• Matteo's Express Lunch (North Fitzroy)

Like Valentines' Day is a prompt for the typically unromantic, The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival turns my lunchtime casualness into fine dining.  Each March,  I find myself trying new restaurants, eating decadently and treating myself to as many foodie events that I can fit in the lines of my A5 diary.

The Melbourne Food and Wine festival always promotes express lunches: $40 for two courses, a glass of wine and tea or coffee.   It can be fast too, with enough time to dash back into the office red-faced and merry.

It had been years since the last time I dined at Matteo’s.  The last time was when I was 16 and had popped in for dessert with my parents – yes, a very long time ago.  But it is nice to know the establishment is still going strong.

Matteo’s is slightly more multi-cultural since then, retaining its traditional European roots but dabbling in Asian cuisine now too.  It has also been renovated with lush curtains, decorative wall paper, curvy light fittings and a plush atmosphere.  The bench couch running along the side wall is comfy and I was glad to be the first to arrive just to snag a spot here.  Service is similarly posh, but despite all the dapper decor and regal refinement, it is very good value.

The bread was crusty with a light interior.  I enjoyed it against the 2011 The Devil Drives cabernet merlot from Margaret River, which held a rosemary finish with tannins and heat as it opened.

My main course was smaller than my brother’s entree.  Zucchini flowers had been filled with goats’ cheese then battered and fried tempura style.  They were beautifully light whilst the centres were thicker in texture. These were served with a salad of apple, witlof, beetroots and walnuts.  Creamed celery painted the dish’s base. Sour green apple was cut into fingers.  It was an interesting mix of flavours with an earthiness pulling it together.  The wine opened into saltiness with this dish.

Dessert was a tasting plate of three, and again, bigger than my main.  The vanilla bean and raspberry parfait had streams of raspberry running through.  The vanilla was delightfully strong and the texture was more frozen in the centre.

A mini tart was served filled with yoghurt and a very ripe, fresh fig.  The sweetness of the fig and sugar complemented the tart of the yoghurt.   A roasted almond garnished.

The chocolate fondant flowed as its crust was cut into.  It was rich and dark with the case slightly sweeter than the centre.  This one was rich, and could have been balanced by ice-cream.

I ordered decaffeinated coffee (past my curfew) but it arrived strong and flavoursome.

Overall it was a lovely meal, a treat mid-week and a celebration of being together.  Such times remind me that I need to enjoy life more often.  There is also a regular lunch special throughout the year which includes two courses and a glass of wine for $44.  What other excuse do you need to treat yourself?

533 Brunswick Road
North Fitzroy
 +61 3 9481 1177  

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