MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Posts Tagged ‘pasta


with 6 comments

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

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

with 2 comments

The Quarter
27 Degraves St
(03) 9650 6156




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