorio – tender slices of well marinated octopus.

Salumi $20

The mixed salumi – containing salami, prosciutto, and a couple others I can’t remember. These were nice enough, but the most impressive part was watching them being sliced to order from the large meat slicer sitting on the end of the bar.

Aranzini de zafferan $9

The aranzini de zafferan (saffron risotto balls) – were delicious. I can’t look at a menu with risotto balls and not order them. These did not disappoint, though admittedly I am very easy to please when it comes to risotto balls.

Patè de figà de anara $8

The patè de figà de anara (duck liver pate) was rich and creamy and not at all gamey. A reasonably generous serve, I really enjoyed this dish.

Spaghetti co le caparele $23

I asked our helpful waiter what he would order – and he strongly suggested we get the spaghetti co le caparele (spaghetti with clams). I wasn’t expecting much from this dish, but my god was it good. I can’t articulate how this dish was so good, but I guess my best way to describe it is simplicity at its finest. Perfectly cooked aldenti spaghetti, in such a light yet wonderful sauce of chopped tomatoes, herbs and olive oil. I’ve had so many dishes like this in the past (I’m a massive fan of pasta marinara and pasta with seafood), but this was the best I’ve had.

risoto moro $20

I had previously being mortified by squid ink, as I’m sure many have due to its unappetizing, dark, murky colour which seems to stain everything ugly. However a trip to Venice changed that, and having had a wonderful squid ink risotto there, I am a convert – although I do hate how it can leave squid ink particles  on your teeth and lips (yes had the awkward meal where I had been sitting there chatting happily, only to go to the bathroom much later to see squid ink all over lips and teeth). If it is not prepared well, or not fresh, squid ink can taste very fishy – but when done correctly, it has a wonderful fishy creaminess. This was a great specimen – and this risoto moro (squid ink risotto) was my favourite dish of the night.

Quaje a la diavola in piastra $20

Upon the recommendation of the waiter – we ordered the quaje a la diavola in piastra (grilled quail, chilli). It was flayed then grilled lightly and served with a quinelle of some form of parsley pesto. It was well cooked, and tasty enough, but it seemed to be lacking in something… When it comes to quail – I firmly believe that us Asians do it best. 🙂

For some sides, we also went the

Patate alla Veneziana $6

patate alla Veneziana (sautéed potatoes in garlic) and

Salata tridà $12

salata tridà (Venetian chopped salad).

These were both very nice – I can’t fault either of these, well cooked and great balance of flavours.

Despite Grossi’s fame, it seemed Merchant has had a relatively quiet opening with few people I’ve talked to even knowing of its existance. When I visited in December, the only post I could find of Merchant was Melbourne Culinary Journal‘s. The restaurant was busy but not full, and it was not hard to obtain a booking. Though Merchant has recently been reviewed in The Age’s Epicure (scoring 14/20), so I imagine it will quickly become more difficult to get a seat.

Jess’ Rating

Taste: 9. I have dreams of the squid ink risotto and clam spaghetti. Take me back.

Value: 9. Surpisngly cheap for the quality of the produce. Serves are not large, but that only means you can order and try more 😉

Ambience: 9.

Service: 9. Our waiter was extremely friendly and attentive. Food comes amazingly quickly

Overall: 9. Merchant isn’t a dining experience that is defining new styles or setting new trends, it is what it sets out to be – an osteria – a casual dining experience. Good, simple food, done extremely well. I love this way of eating – small plates designed to share (I’m a variety is the spice of life kinda girl, and I love the communal aspect of dining too).  Can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!


Merchant on Urbanspoon

Written by glutamatejess

January 19, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Syracuse

with 4 comments

23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Phone 03 9670 1777

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:30am til late
. Sat:           6:00pm til late

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Syracuse is a delightful little wine bar hidden away in an old Victorian building in Bank Place. It’s one of those places I’ve walked past a gazillion times without even noticing it. Despite google-mapping it before I got there, I still struggled to find it on my first visit.

I took the delightful M there for her birthday in July (yes, I am very slack with these posts), so forgive me if these items are no longer on their ever changing seasonal menu.

As you walk through the arched doorways in Bank Place, it feels as though you are transported to Europe. This small dining room is nothing short of grand, with soaring ceilings, pillars and arches. There are racks and racks of wine, which allude to the fact that this is a place which takes their wine seriously.

The wine list is extensive, and well thought-out, with a good mix of new and old world wines. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Wachu Gruner Vetliner – an Austrian wine varietal that I am a huge fan of.

The menu consists of some wine snacks, some sharing plates and only a few mains, all chosen undoubtedly with an emphasis on food that may be enjoyed and enhanced by wine.

We begin with

A spanner crab remoulade, which consists of delicate pieces of spanner crab with a tart creamy sauce, topped with a boiled egg. A nice refreshing way to begin our meal.

Next was the pig’s head, which was one of the specials of the night. I had images of chunks from the head (hey – I’ve never had pig’s head before..!), but in fact it seemed like little morsels of fried almost creamy meat. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but they were yummy, and if you hadn’t have told me it was pigs head, I would have been none the wiser. These worked well with the little fried quail eggs they were served with.

We also had mussels which were cooked with chorizo – adding a nice smokey spice to the dish. The sauce was promptly soaked up with the bread.

Overall we had a great night, I love this little bar – good food, good wine, how can anyone complain.

I have since revisited, however I only had pitiful photos from my phone camera, but the experience was just as good.

Jess’ Rating

Taste: 8. Food is very rustic, prepared well.

Value: 8.

Ambience: 9.

Service: 7.5.

Overall: 8. A hidden gem in Melbourne. I rate it.

 

For other reviews, check out petit-miamx, Mel: Hot or notI’m so hungreeeee and spatula spoon and saturday.

Syracuse on Urbanspoon

Hako

with 5 comments

310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Phone 03 9620 1881
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Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-3pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm
Cuisine: Japanese

Tucked away in Flinders lane, this warehouse restauraunt has very much a minimalistic fit-out, with exposed concrete and dim ‘moodlighting.’ It works though, and although noise invariably echoes in warehouse fit-outs, the tables are well spaced enough that you can still hold a conversation with your dining companions.

Tick.

I hate having to yell to hold a conversation over dinner.

The menu consists of a few stalwart items on the regular menu, which is complimented by a rotating seasonal special menu.

Tick.

I love the emphasis on using seasonal produce.

The wine list is limited, with about 30 bottles on offer. The list wasn’t cheap, but they were reasonable mark-ups for a restaurant. We chose one the ’06 Huia Pinot Noir from  Marlborough $64. This wasn’t anything to shout about, but wasn’t bad.

From the winter special menu, we chose;

blue swimmer crab meat and tobiko with shiso leaf wrap (1p) 5

This was pretty average. Well presented, and nice you could wrap it in the shiso leaf, but the crab meat was uninspired and could have been fresher. The tobiko balls were a nice addition, as they ‘popped’ in your mouth.

rare yellow fin tuna w yuzu spice 18.5

The flavours were good, however, the tuna had been cooked a little too much, so it wasn’t quite rare.. leaving the dish a little tough rather than tender and soft. The citrus yuzu spice was nice, and the tobiko roe worked nicely with the dish.

o ka san's special baked pork belly 14.5

This dish was excellent value – a few slices of thick, tender pork belly cooked on a bed of enoki mushrooms. Baking in the bag left this dish tender and moist, capturing the flavours.

oven baked harvey bay scallops w nasu and ponzu sauce 15.5

These scallop were ok, but nothing spectacular. They were quite small and uninspired for the price.

From the regular menu we also had,

agedashi tofu deep fried bean curd with bonito dry fish flakes 11.5

This dish is fine, but no better than what you can get at any other Japanese restauraunt. The tofu pieces are perhaps a tad small.

gyoza fried pastry stuffed with minced meat, cabbage with hint of garlic 12.5

The gyoza, again, are fine, but did not wow me, and again pricey at 4 for $12.50

omakase sushi head chef's selection of sushi e 28.5

In order from the front; grilled eel, oyster, squid, (some sort of fish – I forget what type), king fish, tuna.

The grilled eel was nice, probably the best of the 6. The rest were all nice, but again, but none of it was exceptional. Presentation was nice, but at $28.50, this equates to $4.75 per piece. Poor value.

beef steak char-grilled aged eye fillet steak with a thick garlic teryiaki sauce $35.5

This (and the pork belly) were the stand-out dishes. Thick slices of beef, cooked blue (to order). The teriyaki sauce was delicious, the beef a great cut. Even though I was well and truly stuffed by this stage, I still ate it. Couldn’t let it go to waste.

This was served with a side of

soba and potato salad with the beef

This was delicious, the soba and potato salad topped with a creamy-sesame dressing.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 7.0. None of the food was bad, but much of it was not much better than what you can get at many other Japanese restaurants, which are often substantially more inexpensive. The beef and pork belly were to die for.

Value: 6.0. Overpriced.  Good use of seasonal ingredients, but serves were too small for the prices.

Service: 7. Polite.

Authenticity: 7.0. Head Chef Masahiro Horie and his wife make a great team presenting well cooked a  traditional Japanese food with a modern twist.

Atmosphere: 7.5. Although they could have crammed much more tables in, they have obviously put a lot of thought into spacing the tables adequately. Love the fit-out, very intimate.

Overall: 7. I like Hako. I really do. I just find they charge too much for what they are, especially when there are so many other good places out there, such as Izakaya den. Having said that, I have been a few years ago, and their lunch menu is quite well priced.

Young Guns 3×3

with 3 comments

The Young guns of wine Festival, now in its second year, is a celebration of the best young winemakers from around Australia.

The festival runs events, to which these ‘young guns’ can match their wine to some of the top restaurants in Melbourne.

Most of these ‘events’ were lunch or dinner with matching wines. The one that appealed the most to me was the 3×3 Event held at Izakaya Den.

“Take three wine producers, Franco D’Anna (Hoddles Creek), Andrew Marks (Wanderer) and Mike Michael Aylward (Ocean Eight) and ask them to select 3 of their wines each.

Take 9 dishes from the city’s Izakaya Den and you have 9 wines for 9 dishes but that’s where the rules stop! Enjoyment, conviviality and fun are the keys here and the informality of the Izakaya means that anything goes. Izakaya Den has a purely Victorian wine focus especially with young, modern producers who are making elegant, food friendly wines.”

It sounded too good to be true. 9 dishes, 9 glasses of wine. For $80? Surely there was a mistake.

I have dined at Izakaya Den on two prior occasions, and had been very impressed as reviewed previously here.

And, fortuitously, this event fell on one of my RDO’s.

We were greeted by part-owner Simon Denton, who explained the deal. 3 Courses, each with 3 dishes and 3 different wines. We could choose to match these with any and every dish in the course to our liking.

I was a little disappointed when I saw our glasses were only being filled to a third. I was really hoping they’d be full glasses, but then I am very greedy when it comes to booze.

However, we very quickly realised that our wine could be topped up.

My friend and I became very excited. We knew this would be a great lunch.

Pardon for the  increasingly blurry photos, as we had consumed increasingly more and more alcohol.

Round 1

fresh tofu, plum and ponzu

We started with the tofu, which was a little bland, and not to my liking. Fortunately it was all uphill from here on.

kingfish sashimi

The kingfish was absolutely divine. It was the stand-out dish of the lunch, and the best sashimi I’ve had in a long time, if not ever. It was flavoured with a citrus-y sauce, served on a bed of picked bean sprouts. The fish was wonderfully fresh, and its flavours were perfectly balanced – not too sweet, not too tart, not too saltly, just simply perfect.. The only thing that could have made this dish better is if I could have had more. I think I liked this dish even more than the tuna tataki that I have previously raved about. (Though I will need to go back and have them both again to decide 🙂 ).

pork belly kushi-yaki

This dish was nice, a simple dish, but done well. The grilled leek is a great accompaniment for the perfectly cooked pork belly.

These were matched to

'09 Hoddles Creek Pinot Blanc, '10 Wanderer Chenin Blanc, '09 Ocean Eight Pinot Gris

The Ocean Eight Pinot Gris was the stand out of the three. It was well balanced, slightly sweet with nice floral flavours. Very easy to drink. The Hoddles Creek Pinot Blanc wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great. The Wanderer Chenin Blanc had a beautiful floral opening flavour, however a very tart finish.

Round 2

duck breast, pomegranate

The duck was delicious. Perfectly cooked, served on a bed of cracked wheat. The pomegranate lifted the dish from good to exceptional.  We liked this pairing so much, my dining companion SR and I were fighting for the seeds.

sweet corn kari-age

Sweet corn kernels battered together and deep fried, served with a side of green tea salt. I’m not sure how much flavour the green tea salt added, the dish was tasty enough as it was is. Very addictive.

baked blue eye, ginger miso

The fish was delicate, light, the ginger miso a nice accompaniment.

'08 Ocean Eight Chardonnay, '08 Wanderer Pinot Noir, '09 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay

Of the three, the stand-out wine was the Wanderer Pinot. Of course, the Pinot best suited the duck. It’s a no-brainer, Pinot and Duck are the perfect companions – a match made in heaven. Neither Chardonnay were amazing – but Chardonnay is a very difficult wine – if not perfectly balanced they can taste overly musky. These were drinkable, just not great, especially next to the wonderful Pinot Noir.

Round 3

eggplant dengaku

This was different to a ‘typical’ dengaku – which is typically served sliced in half lengthways. This dengaku consisted of cubed pieces of eggplant, deep fried and then served with a sticky sweet sauce. It came with another vegetable – I believe it was radish? SR, not a fan of eggplant didn’t like this dish, just as well, I love eggplant so more for me!

sansho pepper quail

I love quail! And this one certainly did not disappoint. The skin as perfectly crispy, the meat perfectly tender. Accompanied with pickled garlic shoots. I love garlic shoots, I think here they would have been better just boiled rather than pickled.

grilled ox tongue, spring onion

I love ox tongue. these were perhaps served just a fraction too thick compared to what I’m used to, but this dish was delicious nonetheless.

'08 Wanderer Syrah, '08 Ocean Eight Pinot Noir, '08 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir

Of the last three wines, the Wanderer Syrah was the definite standout. It had deep berry overtones, and was just delightful. Incredibly easy to drink.

I was a little inebriated by this stage. Can you tell?

We had a great position, being seated in the middle of the bar, meaning we could watch the dishes being meticulously constructed. However, it was dangerous, because although we could watch everything, it also meant that we were watching everything… and seeing this image..

meant we could not resist. Even though we were well and truly stuffed, we had to do it.

ginger creme brulee

I adore creme brulees. This one wasn’t bad, but just a tad too gingery for me to handle. I’m not a massive fan of ginger, though the creme brulee was wonderfully smooth, and it’s always so satisfying ‘cracking’ the top.

All in all, a fantastic lunch. Food was exceptional, service amazing, wine great. The wine makers came around to chat to us all individually, which added a really nice personal touch.

It was an absolutely perfect event. I can’t stop raving about how much I enjoyed it.

And an absolute steal for only $80.

Many thanks to the Festival and to Simon Denton for making it happen.

.

Izakaya Den

Basement 114 Russell Street
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 2977
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Written by glutamatejess

August 16, 2010 at 1:44 am

Gill’s Diner

with 4 comments

Gills Diner on Urbanspoon

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Gill’s Diner is another trendy creation from the man behind Journal, Supper Club and The European, Con Christopoulos. This means that the decor is likely to be rustic but innovative. The food is likely to be classic and hearty but with some slight twists, and the coffee is likely to be Romcaffe. Bloody Romcaffe. What Christopoulos’ obsession with Romcaffe is I have no idea. Why a man would put all that effort into this brand when there are plenty of far better local roasters around is very much beyond me, but whatever, I’ll let it slide.

The beauty of Gill’s Diner for me is all in the concept. Tucked away down a laneway off Little Collins Street (I’m sorry readers, it’s just too easy to use the words “tucked away” when talking about laneways and I have no intention of straying form this well-worn cliche for the time being), Gill’s Diner isn’t difficult to find. Just follow the neon “espresso & bread” and say hello to the jolly pig & cock that greet you, rustic indeed. The space itself is beautifully fitted out. The chairs are reminiscent of your old high school scout hall and aren’t super comfortable, but I’ll let comfort suffer a little in the name of design. Whoever does Christopoulos’ interior design is very good at what they do, the concept is executed perfectly, down to the finest deals like old-school speakers used for music (as The Age points out: Gill’s is an MP3 free zone“) and menus on blackboards (only on blackboards).

Best of all, the design creates a concept of space where there actually isn’t much. you can thank the high ceilings and perpendicular roof beams for that. Good show, Gill’s Diner! But onto the food. The entree I sampled, the house salted cod & smoked eel croquettes with “white sauce” and leeks.

Solid opening but nothing that blew me out of the water. The croquettes were delicately put together and fried, the sauce was intriguing and the leeks worked great but holy crap was this dish salty! The name of the game here was most certainly salt, ladies and gentlemen, and I’m sure I came away with more than my RDI of sodium. Luckily I actually like salty things.

For our mains, my dining companion selected the Kingfish Fillet with broad beans and peas (pictured above), whereas I had the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Taleggio (pictured below). I’ll let you in on a little secret, you know those things you see on a menu that you must order immediately upon discovery? Taleggio is one of those things for me. I love cheese and it is my favourite cheese so if I see it, I’m hooked.

And look at that hunk of taleggio! I was delighted when this hit the table, so much so that I didn’t have a great deal of my dining companion’s fish. Apologies, readers! I can tell you from what I tasted that it was decent but, again, nothing amazing. It’s a classic dish on a classic base, kingfish is a wonderful fish and there were no complaints from my dining companion either.

The risotto was splendid but not special. It was prepared in just the way I like my risotto, not too saucy and not too dry, arborio rice cooked to perfection. The mushroom risotto is such an old staple that it’s difficult to go wrong with, and the taleggio really added an extra level of awesomeness (though I think my sodium intake that day was equivalent to an entire recommended week).

I didn’t bother having coffee. I knew it would be Romcaffe and I wasn’t desperate enough on the night.

So the verdict on Gills?

Alex’s Ratings

Taste: 8. I can’t really complain about the execution of any of the dishes but none of them blew me away either.

Value: 4. This is a gripe. In my view, Gill’s doesn’t offer the same experience as other affordable fine dining options in the same rough price range, like Cumulus. If I’m going to pay $30 for a risotto then it better be a damn mind-blowing risotto, the hunk of taleggio notwithstanding (at least they didn’t scrimp), this risotto was good but not spectacular.

Service: 7. Rushed, efficient, impersonal, no complaints but nothing special.

Atmosphere: 10. I love it. I really love the fitout and everything about it. I don’t give 10s often but this one is deserved.

Overall: 7.88. This is a solid addition to Melbourne’s food scene, has proved its merit over the last few years and will be a long-term stayer but I just don’t think it’s up in the echelons of awesome that some other restaurants deliver. Not quite an 8 but more than a 7.5. Oh yeah and fail for coffee.

Pizza Battle – Heat 1

with 14 comments

Original post announcing the battle here. I’ve been apologizing a lot lately and I’ll apologize again. Reason for the supreme belatedness of this post is a combination of tech problems and being super busy. However we’re off and here goes.

The pizzerias reviewed for Heat 1 are:

1. D.O.C. (Carlton)

2. Barbagallo (CBD)

3. Bande a Part (North Carlton)

4. Pizza Meine Liebe (Northcote)

I apologize for photo quality, the dim lighting in these pizzerias did not agree with my Canon Ixus yet again.

1. D.O.C.
295 Drummond St
Carlton, 3053
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D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

From the team behind Carlton Espresso, D.O.C. is all about authenticity: simple pizza, quality produce and bases, few toppings. The place is also a ‘mozzarella bar’ and features Australian-produced fior di latte and Italian-made mozzarella, as well as an excellent selection of cured meats (bresaola, prosciutto, speck, etc.)

Capricciosa Nuova at Carlton's D.O.C.

We had a capricciosa nuova with tomato, mozarella, leg ham, mushroom, artichoke and olive. Those that frequent the normally terrible Lygon Street pizzerias (ie. Papa Ginos, Notturno, etc.) will be familiar with the capricciosa and although the ingredients look the same, this is of a far better standard. The ham is great quality, none of that weird curly shaved mystery meat type stuff and the mozarella is their beautiful fior di latte (not the shaved one you get in a plastic bag at Coles).

While the service at D.O.C. can sometimes be Roman-style arrogant, brisk and full of swagger, on this occasion we were well served and I have no complaints. Design is nothing to write home about: clean, Mediterranean, stone everywhere. I find the place to be somewhat cramped and somewhat noisy but these are small quibbles, the pizza speaks for itself.

Bonus: Their excellent antipasti, cured meat selections, cheese platters and desserts are also worth trying but, alas, this is a pizza review.

Pizza Taste: 9.

Everything Else: 7.

2. Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria
103 Lonsdale Street,
Melbourne 3000
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Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The self-named new restaurant of Pietro Barbagallo, he of I Carusi (Brunswick East/St. Kilda) and L’Uccelino (Yarraville) fame has started his own joint and they definitely haven’t scrimped on the details. The place is all ostentatious marble, hard wood and the like. The loudness is definitely palpable, the noise basically bounces off the walls, and there are several tables with only stools, not a set-up I’d recommend for eating pizza and paying $20+ for it.

This place has a terrible reputation for service, but if I may disclose, the waitress was a friend of mine, so we got the attention we needed and I have no complaints. However, this may not be indicative of their usual service.

The pizzas don’t have names at Barbagallo but the one we ordered featured tomato, mozzarella, olives, salami cacciatore, olives and roasted peppers and it was pretty awesome. The olives, for example, tasted amazing (for some reason). The base could use some work, the pizza overall tasted a little blander than DOC and the salami failed to live up to DOC’s ham. Having said that, it was still a fantastic pizza and I’m splitting hairs… splitting hairs is something we expect to do a lot during this battle.

I’ve heard excellent things about their pasta too, and their calzoncino (with three types of chocolate: white, milk and dark) was delish. But… we’re all about the pizza here!

Pizza Taste: 8.

Everything Else: 7.

3. Bande A Part
749 Nicholson St,
Carlton North, 3068
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Bande à Part on Urbanspoon

Bande A Part is an existential-themed pizza bar named after a Jean-Luc Godard film. As such, a number of menu items and some of the decor are to do with the them (including, for example, the Anna Karina pizza). Before building this list, I had never been to Pizza Meine Liebe (reviewed fourth in this post) and had no idea that Bande A Part was related to the famed Northcote pizza joint, but it appears that a relationship exists, given the similarity in some of the menu items and decor.

While I love existentialism and Godard, I’m not a big fan of Bande A Part. The pizzas that we had were fairly bland affairs, service was indifferent and the atmosphere of the place was cold, despite the best efforts of the decorators (which, by the way, didn’t go that great either, due to the cool 60s minimalist vibe). The biggest problem though, is the menu, which is high on concept and low on delivery and quality, the pizzas we tried were fairly lacklustre, especially when compared to their Italian counterparts rated above. The one pictured above is the Greek pizza (I forget the full name but it’s something suitably quirky) and was the better pizza that we tasted. The base was somewhat too chewy and the toppings too bland for my liking.

Pizza Rating: 5. Lacklustre when compared to the ones above but still preferred to most pizza around the city.

Everything Else: 5. Points for an interesting concept.

4. Pizza Meine Liebe
231 High St
Northcote, 3070
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Pizza Meine Liebe on Urbanspoon

As mentioned above, the Northcote stalwart, PML, is also related to Bande A Part, a connection which I had no idea existed until I finally visited PML to do this review. If I had known that the poor quality at BaP would be somewhat repeated at PML then I might have struck one of them off the list but, alas, the pizza is eaten and the reviews are written.

Pizza Meine Liebe has quite a following in Northcote, this place has been around for quite some time and is very popular with the Northern Suburbs hipster set. I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. The pizzas were decidedly better than their BaP counterparts but still nothing to really write home about. Let me be clear, the bar here is pretty high. If comparing both PML and BaP to Pizza Hut or your neighbourhood pizza joint then of course they’ll come out on top. But when compared to their Italian counterparts rated above, these funky anglo-run hipster joints just don’t stack up. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste but, hey, it’s my review!

I sampled three pizzas here this time, the Jett pictured above being the main one I had. I’m normally a fan of potato-based pizzas, especially when combined with taleggio cheese, but this was a bland affair, swathed in oil and I was sick of it around half way through.

The service and decor here was also much better executed than at Bande A Part. Our waitress was friendly, personable and attentive and the whole place seemed to fit together a lot better, eschewing warmth and comfort (albeit in a somewhat cramped fashion) while combining the elements of the decor well into a good package. Service-wise, I’m aware of the terrible reviews these guys get on urbanspoon and elsewhere but since service was great when I visited I can’t complain.

Note: PML is crazy busy so it’s advised to book for either 6pm or 8pm or take-away (Joe’s Shoe Store next door will have you with a pizza and serve you a pint to boot). Gluten-free bases and toppings are also available here.

Pizza Taste: 7. The pizza here is worth a try, in part to see what all the fuss is about and in part because it’s decent pizza but it just can’t compete with the Italians. Not for my money anyway.

Everything Else: 7.5. Not as loud as the Italians and with friendlier service, you don’t get the ‘authentic Italian atmosphere’ nor are you bathed in opulence but it’s an overall more pleasant place to visit.

So D.O.C. takes out the first heat, just pipping Barbagallo which also stands an excellent chance of making it through to the Final. Stay tuned for Heat 2!