• Veludo Bar and Restaurant (Acland Street, St Kilda)

Veludo Bar and Restaurant seemed like a different sort of place to go to celebrate our wedding anniversary. What is immediately apparent about the Veludo Bar is it is a relaxed, friendly and welcoming place. As you walk into a restaurant,  first impressions count a lot: it’s often the base upon which a whole night builds. The Brazilian chef turns out some interesting and delicious food: there’s nothing pretentious about the food. The food is much like the staff and the ambiance of the restaurant:  relaxed, authentic and welcoming.

Veludo Bar and Restaurant is in the heart of Acland Street.  If you are planning a flight to Melbourne, this place delivers for both the location on the iconic St Kilda strip, as well as the food.

On a Wednesday night the restaurant wasn’t crowded. Although Veludo calls itself a bar,it didn’t appear that it was set up for customers to mill around the bar. Instead there were a lot of small tables with chairs, leather arm chairs and some larger tables. Maybe at the end of the week the place could be crowded and lots of people standing around the bar because Veludo does seem like a ”drop in” place with many people coming in to have a coffee or a drink.

Several pages of cocktails encouraged me to try a strawberry daiquiri. The fresh strawberries gave the daiquiri a deep redish/pink hue, but the taste was all lime. This was a refreshing drink to sip while waiting for the field and forest mushroom tart entrée to arrive.

The tart was a highlight of the meal. There were a few different types of mushrooms piled high in the tart shell. For $15 this dish was great value. If you are a cook you tend to taste a great dish and try and analyse what ingredients have been used to create a memorable dish. What I really liked about the dish was the firmness of the mushrooms and the reduced creamy sauce which had thyme and a hint of madeira.

The madeira gave it a subtle sweetness which contrasted with the saltines of the pecorino. I left it to the waiter to bring a wine which would complement the dish. Shudder, shudder: a sauvignon blanc was  brought out. The green hue of the wine in the glass labelled it from 5 metres.  I suggested a more austere wine would be a better balance to the sweet and creaminess of the dish. The waiter said it was her favourite wine and encouraged me to taste it. A sip confirmed my worst fears. This wasn’t a problem as it was immediately and cheerfully replaced. I was expecting a Riesling.  but instead was served a pinot gris.  It’s worthwhile getting out of your comfort zone occasionally as this pinot gris proved to be a great match to the dish. It was a Trout Valley Reserve Pinot Gris from Nelson in NZ. A crisper and dryer style of Pinot Gris than I was used to. Another positive part of how Veludo goes about what it provides is in its whole approach to wine. The list isn’t huge but there’s a lot of wines I’ve never tasted before. NZ features heavily in the wine list. This is a great opportunity to experiment  and try something new. Apart from the wines being well chosen, they are presented in good stemware, the serves are generous and most wines are around $8.50 a glass.

For the main course there were three vegetarian options: a gnocci, a risotto, or a linguini. I opted for the spinach and dill linguini which was accompanied by a herb and lemon ricotta. This was a generous serve and at $18 was good value. This dish was a good choice to follow the entrée as it had full flavours without any of the sweetness or creaminess of the mushroom tart.

Apologies for the lack of focus...must have been the wine.

Experimentation with wine continued as I opted for a Saint Clair Pinot Noir from Marlborough in NZ. This wine worked well with the linguini: it was a medium bodied wine that had a good structure, fruit driven, savoury, good acid and gentle tannins. At $8.50 a glass I felt very happy with the choice.
Three courses can be a struggle but why hold back when celebrating a wedding anniversary? My fellow celebrator (yes, my wife) opted for the yogurt panna cotta. This was a more dense texture than your average panna cotta, but with the spiced vanilla orange and lemon balm it had a lovely balance of flavours and texture.

The desert I chose was the salted caramel crème brulee: a large, rich dessert with intense flavours. Breaking open the burnt sugar crust (done to perfection) revealed a firm brulee sitting in salted caramel sauce. This dish really intrigued me: it was too salty for my liking, but there is something compelling about the combination of salt and sugar in a dish and I continued eating it till the bowl was clean. This is a new desert which is typical of the experimentation of the chef. I might return in a few months and have a brulee and coffee in the afternoon and see if the chef has held back a bit on the salt.

The final comment is on the coffee: a full flavoured coffee in a restaurant for $3.50 is rare these days. But typical of the generous and welcoming nature of Veludo is if you work in the area you can get a coffee for $2.50.

About the Author
Michael is a food and wine connoisseur and has recently started writing for Nouveau Potato.  He also makes a delicious chocolate cake.

Veludo Bar and Restaurant
175 Acland Street
St Kilda 3182
03 9534 4456
Veludo on Urbanspoon