A long bar in definition, with uninhibited views to the Yarra at the more savoury end of Southbank, where we sat down to a lazy lunch in celebration of that time-honoured tradition that is the work Christmas party.
Heading full pelt into a bottle of Prosecco, we perused the menu between bouts of insane convo and delirious laughter, but the must have thanks to the well connected LS was the Hummus and Fried Chickpeas served with Lavosh ($9). Best Hummus evah, you ask? Betcha by golly and wow.
To append this heightened dip, we had the San Daniele Prosciutto (40g) served with pickles ($16) and another recommend, the Chicken Liver Parfait with golden raisin puree, apple and Chamomile Jelly ($18), a dish to make Maggie Beer cream her Culottes.
The Prosciutto and pickles were suitably mild, in defference to the old money pallates more accustomed to the gilt edged habitats of the Via Veneto, rather than some rustic crumbling stone Villagio replete with a toothless Nonna pummelling reams of dough with her mannish hands.
The Parfait was a little too strong for my liking and the sweet jelly and puree just a little too jarring for my Asian tastebuds. Although I think it went down a treat with some of the other participants in our Yuletide soiree.
For a main, I opted for the Squid Ink Tagliolini served with Crab, Chilli and Tomato ($32). I am a sucker for Squid ink. There is something dramatic about the unctiousness of the colour, and with crab as fresh as this, it was like ascending to heaven with each successive mouthful.
LM's choice of the Onion Risotto with Toasted Grains and Pecorino Pepato ($29) was a pretty dish, made even more appealing with its artfully placed shards of crisp fired onions. You could almost taste the flavour and in its heady Alliumic scent.
GA's Toasted Lamb Sandwich served with Fontina and Green tomato relish ($16) arrived a-table in surprisingly literal form. But the lamb was perfection.
AW's 180gm Minute Steak served with Onion and Mustard was equally prosaic in presentation, but by all accounts it was redolent of a night out in a tiny Parisian cafe with ruddy faced Gallicians singing Chansons about a tiny mouse who makes it big in a circus ... or something ...
The Seared Scallop and Herb Gnocchi ($29) was all Mastercheffy in its presentation, and I believe also got the thumbs up.
But it was the lovely PO's dish that would be my pick if ever I return for a meal here. It was simply described on the menu as Market Fish, Lemon Oil ($32) and that was exactly what you got. A whole fish, plonked on the plate, drizzled with lemon oil and served with a lemon cheek. Absolutely amazing!!
For sides we couldn't go past the Fried Zucchini flowers with ricotta, tomato and lemon ($15) - Brilliant!
And the Triple (Yes!) cooked potatoes served with a Truffle Aioli and garnished with grated Pecorino. Need I say anything more??
Whatever you choose, remember you need to allow room for dessert. I didn't get very far past caramel and chocolate so I ordered my very first choice - Caramel cooked cream, with pear, chocolate and a super salty Popcorn crumble ($17)!! It looked pretty, and it tasted wonderful. I don't need to work on anymore superlatives than that.
Other offerings at the table included a toffee ice cream with Berries, Hazelnut and a Milk Mousse ($17). This one came a close second to the Caramel and Popcorn. The Milk Mousse was interesting though ...
There was also a selection of sorbets ($14), but I can't really remember the flavours, partly because I'm not very interested in Sorbet, and also I was all about the Caramel and the popcorn at this stage.
It was interesting having after lunch drinks at an outside table and looking round at the evening clientele ... erring more on the, shall we say, mature end of the age spectrum, with some rather inventive garment choices. But we didn't really care, the Cuvee and Cru was flowing a little too easily. Golddigers unite and scamm a bottle of Jacquesson Cuvee No. 735 (PoA). I guarantee you would have never tasted Champagne like this before - Bubbles with a Scotch Whiskey chaser!
And here's something to get you in the mood ...