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Posts Tagged ‘Italian

Pizza Battle – Heat 2

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Welcome back to Pizza Battle! Join us on our quest to discover the best pizza in Melbourne. If you missed the post explaining how this works and the first heat then click on those there hyperlinks.

This round we have visited the following places:

1. Ladro (Fitzroy)

2. +39 (CBD)

3. I Carusi (East Brunswick)

4. Supermaxi (North Fitzroy)

1. Ladro


Ladro on Urbanspoon

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Ladro is an absolute stalwart on the Melbourne gourmet pizza scene, having opened years ago, a little after I Carusi and around the same time as Mr. Wolf to usher in Melbourne’s new age of gourmet pizza. It still carries its hefty reputation into this food battle, and is showing no signs of slowing down, having just opened another Ladro outlet in Greville Street, Prahran, alongside its Gertrude Street institution.If we were intimidated by reputations then this pizza battle would be much more difficult, such is the quality in this fair city of ours, so Jess and I arrived with an open mind. I had heard things about bad service and was prepared for it, but it didn’t eventuate. Firstly, Ladro is not uncomfortable, combining a minimalist design with reasonable space. The night that we were there it was full but not super packed and the service was fast, efficient and low on bells & whistles. No complaints from me, get the job done without being rude is priority number one.

The oiliness was palpable.

The pizza, however, was supremely disappointing. Firstly, I don’t remember the name of my pizza (sorry kids) but it consisted of cherry tomatoes, capers, olives on the usual napoli/mozzarrella base. And it was terrible due to two unfortunate reasons. Firstly, the base was burnt. It’s normal to have a little bit of charring around the base from the oven but I draw the line when I can actually taste lots of yummy (not) carcinogenic carbon in my crust. Secondly, a ‘drizzle’ of olive oil over the pizza can add flavour… but a drizzle, people! Not a cascade! There was so much oil on this pizza that it had literally coalesced into  a pool of oiliness in the middle of the pizza, this was a lake, a pond of oil! As a result, the pizza was slimy and gross.

To be fair, Jess’ pizza, the ‘Badabing’, was a lot better. Less oily, the pork sausage used was good and the chili was just right. But my pizza was so terrible that there’s little chance of Ladro making it into the Final round. Sorry Ladro-lovers, I was tres unimpressed.

Pizza Taste: 6. Note: Much can be made of Ladro’s name, which is Italian for “thief”. A poor choice, some might say, given Ladro’s relatively high prices and, in this case, lackluster offering. Thieves indeed.

Everything Else: 7.

2. +39


+39 Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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+39 is the international dialing code for Italy and is run by Tony Nicolini (of Pizza Espresso in Doncaster fame). Check out a surprisingly decent review by Matt Preston here. +39 was named Pizzeria of the Year in The Age for 2010 and is still living with the hype. Getting a seat here is not easy and bookings a recommended. It’s also very much cheek-by-jowl as they’ve tried to cram as many covers as possible into a place that isn’t huge, unfortunately a failing of many a restaurant/cafe. This results in a very noisy environment when it’s full as people’s conversations bounce off the marble and spill out onto the street.

My dining companions for the tasting session were @jillianjtl and @cloudcontrol (aka. Billy from Half-Eaten), check out his review of the experience.

We sampled three pizzas, I opted for a special pizza (pictured above) which consisted of a spicy Italian sausage, silverbeet, chilli and scamorza (smoked mozarrella), Billy opted for the broccoli pizza with anchovies and pine nuts (also reviewed at eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die(t))  and Jill had the truffle & porcini pizza.

My selection was the best, excellent base, the smoked flavour of the scamorza came off perfectly, the sausage was great quality and its slight sweetness offset the bitterness from the silverbeet. A great all-rounder. Both other pizzas worked well too, I’m not a huge fan of truffle pizzas because I’m overwhelmed by the mushroominess, and in my opinion, the DOC version of Jill’s pizza is slightly better but it was still very good. Billy’s pizza also challenged how I view the idea of broccoli as a pizza topping. I was impressed overall.

Unfortunately, the service, while friendly, was not overly professional. We booked for 7.30 but were not seated until 7.50, they had to shuffle tables around while we were standing in a cramped passageway, and we were seated at the arse-end of the restaurant by the toilet. They also forgot our drinks order and only checked up on us half an hour later, we were lost in conversation but also thirsty! They dealt with these setbacks well, apologized (not profusely) and righted them but they must still be punished in the scores. A busy restaurant that crams these covers in needs to be able to manage the busy-ness.

Pizza Taste: 8.

Everything Else: 6.

3. I Carusi


I Carusi on Urbanspoon

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I Carusi is another Melbourne stalwart, previously opened and owned by Pietro Barbagallo before even Ladro and Mr. Wolf came onto the scene. The restaurant has since changed and hands, and Barbagallo has opened his eponimous Trattoria reviewed in Heat 1. We came to see if I Carusi still lives up to its reputation.

It turns out that it kind of doesn’t. The change of atmosphere was refreshing, but there was definitely some incongruity, and not of the ironic hipster variety that one invariably finds in Brunswick East. Old Italian pizza, exclusively young and attractive waitresses; white tablecloths, disposable napkins; attempt at luxury, less-than-excellent service… odd.

My dining companion for the evening was Mae aka. @lynnegweeney. Mae opted for the Alla Moda di Mario, with a mozarrella/tomato base and pancetta, red onion & chilli. I chose the Speciale (pictured above) with the same base and soppressa, roasted peppers, artichokes and olives. First point of note is that you’ll note from the picture above, this is slightly different to the simple, uncluttered pizzas of the other “artisan” pizzerias we reviewed and is moving closer to the over-topped, over-stuffed, bang-for-your-buck variants at Pizza Hut and its cousins on Lygon Street. And the taste was somewhere in between too – not subtle at all. While I can’t find fault with anything in particular on the pizza, except that perhaps the olives and weren’t as fine as Barbagallo and the base wasn’t as delicate as DOC, the overall pizza just packed too much punch and not enough finesse for my money. I Carusi – not to my taste.

Pizza Taste: 6.5.

Everything Else: 6.5. Service was friendly enough but also run off its feet and not particularly professional. And speaking of cramming too many covers (as mentioned earlier), this time we were seated in a very narrow passageway between two rooms with waitresses rushing past us on a regular basis and a massive light from the exposed kitchen shining directly into my face. Not best positioning.

4. Supermaxi


Supermaxi on Urbanspoon

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Supermaxi – an odd name for a pizza place, and boy has the buzz been building about this one since it opened not too long ago. Much of the buzz has, of course, been due to the involvement of Rita Macali, ex-head chef of Ladro. We came to see if Macali’s new pizza haven (i mean that, not in relation to the terrible chain, of course) would prove better than the new Ladro chef’s thievery.

In discussing the name, I’ll borrow from Melbourne Gastronome:

So, the name. It turns out Supermaxi is many things: the name of a chain of Spanish supermarkets, a type of NZ racing yacht and a series of late 1980s compilation albums featuring Kool & The Gang, Yello and Wang Chung. Owners Rita Macali and Giovanni Patane toldEspresso that the name is intentionally un-Italian, a portmanteau word made up of English superlatives Italians like to use. Fair enough. But me, I can’t help thinking of products like these when I hear the name. At least it’s memorable!

Not only is the name memorable but so is the dining experience, both in total juxtaposition to Supermaxi’s super nondescript exterior (which appeals to North Fitzroy’s hipster contingent for sure).

My dining companion for this tasting session was Gem (@snarkattack) from Eat Drink Stagger. Check out her take on the experience. Gem opted for a pizza special that was little more than prosciutto and napoli base. A choice not unwise, given the tendency towards simple dishes being the best. I went for something more adventurous (pictured above),The Sicilian,  a tuna pizza with red onion and lemon. My pizza was beautiful, very well balanced, just the right amount of saltiness (dangerous ground considering the tuna) and a perfect base. Gem’s was also excellent, especially for prosciutto fans.

The place itself is really a delight, it’s spacious and feels it because Macali & Patane have not crammed diners in like sardines in the name of profit. Kudos to them. The service was almost perfect, and Patane’s friendliness front-of-house was definitely appreciated. Supermaxi is up there with the best of them.

Pizza Taste: 8.

Everything Else: 9.

So the winner of Heat 2 is Supermaxi, coming out on top with a superior ‘everything else’ score to +39, but both are in strong contention to appear in the Final. But we still have Heat 3 to do which includes such pizza luminaries as Mr. Wolf, Woodstock and Pizza Espresso. Join us for the final installment soon!

Pizza Battle – Heat 1

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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!

Announcing: Pizza Battle

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Image Credit: wikipedia.org

We had so much fun doing our last (ramen) food battle that we’ve decided to do another one. This time, we’re migrating from the Far East to the shores of the Mediterranean. Welcome to the Pizza Battle, we weigh on what the Best Pizza in Melbourne is.

According to our good friend wikipedia:

Pizza (pronounced /ˈpiːtsə/ ( listen) or /ˈpiːdzə/; Italian: [ˈpit.tsa]) is an oven-baked, flat, disc shaped bread usually topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella and then a selection of meats, salamis, seafood, cheeses, vegetables and herbs depending on taste and culture.

Originating in Neapolitan cuisine, the dish has become popular in many different parts of the world.

Note: The places we are reviewing are gourmet pizza bars. Pizza is as divisive as ramen, if not more so, and many variants exist. We like gourmet pizza, we think it tastes great, we don’t care if you don’t think it’s authentic enough because we like it. If you don’t like gourmet pizza then you can feel free to ignore this battle.

By way of explanation, I am aware that pizza, traditionally, is an everyman’s food in Italy. Great. But we aren’t in Italy, we’re in Melbourne and Melbourne has it’s own culinary traditions. And many of those culinary traditions are derived from stealing and appropriating other people’s food. Other Anglo-Saxon cultures have made a mint of this, look at Britain’s chicken tikka masala and America’s tex-mex? AND WHY NOT?

Food doesn’t have to be traditional or authentic to taste good, it just has to taste good, and what we’re after is the best tasting damn pizza in Melbourne. Whether it’s a simple thin-base napolitana or named after a Jean-Luc Godard film or has half a litre of buffalo mozarella on it, we want to eat it.

So here’s our list:

  • D.O.C. (Carlton)
  • Barbagallo (CBD)
  • +39 (CBD)
  • Bande a Part (North Carlton)
  • Supermaxi (North Fitzroy)
  • Pizza Meine Liebe (Northcote)
  • Ladro (Fitzroy)
  • Pizza Espresso (Lower Templestowe)
  • I Carusi (East Brunswick)
  • Mr. Wolf (St. Kilda)
  • Woodstock Cafe (North Carlton)

As usual, if there are any glaring omissions please let us know, but given that we already have 11 places to hit up (that’s a lot of pizza) please make sure it’s absolutely on par with our present suggestions.

Since most of the pizzerias above are fairly heavy hitters, we aren’t going to seed like we did last time, instead we’re going to allocate the final spots (3-4) to the pizzerias with the highest overall scores, regardless of who ‘wins’ the heats. Consider it an Olympic-style competition.

Heats will be judged on:

  • Pizza Taste.
  • Everything Else: ambience, value, service, authenticity.

Finals competitors will be scored more rigorously:

  • Doughy Base: Is it deliciously crusty? Deliciously soft? Too much dough or too little? Etc.
  • Sauce & Cheese Base: How’s the napolitana? The tomato paste? What sort of cheese is being used and does it cut through properly or does it overpower?
  • Other toppings: Olives? Anchovies? Ham? Artichokes? Randomness? How do the toppings taste and how good is the produce being used?
  • Everything Else: As above
  • Overall: Final Score

Heat 1 (D.O.C., Bande A Part, Barbagallo) will be up soon!

Written by alexlobov

May 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Food Battles

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Trotters

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Trotters
400 Lygon Street,
Carlton, 3053,
Tel: (03) 9347 5657
website (and its a very nice, elegant website, might I add)
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Trotters on Urbanspoon

Trotters adds further fuel to my theory that the block of Lygon Street between Faraday and Elgin is by far the best block and possibly the only part of Lygon Street actually worth going to (though there’s also the corner with Lazzat & Il Dolce Freddo).

I have always told visitors to Melbourne that Lygon Street is our Little Italy, and yeah, sure, it is. But the inference one draws from that is that there is good pasta and pizza to be had, right? Mostly, wrong. It is actually kind of difficult to get good Italian food on Lygon Street and for the uninitiated it can be a little like playing roulette. You walk past shopfront after shopfront, some with touts offering you free wine, some with heaps of people sitting outside, but you still have a 90% chance of getting a glorified La Porchetta pasta with the cheapest possible ingredients or a glorified Pizza Hut pizza, but smaller and with less taste. And don’t even get me started on the coffee.

Forgive me if I sound bitter, but I studied at Melbourne University (just next door) for six years. Six years of the pain and suffering of wandering up and down that street looking for something decent to eat and getting bitten. But no longer! Rejoice! There is Trotters! A place you can go and be certain that for $15-20 you will get a decent pasta.

Now Trotters is not the only good restaurant on Lygon Street, I for one rather enjoy Tiamo and D.O.C. for example, but, unlike D.O.C., it’s a Carlton stalwart and enjoys the history and the well-deserved status of being an institution, while, unlike Tiamo, not being stuffed full of tourists and other suburban types. Also, its pig mascot is cute.

Though I have been to Trotters for breakfast before (and can tell you that it’s good), my most recent trips have been mostly dinner (and therefore, pasta) related. Here’s the breakdown of what I tried in a recent sitting (and apologies for the lacklustre photos, my compact held up badly in the dim light).

First up, the linguini with pork and fennel meatballs in a tomato ragu ($16.20), this dish was decent. It wasn’t subtle, but then meatball pastas rarely are. The meatballs were fresh and on point, the fennel came through really nicely. The tomato ragu was heavy, possibly a little too heavy but I’m nitpicking. If you’re looking for a pasta that’s hearty, this one’s your choice. Just don’t expect anything ‘light’.

The risotto of chicken, mushroom and braised leek ($17.50) was probably the worst dish I’ve had at Trotters. Now, I’m going to be careful here, because risotto is one of those divisive dishes that everyone seems to have a (conflicting) opinion on. I believe that the rice and the broth are both equally important to risotto, however, I do not think a risotto should be so drowned in broth that it almost becomes congee. This is what the risotto at Trotters tasted like to me. Not a fan.

Next up, the linguini tossed with prawns, tomato and broccoli, chilli and garlic oil ($18.60), to me, this dish is one of the stars. It’s by far the most elegant dish I tried all evening, the sauce was delicately light but delivered enough flavour while still allowing the seafood to work its magic.

Now, Trotters also do some great burgers, which I didn’t have that night so I won’t describe them in detail but I do recommend you try them. However, my regular dish at Trotters is the Spaghetti Putanesca, in a sauce of Western Australian anchovies, lilyput capers, kalamata olives and a hint of chilli ($15.50). Putanesca is one of my all time faves for a few reasons. The first, and simplest, is that I love all the ingredients. Anchovies, olives, capers, chilli is a recipe for delicious. The second is that it’s not normally overly saucy, which is something I prefer to heavy pasta dishes smothered in either half a litre of creme fraiche or a napoli sauce that sits in your stomach for a week.

Now I’ll be honest, the putanesca is objectively probably not as good a dish as the seafood linguini above. I mean, it’s not perfect, for starters it’s very salty and at times can be overpowering, but it’s still one of the most consistently well executed ones I’ve had in Melbourne. The saltiness is pleasant because it is of the natural variety but for those of you with sodium problems, stay away.

Oh and, by the way, their desserts are also delicious. Try the sticky date pudding. The coffee, not so much, but it’s better than Brunetti.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 8/10. You can rely on Trotters for decent, well-priced pasta. Not perfect, but consistently reliable. There’s also great burgers and desserts. It all adds up to a pretty great menu (apart from that risotto, perhaps).

Authenticity: 7/10. We’re talking relatively here. It’s Italian owned and run, much like other restaurants in Lygon Street, however it has not sold its soul for money and a slice of tourist dollar. Ingredients aren’t cheap and effort is taken to stay true to Italian roots.

Value: 8/10. $15-20 for a pasta is pretty standard and this is definitely the higher quality end for that price range.

Ambience: 9/10. What I like best about how Trotters feels is the authenticity of the place. Nothing here is contrived, there’s history (since 1988, that’s over 20 years) and there’s love, and you can feel it within the tiny walls. Oh and, as I mentioned earlier, the pigs are cute.

Service: 7/10. Well, they do take their time at Trotters, which is normally ok because service is still polite, attentive and personal. But sometimes they do give the impression of being slightly understaffed, particularly when they get unexpectedly slammed (such as… on a Sunday night with a thunderstorm approaching, maybe?)

Overall: 8/10. A true Lygon Street institution that has never let me down.

Written by alexlobov

March 9, 2010 at 2:55 am

The Quarter

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The Quarter
27 Degraves St
Melbourne
(03) 9650 6156

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The Quarter on Urbanspoon

Degraves Street.

I love Degraves Street. I love how pretty it is, how the cafes spill out into the little lane with cafe-goers perched at their tables which line the middle walkway underneath a canopy of umbrellas. I love the colours, I love the smells, I love the vibrancy. In fact, I often walk through Degraves on the way to work just to feel the hustle and bustle.

As much as I love being around there, I am always loath to eat on Degraves street. The food looks good, smells good, but more often than not, tastes like shit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like being critical, because I generally don’t like negativity.. I see myself as the nicer half of our MSG operation, i.e. the sweet side;  the glutamate that flavours this blog if you may 🙂

However, bad food is bad food.

The Quarter is in the middle of this delightful laneway, and has a nice, European cafe feel to it. We were seated, and proceeded to order our food which came promptly.

Pizza diablo - $16ish

Alex’s pizza diablo consisted of salami, chorizo, roasted peppers, onion and chilli. Unfortunately. as you can probably see from the picture, they got a bit carried away and seemed to just dump a whole lot of ingredients onto the pizza, turning it into a massive sausage fest (which is probably why it appealed to MS .. he does love his sausages). But even this pizza was a little too much sausage for him to handle, it tasted ok but it certainly lacked the restraint that an authentic Italian pizza with a focus on just a few good toppings can show. Basically it was very greasy.

Linguini marinara - $23.50

Now onto my dish.. I still shudder at the thought of this dish. It looked reasonable enough, but closer inspection revealed a poor marinara mix, which had probably passed its used by date. I had figured if the dish was one of the more expensive items on the menu, then surely it would include reasonably fresh seafood. I was wrong. This dish was pretty much inedible. I generally don’t leave much food, being a good little Asian girl trained to finish her dishes, however I could not even stomach half of this dish. The mussels tasted rank, the scallops were rubbery and fishy and the calamari was almost impossible to chew through. The only saving grace was the prawns which were… edible. The pasta was poorly flavoured, with very little taste except that of lingering dirty dish water. In short: yuck. I left hungry.

Whilst I don’t want to devote a blog to hating food, as it really is to celebrate food, Alex did google this place before we came, and all reviews were fairly positive. We were quite disappointed.

So, Degraves street: beautiful laneway, come for the atmopshere, don’t stay for the food. If you want decent Italian, head to the Paris end of the city.

Jess’ Ratings:

Taste: 2/10. Both these points come from the pizza. 0 for the Marinara. yeech.

Authenticity: 1/10.

Value: 2/10. The pizza was an ok price. Especially since they’re generous with the toppings. I still feel ripped off by my marinara.

Ambiance: 6/10. Good mood lighting, well fitted out cafe. Nice background music and good atmosphere.

Service: 6/10. Super quick and friendly. Almost too quick, food came within what seemed just minutes.

Overall: 4/10.

Alex’s Ratings:
Taste: 2/10.
Value: 1/10. Whenever I eat a bad pizza I can’t help but think of Bimbo’s where I can pay $4 for something 4 times better.
Ambiance: 7/10. I was definitely digging the vibe, shame the food didn’t match it.
Service: 7/10. It was a busy night and yet they were still attentive which is something I appreciate, however the attentiveness lacked a personal touch and was that faux sort of attentiveness that comes from experience in hospitality. Good but nothing amazing.
Overall: 3/10. Sorry, but food and value take precedence over the other two in this case.

Written by glutamatejess

February 21, 2010 at 11:26 am

The Grand Hotel, Richmond

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The Grand Hotel
333 Burnley Street, Richmond
(03) 9429 2530

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Grand Hotel Dining Room on Urbanspoon

MS and I decided to check out one of the gastropubs in Melbourne. Gone are the days where a pub meal meant poor produce fried, deep fried or refried then dished out onto plates masquerading as ‘food.’ Gastropubs are spotted throughout Melbourne, with good food made well and a focus on quality produce.

The Grand Hotel is a prime example of a gastropub, a simple dining room. Located in the sleepy end of Burnley street, from the outside it appears unassuming but walk inside, and it’s really quite charming.  Whilst the Lounge Bar may appear a bit dated, the beer garden out the back is really quite pretty.

This review is of the Dining Room, the little side room next to the bar.

We ate;

Roast Duck served with a spelt, barley and cherry salad and an orange and juniper berry sauce $33.50

which was nice, quite flavoursome, the cherries did little to add to the dish except make it visually more attractive. I love duck, and whilst this dish was quite good, I haven’t had much duck that the Chinese didn’t make better.

Pot-Roasted Veal With white wine and sage, served with silverbeet and parmesan - $32.50

which was nice, with restrained mild flavours, but had a nice texture, but Alex wasn’t overally impressed.

Alex: It was a solid dish and executed well but this sort of thing isn’t really my bag. I’m no expert on various cuisines but, to me, it was reminiscent of bland English and Northern European food, not high on flavour but a good hearty meal. I give it a tick on execution but just not something I would order again.

Jess’ Ratings:

Taste: 7/10. The food was good, but not stunning. Good flavours, cooked well, and serving sizes were decent.

Ambiance: 8/10. Beautiful dining room. Quiet, dim but still well-lit enough to see your food, had a nice feel to it.

Service: 9/10. Excellent. Not in your face, but very attentive. Couldn’t fault it.

Value: 7/10. Not bad, again, good serving sizes. Food was of high quality produce, though of course the dishes weren’t cheap.

Overall: 7/10. Nice experience. Didn’t blow my mind, but had little to complain about. Overall very enjoyable.

Alex’s Ratings:

I agree entirely with Jess on this one, it was an excellent but leisurely dining experience. 🙂

Written by glutamatejess

February 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm