Pinch me, I must be dreaming. Through what’s nothing short of a miracle, Chris and I found ourselves lunching at the ridiculously pricey Grossi Florentino Restaurant for a mere $35 per person. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s amazing Restaurant Express event allows diners to sample a two course lunch with a glass of wine at restaurants that would normally be well out of most people’s price range. And judging by the line forming out the door when we arrived for our 11:45 sitting, we weren’t the only ones eager to take advantage of this excellent opportunity.
Whilst the downstairs cellar bar and the grill were dark and elegant, the restaurant we were led upstairs to was opulence defined. The glass chandeliers, gilded ceilings and oil paintings put one more in mind of a 19th century estate belonging to royalty, than a restaurant in the heart of 21st century Melbourne.
From a list of 3 entrees, 3 mains, and 3 desserts, we were allowed to choose two courses each, along with a glass of red or white, and coffee and tea for afters.
Free bread excites me more than it should, and this perfect basket of rosemary and sea salt ciabatta nearly sent me bouncing up and down in my seat, especially when slathered with some unsalted butter. I should also be more ashamed to admit that when the waiter came back to refill our fast emptying bread basket, I had to look down at my plate so he couldn’t see my grin of glee. I guess I’m just bread for this.
|Bread and Red Wine|
We were poured a glass of wine each; Chris got the red because it apparently went with his main of beef, and I got the white because I don’t like red. So keeping that in mind, neither of us thought much of the red, but I found the white to be crisp and fruity, and very easy to drink, even for my untrained palate. Too easy I would say, considering that I had a lecture after.
Our first dish was an entree to share. The Vitello Tonnato consisted of thin slices of poached veal, topped with a tuna flavoured sauce, and a scattering of capers. The tuna sauce was rich and creamy, though I found that it overwhelmed the delicate pink slices of veal. The capers and the surprising addition of small grapefruit segments lifted the whole dish with their sour notes, leaving us hungry for more.
My main was the Pollo Ripieno, which was rolled chicken with herb stuffing, white wine sauce, and chickpeas. This was honestly nothing special at all, I should have just wheedled for a double serve of the veal or something. And some more bread.
|Spezzatino Con Polenta|
Chris' Spezzatino Con Polenta fared a lot better. Tender chunks of beef swam in a sweet tomato and wine sauce on top of a cloud of smooth polenta. The only complaint the he had with the dish was the dish itself. It was so big that it was impossible to put your cutlery down, lest they fall right into the bowl and gets covered in sauce and polenta (guilty!).
Look at it, just look at it. Chris said birdbath, but I was thinking more of a midget Colosseum.
To top off our meal, we ordered the La Torta, a hazelnut and chocolate cake served with a small scoop of ice cream. Once again, this was unexciting, the cake dense and dry. But I was even more upset when they took away the bread basket. I WASN’T DONE! I WILL NEVER BE DONE! This post is starting to sound vaguely insane. It is 4am after all.
|Flat White and Biscotti|
A short while later, we were offered our choice or tea or coffee. Chris drank neither, so we just got a flat white for me. The coffee wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was strong with a guttural punch to it, which is probably good considering the glass of wine had made me a bit sleepy.. The coffee was also served with two pieces of biscotti, which were fragrant with orange peel, and hard to the point where I was worried that my molars would shatter before them.
IT’S SO CUTE! I WANT ONE!
Grossi Florentino was surprisingly warm and welcoming, considering how fancy it is. The waiters were friendly and efficient, and their casually dropped phrases in Italian only served to complete the experience. That said, I wouldn’t cross Grossi Florentino off my to-eat list yet. This meal was decent for the price, but when I come back to drop $200 on an 8 course degustation, I will be expecting great things.
Rating: 12.5/20 – pending a repeat visit