I'm not ashamed to admit I am taking advantage of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Restaurant Express deals. For $30 you get two courses, a glass of wine and tea or coffee. Some the restaurants will even let you have a peek at what's on offer. It kicked off today and runs until the end of March.
Unsurprisingly Grossi was at the top of my list. My understanding is that during the week you get to eat in the restaurant and at the weekend you are in the grill. Given that mains in the restaurant are in the $35+ range I jumped at the opportunity to dine there. Do you get the normal quality of food and service? No. Is it fantastic value for money? Absolutely.
As a curious sort of girl the approach I recommend is to share an entree and dessert with a dining partner so that you essentially get to sample three courses. Of course you should always have a taste of their main if you want the widest possible sampling experience!
Now for the good bits. Grossi Florentino goes above and beyond the package with grissini, bread with olive oil and butter and biscotti with your coffee. Amazing what a difference the little things make! The staff were quick to correct mistakingly charging for the coffee (at $8 a cup no less!) and were warm and attentive despite clearly being run off their feet. Surprisingly Guy Grossi was gracing the room with his presence. I was sure he would be at the World's Longest Lunch but no complaints!
To start I shared the entree Taglierini with calamari braised with white wine, garlic and tomato. It didn't make for a pretty picture and was slightly over-salted but major bonus points for dividing the serving into two without us needing to ask. The flavours are nothing to write home about but the calamari is tender and the pasta had a beautiful texture.
For mains I had the veal scaloppini pan fried with marsala and herbs and served with mash. The mash was glorious and perfect with the rich juices from the veal. I was also lucky enough to taste the Stico d’ agnello, braised veal shank with red wine and beans, with polenta. On the day the shank was actually lamb and what a fine piece of meat it was too! Neither main was mind blowing but both were perfect wintery comfort food on the first rainy Melbourne day in weeks. I can't think of anywhere better to spend a grey day than in that richly wood panelled room.
For dessert the red wine and raspberry gelato with fresh berries and almond pastry seemed to be without the promised red wine but perhaps this was for the best. The sorbet was punchy and while the serving was small, it made for an excellent finish to the rich meal.
It would be amiss of me not to mention another sweet highlight, the biscotti served with excellent coffee. They were studded with pistachio and cranberries with a strong orange zest flavour. Lovely.
Perhaps what really made the meal was knowing there would be no unpleasant surprises on the bill. I headed next door to the fantastic bookstore Hill of Content to spend those saved pennies.
Unsurprisingly I have many more restaurants to sample over the next few weeks. Join me as I explore Melbourne's restaurant scene on a budget!