Friday, October 21, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The edible (and other) delights of King St are just a block away. But it’s easy to get distracted with closer café heavyweights like Earl Canteen (luxe, lush sandwiches that have been blogged about extensively – go for the Otway pork belly), SMXL (try a ‘moave’ with your excellent cuppa), and Le Traiteur (a long lunch experience, start with the tomato consommé). If you prefer to go down the road less taken, however, you can’t go past Demi-Tasse. Which is funny, because it is very, very easy to go past Demi-Tasse. This dame’s not much to look at from the outside.
But she’s a Hepburn beauty within, with similar style. Dark wooden panellings with matching furniture, bottled beauties up top, a literally angelic mural, and lush red leather booths.
Though I question whether Hepburn could have maintained her slim physique if she’d frequented a place like this very often. The food here is hearty, homemade, and addictive. And the service is just as warm and lovely.
We make with the meatballs.
A very traditional mix of pork and veal served with tomato sugo and crusty bread ($10.50). I couldn’t think of a better dish for a cold Melbourne day, and even though it’s spring, it’s clear we won’t be in shortage of those anytime soon. The meatballs had great bite, they came apart in juicy chunks and we mopped them up with the bread and sugo.
And I never say no to a house-made pie.
Beef Bourguignon with tomato relish and green salad ($7.50)
It’s always a pleasant surprise to receive a ‘gourmet’ pie in a city café that isn’t manufactured by Boscastle. This was very sizeable, and a bargain for the price. The pastry was delicately layered, and I especially enjoyed the tomato relish, which had a very unusual sweetness and tang reminiscent of chutney. The filling itself was more than decent, though a little dry. If you like your meat meaty, i.e. not indiscernibly minced, it’s definitely the pie for you. Other pie options include vegetable or a very interesting-sounding chicken fricassée.
Or pick something else from its extensive and extensively tempting menu.
Demi-Tasse: petite with plenty of pizzazz. And particularly important if you work in this area: its coffee packs a punch as well.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Or, like me, wait until you’re sent an innocuous article referencing one damning detail of the affair (an enticing recipe for drunken pasta swimming with clams), and against your better judgment find yourself calling at nine in the morning on a Wednesday with all the breathless desire of a Mills & Boons heroine, wailing for vongole with breakfast.
The attraction appears less mutual. I’m told dispassionately to turn up at a more appropriate noontime hour and try for a walk-in table (in a compromise with current trends, half the restaurant cannot be reserved). Ever the willing wench, I concede, and a second date with the Merchant is made.
I rope in an accomplice to provide objectivity to my assessment. He orders the gnocchi and proves suitably less convinced.
Gnocchi, ragu’ de cinghiale ($20)
A real looker but the gnocchi is a mush-mash of textures, soft but not supple. More than a little disappointing, considering we’re at a Grossi. The accompanying spiced wild boar ragu is exceptional, however, as fulsomely rich and tempestuous as its name suggests.
Meanwhile, I'm finding it difficult to empathise; my cravings are being convincingly corrupted by a genuinely charming dish of spaghetti with clams.
Spaghetti ca le caparele ($23)
It’s as generous as I remember, the clams taste fresh and clean, and the lithe, light sauce of garlic and white wine sensuously clings to every strand. My only jibe was that it was slightly under-seasoned, but this was readily remedied by a sprinkling of salt from the table.
To prolong my Merchant encounter, the dessert menu is requested, but I pick a beguiling slice of chocolate tart from the display instead.
Chocolate tart ($8.50)
The tart is neither the sleek nor shiny production I’ve come to expect from Italian pastries: coarser in texture, laced with orange, and requires forking with pressure. I ask for some accompanying vanilla ice cream and a very intense version is brought to the table, which I irresponsibly finish with a hefty chunk of tart to spare. I'm addicted, and a second scoop is speedily decimated.
Later, I’m told I can write in for a list of the ice cream ingredients if I’d like to recreate my poison at home. I suppose it’s as close as I’ll get to a night in with Merchant!
First impressions are great, but Merchant and I are in it for the long haul. And I reckon that matters more.