Grossi FlorentinoNovember 25, 2011
80 Bourke Street, Melbourne
My (teenage) brother, precocious thing that he is, chose Grossi Florentino for his birthday dinner this year. Not sure how many teenagers would pick it, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain about getting to go to one of Melbourne’s best reataurants. When we arrived, and they’d taken our coats and provided adorable little red upholstered stools for the ladies’ bags (can I have this service everywhere from now on, please?), we found a card in the middle of the table, “Dear A, Happy Birthday from Guy and the team”. Probably not signed by Guy Grossi himself (though I would love for someone to correct me on this), but a nice sentiment all the same.
Grossi Florentino is beautiful. The room is long and dark and richly decorated. Wonderfully ornate lamps light a row of tables along one wall, and plush leather chairs cushion your back. The ceiling is even better, with beautiful cream plaster work and intricate borders around the chandeliers. The carpets are thick and dark, the linen table cloths faultless. Yep, this is pretty special.
We all started our meal with some lovely little olives, and bread with oil, butter or pigs fat, which had been blended until smooth. I tried some but found it a tad too rich for my liking. I also kicked off the evening with a campari and soda, bitter and refreshing.
While perusing the menu, our very polite and attentive waiter served us a few amuse bouches. The first, that came almost instantly after we’d sat down, was a savory canolli with ricotto, balsamic and pistachio. Exquisite. Delicate and delicious.
The second, which arrived after we’d placed our orders (with the charming waiter responding “si, si, prego” after each order), was a deconstructed caesar salad. This mouthful of a dish was composed of chicken and leek terrine, a poached quails egg, a tiny piece of candied bacon (so so good), and micro herbs. Said Mum, “I do quite like these miniature herbs, they’re so cute!”
You will have noticed by now that there are (almost) no photos of food. I felt, given the circumstance, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to whip out my camera and start flashing away. Sorry to disappoint, but I suppose it’s more motivation to visit for yourselves!
Firstly, to the entrees. A and I both chose the lobster ravioli with avruga caviar, peas, lemon and burnt butter. This was a stunning dish, wonderfully light and the pasta was perfect. The lobster shone through as the main ingredient, but the other ingedients, particularly the lemon and peas, accented it nicely. I was extremely impressed at the restraint shown in this dish, and the perfect balancing of flavours.
Mum had the paspaley pearl meat with asparagus, red quinoa, garlic shoots, cabernet vinegar. We’d had pearl meat on our last holiday to Broome, so she was pleased to relive the experience. Dad had the risotto venere (venere rice is black) with morton bay bugs and parmesan sabayon. I had a taste and it was amazing! As delicious as my dish was, I seriously wish I’d ordered the risotto. It was smooth and silky and tasted something magical.
My dad had perused the long wine list earlier and chosen the Jasper’s Hill Heathcote Shiraz. What an excellent drop! I enjoyed swooshing it around my mouth to bring out the peppery taste.
For our second course, Mum and I both had the suckling lamb “abbacchio”, a rustic wet roast with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, sage, broad beans and artichokes. This was the only disappointment of the night, the lamb was oddly tough and the cuts were rather bony. I would have expected a higher grade cut or certainly a softer piece of meat. But props for the yummy broad beans and artichokes that made me think of Spring.
The birthday boy had, predictably, the slow cooked wagyu rump cap, pickled veal tongue, shallot and potato “saltate”, fennel and rosemary praline and salsa verde. He said it was delicious and perfectly cooked, as expected. Dad had the baccalà with potato puree, caper berries, pickled artichoke, pickled onions and poppy seed crunch; a lovely light dish. We also shared a beautiful little salad of Italian mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes with pink shallots.
After our main plates were carried away (simulateously by four waiters – such is the service at Grossi Florentino), we were delivered a gorgeous little icy cold palate cleanser: cream cheese sorbet with port soaked cherries and oats. This was only a spoonful, but I wish it were more! I’m really beginning to like sour sorbets with dessert, they are so tart and refreshing.
After hearing about it from the waiter, I couldn’t go past the “Mt Etna” as my dessert. Named after the volcano in Sicily, this was a pistachio semi-freddo with meringue, raspberry sauce, chocolate crumble, cinnamon polvoron and sugar stones. The raspberry sauce was drizzled into and over the top of the mountain, as though it were erupting. This was an incredible dessert, a huge credit to their dessert chef. So many elements with different textures and flavours and temperatures. I simply loved it.
A ordered the “Zuppa di Murano”, with financier, vanilla, berries and alchermes. Alchermes is an Italian liquer, and financier is not a french banker. As below, it arrived a shiny dark purple orb, which melted and imploded after the alchermes had been poured on top. Dad ordered the delicious sounding cannoli with rhubarb mousse, poached rhubarb, rhubarb crisp, yoghurt sorbet and aged balsamic. His plate was coloured red from the rhubarb. Mum had a simple but delicious panacotta.
Afterwards, with tea and coffee, came a selection of petit fours (I know, I know, more food). Pistachio macarons, passionfuit jelly, almond caramels, olive oil chocolates, mini florentines. They were so petite and cute, I went with the almond caramel. We had a fabulous meal at Grossi’s, as can only be expected from such a classy restaurant. Highly recommended.
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