The Winter Express Lunch promotion is currently running in some of Melbourne’s top restaurants for the next two weeks or so. For $35 per head, you get 2 courses (you usually choose from a special menu each restaurant will have for this promotion) plus wine and coffee which is good value as some of these restaurants charge $30-40 per main dish. With in mind, Adam and I decided to have lunch at one of the few places that actually opened for lunch on a Saturday, Balzari on Lygon Street.
We both loved the place – very casual but there was still this “I’m-A-Top-Restaurant-No-Undesirables-Please” aura to it. We were greeted and seated immediately, menus presented and specials recited in an efficient manner. After ordering a glass of orange juice (at $5.50 a glass, I’m just glad it was decent orange juice!), the waiter left us alone while we read the menu. And then practically half the newspaper, because they were taking quite a while to get to us, even though it wasn’t that busy. While I’m aware that it’s Saturday afternoon and while I can understand that the staff were still recovering from last night’s trashy session at Transport, Balzari is supposed to be serving simple no-fuss Italian food, so it’s not like any of their patrons are expecting Vue Du Monde bells and whistles here!
Overall, a great Saturday lunch. The total came to $75.50, definitely not a cheapie meal but given that we’ve been to restaurants that charged us $90-100 for two courses and had less-awesome-tasting food, we somehow felt that the bill was justified. Plus, even though the service was a bit slow, all the wait staff were quite friendly and not stuck-uppish. What really impressed, however, was that the place was very different to many other Lygon Street joints which I reckon are “tacky.” Granted, I used to go to those places a lot when I was still a povo Melbourne Uni student but after a while, you just realise how uninteresting most Lygon Street fare is. Balzari, meanwhile, stands out from the crowd because it promises something special and it delivers. And of course, they don’t have a bloody spruiker out the front of the restaurant with a menu, asking you to come inside . I’d definitely come back just to try their breakfast menu because apparently they do decent breakfasts on weekends. Their eggs + chorizo (at $15-something) sounds great so that’ll be the first thing I’ll ask for when I’m here next!