May 9, 2012

41 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Lupino opened about a year ago in the site that formerly housed the Champagne Lounge, at the top end of Little Collins street and across the lane from Melbourne’s own secret garden, owned by the Melbourne Club (cough, crusty old fogeys, cough).

Lupino, if you can’t guess from the name, does Italian food. Because Melbourne really need another Italian restaurant! The restaurant is spacious and loud, and the menu is tasty but predictable. Perhaps that’s the great thing about it; effortless Italian food in a bright, smart-casual setting. This idea, however, is belied by both the high price tags and the service, which I found unsatisfactorily slow and generally unimpressive. The wine list also suffers from heavy mark-ups, mostly due to a large Italian section.

Campari and soda; crisp and tart.

Salad of prosciutto, grilled peaches, goats cheese and basil. It was the most exciting dish we had and it was delicious. I loved the sweetness of the peaches with the salty prosciutto, and those gorgeous char lines stamped onto the fruit. The salad is sadly seasonal with the summer fruit season (say that five times quickly), although I suppose you could substitute melon for peach in the winter.

The arancini quattro fromaggi were brilliant, warm and cheesy with a slight tomato-y taste.

Baked polpetti in sugo, essentially a meatball. I didn’t quite understand how this dish was supposed to work on its own like this; meatballs should be kept to main dishes and scenes from Disney movies.

I had the fish of the day, barramundi (my favourite, perfectly cooked) with a tomato and bread salad, a pleasing tumble of segments and hemispheres. The bread was especially stupendous; slightly toasted chunks that soaked up the vinegar and the olive oil from the dressing.

D had the special of veal ragu with celery, carrots, onion and tomato sugo, basically a glorified bolognaise. I didn’t really understand why they had to list all the ingredients since they are, arguably, fairly standard pasta sauce ingredients.

Dessert, much like the rest of the menu, is a classic Italian affair; tiramisu, cassata, panna cotta, sorbetti, cannoli, biscotti, affogato. Reading that list made me remember why I love Italian food so much.

In the end, it was the prospect of hot bombolini smothered in a thick layer of Italian nutella that drew me in. D was skeptical about importing nutella all the way from Italy, but I maintain that it tasted different – it’s not as sweet as its Australian counterpart. Blissfully refreshing yoghurt sorbet on the side, too.

Lupino is a nice addition to the Italian restaurant scene in Melbourne. I enjoyed the food but found the whole experience a tad underwhelming and cookie-cutter. Not bad, not brilliant, but probably a tad too expensive to tempt me back again when I can get truckloads more mojo at the Waiter’s Club just around the corner.

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Filed under: Italian, Melbourne CBD