Before Judy Garland walked down the Yellow Brick Road…
I, Libby, dined at one of the most overrated Italian restaurants in Melbourne.
I’ll get to that in a sec though. Let’s start from the beginning…
Adam and I had tickets to see THE production of the year, WICKED, which is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It had received high praise after a run at Broadway and other capital cities around the world so when I first heard that it was coming to Melbourne, I knew I had to see it. The fact that Anthony Callea had a part in the Melbourne production too made me even more keen to suss it out as he’s probably my fave Idol contestant in the history of the show. Anyway, we decided to make a night of it so we booked a table for two at The Italian, on Collins Street prior to the show and counted the days until it was Friday the 25th.
Come 6pm on the day, we were strolling into the grand foyers of 101 Collins Street aka the “POWER TOWER” of Melbourne. As we approached The Italian, we could see that it looked right at home amongst the high ceilings and plush interiors of the office building which is quite a feat given that the The Italian is still settling into its new home (it used to be just off Flinders Lane). There were only a handful of people sitting at the bar when we arrived and when we told them we had a reservation at 6, the waiter looked us and said that the SHEET said 6:30pm. Odd, because I knew I made the booking at 6pm and even had it written down in my diary. I was afraid that we would be shooed away for an error that THEY MADE but luckily we were all good to come in. We were then informed that the staff were still being briefed so it’d take them a while to get to us but we were shown to our table and given a menu to read.
We sat in a cushy red booth just by the atrium windows which I liked as it gave us a bit of privacy and also prevented us from distracting the other patrons with the camera flash from all the food photos that I was going to do. Swoit! After ordering our drinks, we got down to work with the menus. So far so good, but then it starts getting a little sloppy. Now, we were told that the staff were still being debriefed so we weren’t expecting Flower Drum-like service but after 15 minutes, our drinks still had not arrived. I had only ordered a lemon-lime-bitters so it wasn’t like it required so much time and effort to make. I wasn’t pissy as I was too busy chit-chatting away with Adam but I did wonder why they didn’t do the staff-briefing earlier on, like 5pm if the restaurant opened at 6pm for dinner. But anyway.
The drinks finally came and so did the waiter who looked like our friend, Tim (heeeeeh!). After a brief wait, we finally got our food. Two entrees and two mains.
We shared a plate of beef carpaccio ($22.00) which consisted of thinly-sliced beef, and drizzled with olive oil and aoili. It was then topped with shreds of rocket leaves and shaved reggiano. I guess it was nice enough, if not a little too oily. They also got stingy on the capers which was a bit nasty of them but then again, perhaps they had so much cheese in the coolroom and really needed to get rid of them because they went off so they made it up by giving us a liberal dose of cheese. Too liberal for me though. Adam really dug it but I wasn’t as happy as him – after having that awesome carpaccio at Bottega, every other beef carpaccio just doesn’t match up.
We also had half a dozen oysters, accompanied with a red wine and shallots sauce ($3.50 each). I really liked the light and tangy sauce that looked a bit like nuoc mam. Accompanied with the freshly shucked oysters, they went down a treat.
After they took away our empty plates, we were both excited as we anticipated the arrival of our mains. Is my ravioli verde ($23.50) going to be in the form of one jewel of a dumpling stuffed with rabbit meat and decorated with all sorts of bells and whistles? Will Adam’s veal pizzaoila ($30) consist of finely sliced veal arranged prettily on the plate and topped with a delicate tomato-y sauce which brought out the red wine that it was cooked in and sprinkled with the same reggiano that came with our carpaccio?! Oh the possibilities! Imagine our surprise, however, when the waiter brought me this:
And when he brought Adam this:
Actually, surprise isn’t the right word to describe what we felt. It was more SHOCK. Or HORROR. My either pieces of spinach ravioli were placed unceremoniously on a NON-PASTA plate and splurged with some sort of mutant tomato-based sauce. Adam’s veal looked like a chicken parmagiana. Actually, it WAS a parma, complete with the sauce and the cheese. Kristy Thomas would have had the time of her life giving a commentary on those dishes. Now, I wish I could say that the taste made up for the awful presentation but sadly, it didn’t. I’m not saying that the food was awful but it just wasn’t great. To be fair, The Italian isn’t known for their creativity – rather, they stick to traditional “modern” which means that they can just churn out the good old favourite. But when they taste like something that MARK HENDERSON can make in his kitchen, then there is a serious problem. If we were eating at a suburban Italian joint, I will be a little forgiving but c’mon, we’re in Collins Street. Am I to believe that broker deals and political matters are discussed over sub-standard fare?! Needless to say, we did not stay around for dessert – for one thing, our pana cotta would have probably looked (and tasted) like cottage cheese. Or something. Bleh.
The total bill came to $96.50. We got our drinks on the house, a way of saying sorry for taking so long earlier on, which I thought was nice of them. We were expecting to pay more of the food so I was glad that it all came to just under $100. Even though the food might not have looked like much, we were both quite full so they must be doing something right.. but unfortunately, not right enough to warrant a return visit from me.