Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Melbourne eats: Meatball & Wine Bar

I have a thing for meatballs so it should be no surprise that the trendy, new-ish Meatball & Wine Bar in Melbourne CBD was high on my list of Melbourne restaurants to visit on my last trip.

On Flinders Lane near 'it' restaurant Chin Chin, Meatball & Wine Bar is a fantastic niche with a simple and extremely well-executed concept: meatballs. Plus wine and other appropriate accompaniments for the two.

Inside Meatball & Wine Bar, Flinders Lane, Melbourne
The CBD restaurant (they recently opened another restaurant in Richmond) is a rustic, brick-walled venue in that industrial-chic look that's so easily lovable these days. It's not a narrow space that stretches the length of the bar, front drinking area and back dining room with communal tables, and a seemingly tiny kitchen.

There is a bit of a weird policy that tables at the front and side walls of the restaurant are not served main meals, but are only permitted to order appetiser/ starter type dishes and drinks – perhaps it's their way of presenting a bar menu but it's a little awkward in any case.

Samboy-flavoured jerky
Without a booking we were assigned a wall table until a 'proper' table became available. We ordered drinks (Campari and orange, and a beer – oops, no wine) and some meaty bits to start.

There's a four flavour selection of beef jerky available and we were swayed by the waiter's favourite of Samboy – that potato crisp brand that was big the 1990s and had an awesome barbeque flavour.

The dried beef, served cutely in a stamped paper bag, had a good, not-excessive chew and full beefy flavour and just a slight hint of additional seasoning that could have been any of the Samboy chip flavours but was meant to be salt and vinegar.

Charcuterie board
I find it hard to pass up charcuterie selections so the large board of four cured meats, served with a bowl of fluffy focaccia, was ordered, covering the small table. Thinly-sliced salamis flavoured with truffle and fennel seeds had great highlights, especially the earthy truffle salami.

The fat-marbled capocollo cured pork shoulder and neck is usually a favourite charcuterie cut of mine but the sensationally lush, fatty prosciutto di San Daniele had it won this time with its silky soft, opaquely thin ribbons of cured pork leg.

Mini balls
We ordered the assorted mini meatballs when seated in the 'non-proper' dining area, and hence 'non-proper meatball dish' section, and it turned out to be a pretty good option to taste a variety of balls – pork, beef and chicken served with dipping sauces of barbeque sauce, creamy aioli and a green pesto sauce.

Pork meatballs with red sauce and homemade pasta
When it comes to the proper balls part of the menu, it's a choose-your-own-meatball-adventure style with your choice of pork, beef, chicken, fish or vegetable balls and red (Italian tomato), white (creamy) or green (pesto salsa verde) sauces.

Hilariously you also get a choice of sotto palle, "something for your balls to sit on": beans, polenta, potato mash, market vegetables or the homemade pasta as we did.

A couple of large sheets of silky pasta like bedsheets beneath the larger pork and fennel meatballs, which had a definitive fennel aroma. We elected the classic Italian tomato sauce, which came topped with shavings of parmesan cheese and fennel fronds, and another slice of foccacia on the side.

This is the kind of homely, hearty food I could eat every day, especially given the reasonable pricing too.

Grilled mushroom, tallegio cheese, thyme
We added on a mushroom side that turned out to be a single field mushroom, grilled with tallegio cheese and thyme to remain in a still juicy, almost meaty state.

To end, tiramisu was an easy dessert pick, as on any proper Italian menu, and I love the ones that come scooped out from a larger serving, looking generous and homely all at once.

This version featured both plain and chocolate sponge, soaked with a proper coffee hit and layered with liberal helpings of mascarpone cream and a heavy dusting of chocolate powder on top.

The restaurant and bar remained busy for the entire time we were there, showing the mass popularity of the concept and venue. Both the vibe and service are spot on, and given its price point, I think it's a place you could visit on a weekly basis.

I suppose I could say we were balled over by the experience at Meatball & Wine Bar and had a real ball.

Meatball & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


Jarhead said...

This place has somehow managed to make meatballs look elegant and stylish! The jerky also sounds intriguing. Great find!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

The Samboy jerky is such a cool concept. Love the packing too.

Anonymous said...

Jerky in a bar! Amazing! The charcuterie board looks great, too.

john | heneedsfood said...

Everything looks great here, and the packaging is cool. I actually went to a meatball restaurant yesterday, albeit in New York. Great concept!

Mr C @ The Food Diary said...

I have a sudden craving for meatballs now :D Not quite the same but IKEA is just up the road from me!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

haha what great looking balls ;) odd that the side was only one mushroom

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The seating thing does sound odd (I wonder what the logic is behind it) but gotta love a good meatball! :D

Tina said...

Hi Jarhead - I think they're quite popular with the locals ;)

Hi Helen - Yeah, so nostalgic!

Hi lateraleating - So hard to go past a charcuterie board...

Hi John - Can't wait to hear about your NY one - I love the concept.

Hi Mr C - I've had IKEA ones once and I can't say I was convinced.

Hi Vivian - Yeah, especially for a mushroom lover like me :(

Hi Lorraine - Meatballs always put a smile on my face :)


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