9.5/10 on Wednesday 30 August 2017.
The Walrus: It has been gaining a great reputation in Melbourne, as not just the 'little sister' of the fantastic Tipo 00, but as the great new contemporary bistro in the CBD. Upon arrival, the fit out and feel of the place is overall funky/modern with the lengthy layout lending privacy as well.
The Carpenter: Another mystery stroll through the streets of Melbourne before arriving at the entrance to Osteria Ilaria - a non-descript narrow front on Little Bourke St that could easily have led into a small, dark and dingey space. But it doesn't. We were greeted by a very friendly Maitre D' who led us back into an open and surprisingly airy space to a prime table with a pull out chair and comfortably cushioned bench seat (right where the woman in the red dress is sitting in the picture above). I took the bench seat (I think I had a choice) - not much of a fan normally but this was the sort of bench that Ides could learn from. Jackets taken and hung nearby. A solid start.
W: Very attentive staff that know the ins and outs of a good cocktail. Kicked off with a great Miller martini as a pre-dinner drink. The wine I chose to accompany the meal was a by-the-glass Chablis from Burgundy which was a cracker. Nice flavor and a great buttery note suggesting a decent amount of malolactic conversion. It went very well with the food. 10/10
C: A lovely Miller martini to get things going. then over to our extremely competent waiter to make a few recommendations on the wine front. If I remember rightly I had a smashing Italian chardonnay thing, an equally good red of some sort, and an amazing sauterne to close things out. Sadly I don't remember the details, suffice to say the pairings were excellent and the prices extremely reasonable. 10/10
W: We basically shared the dishes on the night. The Paccheri with prawns and sorrel was very tasty. For a restaurant that is a 'non pasta' sibling to Tipo 00, one of its best dishes is a pasta dish! Great fresh tasting prawns (revved up by the addition of prawn oil) nicely counterbalanced with the sorrel sauce. The pasta was perfectly al dente. We also got stuck into some of the mushroom croquettes. These were fantastic and had a very rich, earthy flavor of porcini in a thin deep fried crunchy shell (but not oily) offset by a perfectly sharp aioli. 9/10
C: Paccheri - or slap pasta. Giant macaroni served with prawn, tomato and sorrel sauce. The pasta had a fantastically rich taste to it, almost too heavy and not as much slapping as the name implies, but the flavors were strong and delighting. The sorrel really kicked in to make this dish stand out. The fermented sourdough bread was delicious - with some home made butter. 9/10
W: Main was the Gippsland duck served two ways: pink slices of breast meat and on the other side of the plate was the rich and crispy confit leg. Separated by bitter radicchio and covered in hazelnut crunch, the duck was perfect. The confit leg was my favorite. Rich, tender leg meat was exceptional. Whilst the radicchio did help cut through the richness, it wouldn't have bothered me if it wasn't there. We accompanied the duck main with the Corn and Crime di Rapa along with the nettle gnocchi with blue cheese and almonds. 9.5/10
C: Duck done two ways - Roast corn fed duck - dark and light meat. With grilled radicchio and grilled hazelnuts. A bit of crispy skin for good measure. The two ways was genius - decidedly different flavors that combined beautifully with the sides: Nettle gnocchi, blue cheese and almonds. simply glorious rich flavors. A corn side dish with corn puree and mouth puckeringly bitter greens. The greens on their own would have been a bad choice. But when eaten with the corn and/or the gnocchi was just an amazing combo . 9.5/10
W: I dove straight into the Mandarine, cream cheese and oat crumble dessert. Beautifully sharp citrus balanced against the cream cheese with the added textures and flavours of the crumble. A cracker of a dessert and a perfect way to finish off the meal. 9/10
C: There were a couple of outstanding choices on the dessert menu - I skipped reluctantly over the one the Walrus chose to tackle the olive oil chocolate mousse. This dessert was outstanding. The mousse was a very heavy rich chocolate that on it's own would have been overpowering - but the olive oil base did two things. first it added a palate enticing olive oil opening flavor, which softened the extremely rich chocolate flavor and added a bit of curiosity to the dish. Second, it created an unbelievably silky smooth texture that dissipated the super rich chocolate flavor before it could overpower. Coupled with the various soils and bickie elements, this was a cracker of a dessert. Coupled with the sauterne it was even better. 9.5/10
W: The sauterne by the glass complimented my dessert with the sweet/citrus notes from both combining perfectly. Great recommendation from our waitress. 10/10
C: The sauterne. by the glass. Outstanding choice. 10/10
W: All staff were great. Felt looked after all night. Great recommendations regarding wine to go with the food. 10/10
C: All the staff were energetic, engaging and professional. Our waiter was extremely good - she made exceptional wine pairing recommendations, engaged at just the right level, seemed to know exactly when we needed something, and when we didn't. Difficult to fault, and after our previous experience at Cutler & Co, this was exactly the sort of experience that we want and love. It raises the whole quality of the evening. 10/10
W: Difficult to fault. The younger sibling of Tipo 00 is standing on its own two feet quite convincingly judging by the evening just spent there. I'm quite happy to say that it actually beats Tipo 00 for the overall experience quite easily. So hats off to the proprietors. 9.5/10
C: An outstanding evening - timed beautifully, exceptional service, relaxing friendly and engaging atmosphere, very reasonable price for the quality of food and drink. Such a delight and a real contender for the top 5. 9.5/10
W: None on the night.
C: No cap this evening..
C: A pleasant and mysterious stroll through the city streets to the door at Little Bourke, then once again the Uber did the trick. I've gotta remember to download their upgrade to allow preprogrammed destination extensions!