Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’ – ACT 1 – Two Italian Boys, Brunetti & White Rabbit Entertainment

Two Italian Boys, Brunetti and White Rabbit Enterntainment were behind the brilliant idea to create a series of events with the main aim of bringing people together to experience the real Italian Dream. The nights will run as a series of Acts (3 in total) beginning with Act 1 – Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’.

Unfortunately I wasn’t in Melbourne for Act 1 – which took place on Friday October 17, 2014 and was complemented with Italian food, drinks and dancing. However, I have seen many pictures, read the official media releases and heard a lot about the night from people lucky enough to have attended so thought it would be a great idea to mention it here at Grazing Panda – after all there are another 2 more Acts for everyone to experience and enjoy!

The name Aperitivio Danzante comes from the tradition of pre-dinner drinks which are accompanied by appetizers (Aperitivio) and ‘to dance’ (Danzante) – essentially translated to mean come for the appetizers but stay for the dancing fiesta! In Italy this generally means between the hours of 7pm – 9pm, followed by dinner …. and dancing!

On the night Two Italian Boys (Michael Pillon and Nick Guglielmino) launched a 2013 vintage Prosecco DOC which was produced in Valdobbiadene,Treviso- Italy’s best Prosecco making region. This new Prosecco wonderfully complemented the array of food on offer from the new and delicious Brunetti menu designed by Michele Circhirillo and Alessandro Violi. Some of dishes included pasta, wood-fire pizza and beautifully prepared tasting plates or stuzzichini – all of which were served throughout the night, so no guest was ever hungry or looking for food.

A live demonstration of mozzarella making by Australia’s best maker of Italian cheese, the ‘Maestro of Mozzarella’, Giorgio Linguanti (That’s Amore Cheese) gathered large crowds. The chef showcased his talent, experience and artisian skills whilst making round balls of mozzarella which had a taste to match the look.

Another highlight was the introduction by Burnetti of a specially developed range of alcohol infused Apertif gelato by by Chef Gelatiere Alessio Tavella, including Aperol and Campari Spritz, Prosecco – which is a first in Australia.

Brunetti is a Melbourne institution that has been around for years – since 1985 when the original store first opened up in Faraday Street – and is well known for its Italian style coffee as well as intriguing and huge variety of cakes. Brunetti is bringing a bit of Rome to Melbourne in an authentic fashion, and events like this clearly showcase its capability to do so.

The venue was divided into three sections and was recreating the timeless style of Federico Fellini’s film ‘La Dolce Vita.’ The rear section housing the DJ (where some funky Italian tunes were played) and a small bar, the middle section consisted of the Trevi Fountain (one of my absolute favourite places to visit in Rome) which aided to recreate the famous scene in the film, as well as a large wall painting and comfy seats. For added fun guests were invited to make a wish while tossing a coin into the fountain (just as you would if you went to visit the real Trevi Fountain), with all the proceeds going to Make –A-Wish Foundation. Such a brilliant idea and for such a great cause! The front section consisted of another bar as well as the gelato display and shelves which stocked traditional Italian good to welcome the guests.

From the pictures you can tell that everyone there had an extremely fun night that represented the true Italian way of celebrating. Both food and drinks were in abundance thanks to the waiters/waitresses walking around ensuring guests were always being looked after. The mix of the crowd – both of the younger and older generations – was clearly seen with mingling happening throughout the night.

Act 1 was clearly a hit amongst everyone that attended – especially after reading some glowing reviews – I cannot wait to see what the team has in store for Acts 2 and 3. Act 2 is set to take place on December 4th at Brunetti Carlton, with Act 3 to following on January 23rd at Brunetti City Square. Stay tuned for more information!

Brunetti on Urbanspoon

Portello Rosso – Terrific Tasting Tapas!

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Portello Rosso is a small tapas and Jamón restaurant located in a laneway off Little Bourke street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. You walk into the restaurant via two big red rolling doors and are welcomed into a softly lit space that is filled with wooden hues. To the right hand side is a wall of wines, and as you enter there is a wooden table which is the share table from which you the kitchen is visible. There is also room to sit upstairs or at the bar. The atmosphere is romantic and casual all at the same time and is a fantastic place to just relax and chill. The staff are friendly and always have a smile.

The menu is absolutely delicious! The dishes are authentically Spanish from the way of dining and created by Aaron Whitney – sharing dishes-  to the huge variety of wine. Portello Rosso also serves Jamón which is commonly found in Spain, served on a Charcuterie Plate or simply wrapped around Prawns. The Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli is my favourite dish on their menu and is the best Patatas Bravas I have had. The potatoes are fresh and juicy and the paprika is smoked to perfection. Roasted Baby Beetroot Salad with Pumpkin, Almonds, Goat’s Cheese & Sherry Caramel Dressing is another winning dish for me. The flavours just worked fantastically and it really didn’t feel like a salad dish. Mojama Air-Dried Yellow Fin Tuna on Grilled Garlic Crostini with Tomato, Cucumber & Herbs should be tried as well – the tuna tastes magnificent and paired with the tomato, herbs and cucumber really does make you feel like you are in Spain. Paella is also on their menu – there are four different types to select from and include a seafood and vegetarian version. They are made fresh to order and will require a 45 minute wait. Another thing to note on the menu is for groups of 8 or more- you can select from a Degustation menu starting from $32 up to $62. Bookings need to be made in advance for this and the different menus can be found via the menu link below.
The desserts are a must try as well – the menu has changed now – but the Spiced Chocolate Pudding and the Creme Catalana were delicious and flavorsome.

Portello Rosso is an intimate space and is great for a catchup with friends before you head next door to Murmur Bar or even a romantic night out that will definitely make you feel a little bit of Spain in Melbourne. Murmur Bar is another awesome place and make the best cocktails and mocktails around Melbourne. What a perfect night out – dinner at Portello Rosso followed by drinks at Murmur =)

The owners of both these establishments, have a third place as well – Brunswick Mess Hall – another bar and eatery which has the best atmosphere. They share the same philosophy of Portello Rosso and Murmur and is another definite must try. In the short time it has been around, it has drawn a massive crowd and Friday and Saturday nights are buzzing. Look for a review coming up in the near future .

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Tapas dishes – check out the menu at http://portellorosso.com.au/tapas.html. There are also a selection of Degustation menus which start from $32 up to $62 for groups of more than 8 (this needs to be booked prior)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed, and a piece of Spain in the Melbourne laneway. Great for a first date or a night out / catch-up with a group of friends.
Standout Dish: Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli
Service: Friendly and Laid Back
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://portellorosso.com.au/reservations.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://portellorosso.com.au/home.html
15 Warburton Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2273

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 12pm to 3pm & 6pm-Late
Saturday: 6pm-Late

Portello Rosso on Urbanspoon

Murmur on Urbanspoon

Small Victories – Great Carlton Food Victory!

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Small Victories is a cafe / restaurant that is located is the leafy streets of North Carlton in Rathdowne Street. It is an eat’n’drinkery opened by chef Alric Hansen and Ben Farrant that operates as a cafe by day and a restaurant at night. The space is small but has an long marble counter at the front which serves drinks and coffees, and houses a selection of impressive vinyl records. The music played whilst dining here are played on a turntable adding to the fun.

There are many different cosy areas where you can dine – from the tables outside to enjoy the sunshine, to inside where there are timber tables as well as communal tables (also for the larger crowds). There are stools along the marble countertop or seats along the window to enjoy the scenery that Rathdowne street has to offer. There is also an upstairs dining area with a mini skylight / atrium area.

The decor is vintage and modern all at the same time, and my favourite feature of the restaurant was the skylight which streamed in natural light right above our table, as well as the naked light bulb with a groovy filament on the inside. I am really starting to love these lightbulbs (if only it would suit my house!). The walls are white and feature not much artwork which create a modern feel.

Small Victories offers a great menu variety which ranges from simple eggs with sides, baked eggs to sweeter offerings including yoghurt, muesli and fruit toast. There are also organic, vegetarian and gluten free options available. The dishes can be best described as Modern Australian dishes with imagination, flair and glam! The combination of their dishes are like no other and from the dishes that I tried, really do work. Lunches consists of a selection of Sandwiches – which are not your ordinary types of sandwiches – for example there is an Advieh Spied Poon Boon Lamb, Organic Labne, Pickled Cucumber and Herbs sandwich – sounds interesting right? There are also a selection of such as pasta, steak or veggie dishes. 

My friends and I arrived for breakfast and started off with coffees – I had a latte – which was amazing. The beans are sourced from Wide Open Road blends and have nutty and creamy tastes too it, yet still strong. I also ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice whilst I waited for my breakfast. My friend ordered the Small Victories Mixed Grill; Fried Egg, Breakfast Sausage, Black Pudding, Croquette, Streaky Bacon, Baked Beans, and I ordered the Veggie Baked Eggs. Both dishes came out at the same time and were very impressive looking. My friends Mixed Grill came in a terracotta pot with a slice of bread on the side, as did my Baked Eggs. I love how the butter was placed on the toasty warm bread – which allowed the butter to be spreadable and perfect. I thought this was a great idea and haven’t seen it in any other cafes’ so far.

My Baked Eggs dish was scrumptious and consisted of eggs, tomato, potato with onions and topped with a hollandaise sauce. The sauce that the veggies were baked in was flavoursome and had a bit of spice to it. The veggies had a bit of crunch to them and the hollandaise was just perfect in every way. The combination made for a very good and filling dish – it did take me longer than normal to finish this dish. My friend enjoyed her mixed grill and due to the sheer size took a good while to finish the dish as well.

As we were there for quite some time and I felt like something sweet we decided to order the Melon, Mango, Lime & Ginger Sago, Passionfruit, Basil Seed, Puffed Brown Rice, Candied Coconut dish. This is a really great summer dish to eat, and it was a very hot day in Melbourne (37 degrees!!!), it really hit the spot! The combination of the fruits together with the sago and basil seeds were great. There was the crunch and hardness of the fruits against the softness and gooeyness of the sago and the basil seeds. The puffed rice I wasn’t a huge fan of but my friend loved this addition, and said it brought the whole dish together. I would definitely recommend this dish (even if its not a 37 degree day).

One let down of this place was the waitress that we had – she never once smiled and was a bit rude when we wanted to order extra drinks or dishes. On the plus side when the owners served us, he was fantastic and friendly.

This place is a must try for all in and around the area as well from afar. It is a great little place to try out and spend a whole morning – the menu certainly has a dish for everyone. It will be interesting to come back at dinner time and check out the dishes then as well as experiencing Small Victories as a bar.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast (http://smallvictoriesrestaurant.com.au/breakfast/), Lunch (http://smallvictoriesrestaurant.com.au/lunch/) and Dinner (http://smallvictoriesrestaurant.com.au/dinner/) and Bar (http://smallvictoriesrestaurant.com.au/bar/) menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vintage yet Modern, comfortable and cosy – you can spend hours just chatting away.
Standout Dish: Melon, Mango, Lime & Ginger Sago, Passionfruit, Basil Seed, Puffed Brown Rice, Candied Coconut dish
Service: So-So – we might have gone on an off day – the waitress was unfriendly, however the owner made up for it and was super friendly.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://smallvictoriesrestaurant.com.au/
617 Rathdowne St,
Carlton North
Tel No: 9347 4064

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday: 8am to 4pm
Wednesday: 8am to 10:30pm
Thursday – Saturday: 8am to 10:30pm
Sunday: 9am to 5pm

Small Victories on Urbanspoon

Circa, The Prince – Perfect Sunday Lunch


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Circa, the Prince located in St Kilda is owned by John and Lisa van Haandel with Head Chef at Jake Nicolson the helm together with chef Paul Wilson. The dining space was cretaed not just to satisfy and delight the palate, but the eyes too with various artworks and design by Meme’s. There are multiple dining areas – all of which consist of modern table and chairs.
The dining space we were seated at was like an indoor / outdoor space. This space is both roomy and filled with light thanks to the glass ceiling. The room is filled with wooden tables and chairs in a mix of greys, yellows and ivories tones. The result is stylish, modern yet casual – definitely what was needed for a Sunday lunch. There is also a mix of industrial and greenery which gives the sense of homeliness. The greenery consists of big potted plants as well as a wall of various flowers and herbs.

We were given a set Sunday lunch menu – where we got a soup to start off with, followed by starters to share, then a choice out of four for main as well as for dessert. Can I just start off by saying that all the dishes that we were given tasted fantastic and it was resounding sentiment that was shared from the entire group ( there were six of us), hence the 5 Panda rating.

The  soup was a Fish soup, Saffron Aioli, Gruyere. The initial sound of Fish soup didn’t sound  very appetising, however once you tasted the dish it was creamy and wholesome. Initially the dish came out with the Gruyere and Saffron Aioli in the middle, and then the waiter poured the soup on top of these in front of you. There’s something about soup being poured in front of you that enhances the food eating experience. The starters were exceptional, especially the Salmon Rillettes. Grilled Baguette. The Salmon was fresh,  rich and creamy and had just the right amount of flavour.

The mains were all plated beautifully and were vibrant in colour and flavour. The fish, beef and lamb shoulder were all cooked to the right amount of tenderness. The John Dory, Creamed Leeks, Crosnes, Truffle Vinaigrette was my dish of choice. This was my first time eating Crosnes – which is a tuber vegetable  and can also be known as a Chinese Artichoke. The Crosne was crunchy and tasted a bit like potato and worked well with the creamy leek and fish. The Truffle Vinaigrette  was a wonderful addition of texture and flavour.

Desserts at Circa, The Prince were just as beautifully plated, however the combination of Rice Pudding, Rhubarb, Custard Apple Ice Cream was a little peculiar. The Custard Apple Ice cream, as well as the other ice cream’s that came out on other desserts like the Coconut Ice Cream and Strawberry Sorbet were creamy and light and tasted great! The deconstructed Vanilla Bean Cheescake, Strawberry Sorbet and Jelly was great. The base of the cheesecake was soft and crumby andd the jelly and sorbet were a great addition to the dish.

I said at the start of my post and I will say it again – all the dishes at Circa, The Prince, not only looked amazing on the plate but tasted fantastic! I enjoyed every minute here and would definitely recommend Circa, The Prince for any occasion.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – There is a Breakfast Menu, A la Carte menu, Lunch Menu, Bar Menu and a Chefs Menu as well – all can be found at http://www.circa.com.au/food
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Stylish, Modern and Light filled.
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Fantastic and Friendly
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/reservation
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.circa.com.au/home
2 Acland St, St Kilda
Tel No: 9536 1122

Opening Hours:
Breakfast
Monday to SundayL 7am – 11am
Lunch
Friday: from 12pm
Sunday: from 12:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: from 6pm

Other Comments:
Circa will be extending its opening hours for the month of December, as of the 5th of December we will be open for lunch everyday excluding Saturday. Our Opening hours will be:

Monday-Friday lunch: 12-3pm
Sunday lunch: 12:30-3pm
Monday-Sunday Dinner: 6pm
Open on New Years Eve

Circa, the Prince on Urbanspoon