Ah, the beauty of marketing. Not merely hours before I was professing its value in today's world then I see it in action on myself. I'd missed the the launch party for the Merivale Winter Feasts but sought to rectify that by immediately taking advantage of their winter specials. With Italian on my mind it was to Uccello to go, however the only possible booking being 8pm - falling just outside of the two hour specials time bracket. Inner "grr".
But the ways to my forgiveness are plentiful and rather easy. Did you know that there's a live jazz band at the ivy every Wednesday? Exorbitant drink prices aside, that's brilliant for a quiet hump-day evening. After a drink at the lawn bar, it's a round trip back to the ground floor elevators near the sparse Sushi Choo up to Uccello and the virtually empty pool bar. Granted it is sprinkling rain on a Wednesday night.
Uccello is partly filled, however, with many a business suit and seaside-suburb types. Staff are all about, dressed casually but extremely efficient and friendly. The vibe is fun but classy and I wouldn't feel out of place in (designer) jeans and (bejewelled) thongs, but again, it's a winter Wednesday. And sorry, I didn't flash.
We're started on a bread selection as we scan the A3 sized menus on bright yellow clipboards. The grissini have a home made, rustic feel to their crunch and make for fun playthings/pointers while we work on the menu of antipasti, pasta primi, contorni (sides) and secondi piatti (mains).
I had no reservations about ordering a selection of cured meats to share as antipasti (well, a quick toss up between the prosciutto with stracchino and this). I'm absolutely stoked when it arrives, quite the platter, with a quick explanation of its components. Now I can't quite remember them all but there's definitely a few drool/noteworthy ones.
One salami came as a firey red blob, resembling a dip more than anything else. This was pointed out as a spicy, sometimes too spicy for people, one which I adored with a bit of the rosemary and sea salt focaccia. It was unashamedly chilli-dominated, the texture oddly like smushy uncooked sausage meat. I'd happily sit in front of the television and eat a tub of it until my tongue becomes chilli numb. And then have a bit more.
Then there was thickly-cut small rounds of salami; something like a pale pink prosciutto that was almost milky in flavour; a subtle truffle flavoured salami; some cured part of the pork neck; a fennel flavoured salami that was an intriguing twist; and prosciutto that was cut a bit thicker than I would have liked. This all delightfully accompanied with an Italian pinot grigio that was amiable for the rest of the night too.
Maybe something to do with the cold weather but I was taken by the waitress's description of a special of lasagne made with beef, pork and porcini mushrooms. The emerging dish didn't look all too different from a bistro lasagne offering, but the rich meat sauce puts it squarely in the upper echelons of Garfield's favourite meal. It strings along a hefty addition of cheese on top and the only downfall is the overly soft sheets of pasta.
Vegetables are an important part of every meal, and none more important than rocket in my obsessive opinion. The salad comprises baby leaves with shavings of parmesan cheese, dressed simply in olive oil and a bit too much salt. Perhaps it's just personal taste but I seriously think I might have to start requesting sides and salads without salt.
My sweet tooth either went into hiding or was with the early worm as desserts were skipped, but probably also a function of the ruggedly rich lasagne. Among the last to leave the restaurant, I must admit the Uccello experience is what you'd expect of the ivy's flagship offering, and for the right designer wallet, it's everything you'd ever want.