I'd come across this place in the Good Food Guide and heard a few foodies talk about how tasty the food was here. The website looks pretty flash and it creates an impression of what the restaurant would be like. I thought it would be a bit like La Luna Bistro but actually what we found was something a little bit unexpected.
The premises on Bridge Road are very unassuming and unpretentious. It comes across as humble and rustic although our welcome was warm and friendly.
We knew in advance it would be no menus and whilst the term degustation infers fine dining we were expecting it to be more a homely, typical Italian meal with some entrees, a pasta dish, some meat and veggies and dessert and that's exactly what we got.
I did forget to take pictures of some courses though so you'll have to use your imagination. We started off with an octopus salad with celery, Nicola potato and Kalamata olives and some olive oil. I'm not a celery or olive fan but I enjoyed the tender slices of octopus and whilst I didn't eat the celery I liked the floral hint of fragrance it gave to the dish and I ate one of the olives to give the dish the salty seasoning it needed. Overall I can understand that the blend of simple flavours here in this dish works although they're not my favourite flavours.
But then we did get a dish of meat; charcuterie to be precise and all home made. All from the yummy pig and made by chef on his farm in Yea. There was also a bag of warm flatbreads made to an ancient recipe from Modena apparently. We were instructed to split the bread and stuff it with meat like a mini sandwich and the heat form the bread softens the meat and partially melts some of the fat making yummy morsel...well bigger than a morsel but still mini.
A lot of the veggies and some of the wine comes from chef's homestead so when I call this place homely, I really mean it!
A waterbowl appeared so we thought prawns and mussels but actually what was served was quail. Yummy! One of our faves. And the little birdie rested on a pile of fluffy scrambled egg mixed with artichoke and some herbs. I loved the quail as it was so delicious but found the scrambled egg over salty.
Next came our pasta dish. The table next to us were served gnocci with gorgonzola but I had specified no blue cheese so I wondered what we would get and whether we would both be served the same or whether Steve would get the gnocchi. As it turned out we both received casarecce with chef's ragu. And it was was delicious. I think this and the aubergine dish were probably our favourites. Meaty ragu and al dente pasta; so satisfying.
Our main course was a lamb stew made with the shoulder served with spelt. It was a really comforting and savoury stew and the meat was tender and sweet.
Dessert was a panna cotta with strawberry coulis and a gluten free tiramisu. Steve's aversion to coffee meant I stuck with the tiramisu although he did have a dabble and we both thought that it didn't taste of coffee and was more hazelnut or chestnutty. It was light and sweet and a pleasant way to end a big meal. The panna cotta was similarly light but it was probably just a touch too gelatinous or set to be perfect. I like it more when the panna cotta is barely set and quite wobbly whereas this was harder and more solid in texture.
Our bill was pretty pricey - we also had a bottle of wine and a few aperitifs. Was it worth it? Well we really enjoyed our evening so in that respect yes. The food was honest and unpretentious and reminiscent of a traditional Italian meal. I guess the homeliness of the restaurant and the simplicity of the food is a little misleading and creates the expectation that it should be cheaper than it actually is so when the bill arrives it's a bit surprising. However, we concede we drank a lot, ate a lot, enjoyed the flavours and had a good evening so if we're judging on that then it's acceptable but not a bargain!