It's usually a no bookings place except for lunchtimes so it made sense to make it a lunchtime destination. We arrived and it was busy with tables of family and friends meeting up. Noise levels were high and there was a pleasant air of activity in the place. We were quickly welcomed in, shown to a table, given menus, given bread and butter and the drinks order taken. All done efficiently and in a friendly way - my kind of place.
The bread was so soft and feathery. Steve and I wolfed it down in minutes and it was replenished quickly. Our wine also arrived promptly; a really beautiful pinot noir from the Port Philip Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. It was interesting to see that two other tables also opted for that wine too - we are trendsetters! Not that they actually saw our's and copied of course.
The souffle didn't look as light as I thought it would be. It looked more like a scone but oh wow it tasted so good. The veloute was decadent with a deep flavour lightened by the chives and lemon thyme. The souffle crumbled into shreds of crab meat, lots of it, all packed together and enhanced by the veloute. Truly very good - unexpectedly different and darn delicious.
As for Steve's belly pork well, with belly pork, black pudding, cauliflower, it's classic. And it tasted great. There was flavour and texture and the cider sauce was not over powering so each element could still be tasted.
Have to say that at this point Cicciolina was fast becoming high up on our list of favourite restaurants and this was only after entrees.
The fish was a hefty fillet and I loved the crispiness of the artichoke and all the crustaceans. The spinach kept it lighter and the semolina gnocchi was actually stuffed into the shells of the pippis. The saltiness of the sauce and crustaceans seasoned the fish really well. The slight criticism was the crispy artichoke was a tad greasy and the sauce itself split into oil and sauce.
Steve went with roast two point rack of lamb and braised lamb shoulder sausage with baby Brussel sprouts and a carrot and creme fraiche puree. Taste wise it was very good - hearty and rustic. The slight quibble he felt was it was a $40 dish and perhaps should have been $35 or at $40 had an extra lamb cutlet. No biggie though.
We shared a side dish of cauliflower and potato Gruyere gratin which was exactly that. I found the cheese and cream plus the oil in my fish dish all a bit too much so didn't eat too much of it but Steve enjoyed it and made up for my restraint!
We loved Cicciolina so much and there were so many other things we wanted to try (pasta especially) we decided to book a table for next Sunday and bring some friends! We felt relaxed in the restaurant as it's casual and homely and the broad menu choice and price points means that it will be suitable for a group of people with different taste