161 Spring Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 0811
I really hate July in Melbourne. I hate the cold, I hate the loneliness and I hate lips so chapped that not even several coatings of Burt’s Bees could fix. Sure, mulled wine, 30 Rock marathons and an Essendon win from time to time may make winter slightly more bearable but nothing in the world compares to weekends spent with my man, Marty. I don’t want to make this post all sorts of sappy and barf-worthy, but I’m not kidding when I say that winters aren’t as cold when Marty’s in town. This weekend, for example, we actually saw decent weather (well, seventeen degrees IS decent by Melbourne standards, especially in July) – it was as if Martin brought a bit of Queensland warmth with him when his plane landed in Melbourne on Friday night.
Okay, I’ll shut up now.
So after settling into his hotel room on Friday night, we decided to go for a late supper. Grossi Cellar Bar was half a block away so we decided that a plate of cod croquettes would do the trick, only to be greeted by douche-y a waiter who snapped, “yes, it’s obvious we’re open” when I asked them, at 10:50pm, if they were still serving. It also didn’t help that we were ignored for quite some time after we were seated at our table, despite the fact that there were a army of staff milling around and the restaurant was slowly emptying. Our next stop was City Wine Shop, where we were greeted by a much friendlier waitress. Unfortunately, the place stopped serving food at 11pm so once again, we were turned away. Feeling like Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, utterly dejected, we finally stumbled across what looked like a dimly-lit cigar bar. Upon closer inspection, I realised that we were standing in front of The European, a once-hatted eatery. Grabbing Marty, I eagerly rushed inside and asked if they were still serving food and to my delight, I was told that they were serving supper until 3am. Awesome.
It may have been cool outside and we may have still been in Melbourne but being in The European made me feel, for a minute, that we were in some non-descript European city. The worn chequered tiled floor, the wobbly wooden tables, the heat emancipating from within and clinking of wine glasses made me feel as chic as Emmanuelle Mimeux (too bad Daniel Bruhl didn’t pop out of nowhere to crack onto me that night *sniff*).
We both felt like pastas so we ordered accordingly. I chose a glass of 2007 Patrocinio Zinio, a tempranillo from Rioja, Spain ($10.50) and the waiter suggested that Martin order the same to go with his rissotto. It was strong on the fruit flavours with hints of vanilla, and an easy-going tannin that made it go down swimmingly with both our dishes.
Martin ordered a plate of seasonal mushroom risotto with truffle oil ($23), a dish that looked so terrible that I didn’t bother posting it up here on its own (I curse myself for not bring my DSLR with me). Looking like a pool of vomit tainted by several glasses of bourbon and Coke, Martin also remarked that it smelt like ‘shit’ too. One bite, however, and he was in non-drug mushroom heaven. The risotto was so creamy, so rich and so tasty. There was a perfect balance of creaminess and earthiness, and although I’m not a fan of truffle oil, the use of the normally-plastic-y ingredient was kept to a bare minimum so that it gave the dish another dimension, but minus the awful artificialness that often comes with a dish that’s been tainted with truffle oil. Meanwhile, my orecchiette with braised lamb ragout ($24) also warmed my heart and my palate. I loved the little home-made pasta shells that were cooked to al dente perfection as well as the tender slivers of lamb and the crunchy, fine layer of shallots and parmesan on top. I did, however, think that the undercooked peas brought the dish down a notch and the ragout was a bit too watery. Taste-wise, though, no complaints.
Our hearts warm and our stomach satisfied, we shouted, “Au revoir, Shoshanna!” to the staff (okay fine, maybe we didn’t) and walked out into the crisp Melbourne air, vowing to return again for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And all meals in between.