Vanessa: We recently returned from a five-day “Team FFS takes Melbourne” sojourn, that left our stomachs stretched, our wallets lighter and our lives enriched! Having spent the majority of our time eating our way through some of Melbourne’s best cafe’s and restaurants, I can confidently say that their dining scene gives Sydney’s a run for its money and I think Sydney’s scene is up there.
As well as being a five-day food fest, it also happened to be my two-year wedding anniversary, so what better way to celebrate than with Bianca, Alex and of course my hubby (Mr M) 😉 . We spent the evening of our anniversary at Cecconi’s on Flinders Lane. Set at basement level, the restaurant is open, bustling and has a “big city vibe” which you feel the minute you arrive.
As we stepped into Cecconi’s a few things caught my eye including the plush décor, large pendant lighting, the centrally positioned opened kitchen and the gentle buzz suggesting the restaurant was busy – pretty impressive for a Monday night!
Once shown to our table we were warmly greeted by our friendly, Italian waitress who talked us through the specials before leaving us to work on our dining strategy. Given we were a party of four that evening, as opposed to the usual three, we had scope to broaden our menu choices and variety is the spice! We settled in with a glass of pinot noir, generously poured by a waiter who chose to cross the max pour line, always appreciated, along with some fresh pane di casa and EVOO.
We started off with some marinated olives ($12) to get our palettes into gear. Now if you can impress someone with a medley of olives tossed in a light marinade it speaks volumes for what you can do with the rest of the menu. We were excited at this point!
I know a good tomato when I see one and when I saw the waitress set down the plate full of vibrant, bright red tomatoes I knew we were onto a winner. The Heirloom salad ($18) consisted of a medley of tomatoes, slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella and drizzled with olive tapenade and olive oil. An absolutely delicious starter that was exemplified by the sweetness of the tomatoes which left our taste buds crying out for more.
We had chosen to each have our own entrée size pasta, so we could get a good sample of the menu.
If we start with my own dish first, I chose the cannelloni filled with reach creamy, ricotta and topped with crisp asparagus stalks. I was initially disappointed by the portion size, in comparison to the other pasta dishes, however it was quite filling and the creaminess of the cheese made it rather heavy.
Bianca opted for the potato gnocchi with duck ragu and quince ($28) . The gnocchi were plump little pillows that melted in the mouth The duck ragu had a gravy-esqu consistency with a very subtle flavour of duck.
Mr M chose the main size linguine with seafood, garlic, chilli and herbs ($38). Visually, this was one impressive looking dish, bursting with a large amount of seafood including salmon, white fish, scallops an mussels. The pasta was cooked al-dente and whilst the dish had good flavour, it would have been intensified if it had more chilli to give it a kick.
Alex’s pappardelle with beef and port ragu, red wine and tomato ($28) was the clear favourite of the evening. The ragu was bold and rich in flavour that left Alex proclaiming “it’s one of the best I’ve had” . The pappardelle was slightly undercooked making it a little dense but overall the flavour was strong and the portion substantial.
In an attempt to exercise some form of control, we chose to share one main between the four of us. The slow-cooked wagyu brisket with quinoa ricotta, baby beetroot and fig reduction ($46) ticked the boxes for all.
We were impressed that the dish arrived cut into four equal pieces, as we had told the waitress it was to be shared. The texture of the brisket was slightly on the tough side or at least not as moist as one would expect after being in a slow-cooker. The ricotta quinoa made for a unique and interesting combination, certainly something that we hadn’t tried before. It added a subtle, creaminess that offset the taste of the wagyu nicely. The addition of the beetroot caused controversy as its relevance divided the table.
We had come this far so there was no way we would leave without sampling some dessert. The lemon curb and ricotta gelato served with sponge, blueberries and pistachio crumb ($18) was both visually beautiful matched with delicate flavours. It was clear a lot of attention to detail had been paid to plating the dish and we were impressed that the blueberries were cut. It was light and refreshing dessert, the perfect way to offset a heavy meal.
We also couldn’t resist trying the tiramisu ($19) consisting of a small jar of Kahlua and Strega soaked sponge, coffee and marscapone. The sponge was moist, the alcohol and coffee flavours were very evident and the taste was spot on. This is an ideal sized dessert for one, it was a stretch to share between four.
We left Cecconi’s that night feeling thoroughly satisfied and pleased to add another Melbourne restaurant on the list of places we would recommend and return to. Cecconi’s is also open for breakfast and judging by the quality of their dinner menu, I imagine their breakfast game is strong. The price point is on the upper end but if you happen to find yourself in Melbourne looking for a place to dine for business, pleasure or to celebrate a special occasion, I would definitely suggest keeping Cecconi’s in mind!
Photos by Alex
*Team FFS dined as guests of Cecconi’s. All opinions however are our own.