• Cecconi's vegetarian degustation (Melbourne)

Michael and I were recently invited by the Bortolotto family to a VIP dinner at their famous Italian restaurant, Cecconi’s.  Whilst some partake in family shopfronts passed down over generations, the Bortolottos’ legacy is blessing Melbourne with modern, Italian cuisine.   The space is familiar.  I remember having the crispy, herbed, roasted potatoes at Langton’s here years ago, and delighting in being served a slab of fresh buffalo mozzarella with olive oil and tomatoes when Cecconi’s had first opened on Flinders Lane.  They are now launching their seasonal menu by head chef Daniel Kranjcic. The evening saw us enjoying a five course degustation, wine and melodies by the enchanting Emma Birdsall.  Spoilt?  We could not deny it.

Vegetarian appetisers were hand-delivered, whilst I indulged in Aperol spritzes like everyone else.  The corn soup was light and salty.  A ripe fig was also served with blue, parmesan and caramelised balsamic. Arancini was crunchy and tasty with mushrooms and cheese.

With fond memories of fresh mozzarella, my first course was caprese.  The mozzarella was salted and firm, perhaps less moist than the one in my glorified memory.  There was also garlic, olive oil, capers and a colour wheel of fresh tomatoes.  The golden ones were sweet, produce is important.

Zucchini flowers are taken from the family garden, these were served with zucchini, tomato and fennel salad.  Rather than being typically stuffed with cheese, they were battered and fried.  Roasted cherry tomatoes and char grilled zucchini strips added enjoyable flavours.

The risotto was overwhelming when the main serve arrived in front of me, I had never seen so many truffles in my life!  Shavings of them were covering my dish.  I realised I had never actually tasted truffle by itself before, and was intrigued by the limp texture and full scent and flavours.  The risotto was beautifully textured, featured cheese and a creaminess like a sauce around it.

Dessert was a deletable caramel pannacotta with dried figs, streams of rich caramel, fresh figs in tiny pieces and crumbed fig cake.  The pannacotta was light but balanced by the interest of the topping and bite of fig seeds.  This was served with macadamia ice-cream.

It was a delightful meal, the risotto and dessert were the highlights for me, as was the entertainment.  The singer had such a captivating presence, I could not take my eyes and ears off her.

The risotto was simple but intensely flavoured. It consisted of rice which had absorbed truffle oil, a sprinkling of parmesan and a generous topping of shaved truffles. The most simple dish can be stunning with the right ingredients. This dish was served with a 2013 Bellvale Pinot Grigio from South Gippsland. I usually don’t get too excited by a Pinot Grigio, but this was a cool climate wine and it had characteristics I wouldn’t normally associate with the typical Pinot Grigio from Australia. The wine was restrained and subtle with overtones of peaches and pears and a light acid. It worked extremely well with the flavours and creaminess of the risotto.

2010 Bellvale Athena’s Vineyard Chardonnay. This wine was served a bit too chilled. It was quite closed and tight in structure but opened up beautifully after 15 minutes in the glass.  This wine had clean subtle flavours of peach and honeydew melon and the oak treatment gave this wine great length.

There were two different Pinot Noirs served. The 2012 Bellvale Pinot was light but did have some length to it. But the standout Pinot was the 2009 Bellvale The Quercus Vineyard Pinot. This was served with the cheese and proved to be a delightful match to three different cheeses. This wine needed time to open up: once opened it did remind me of some very fine Burgundies’ I had tasted.  This wine had real depth and complexity: some gentle tannins and overtones of strawberries and cherries. This wine I would have been happy to drink all night.

The restaurant was fairly packed and the noise level was high. I suppose attempts were made to make a party atmosphere with loudish music and our table was right next to the speakers. On a normal night I suspect (hope) there would be no speakers and the noise level would be fine. There are lots to soften the noise with the carpets and furnishings. Cecconi’s was being relaunched after Scott Mollard had created the makeover for the new Cecconi’s. The ambience was delightful: rich brown carpet, light coffee coloured chairs, large light shades with some beautiful detail, and soft lighting at the tables. The tables all have a view of the busy kitchen which is in the centre of the restaurant/bar area. It always gives me a sense of confidence and exhilaration seeing the kitchen at work preparing the dishes. This was a busy but calm kitchen turning out excellent food.

61 Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000
03 8663 0500
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