Treats to catch now: white truffles at The Point, Aquatic Drive, Albert Park. Tel. 9682 5566. They’ve been flown in, and can be ordered to be grated over whatever you fancy. I adore them. And I’m very fond of the restaurant, which has one of the great views of Melbourne, overlooking Albert Park Lake, an excellent chef in Justin Wise – a chef who understands sauces and layering flavours – and skilled staff. Carnivores do well here: they hang their own meat, and the there’s a choice of beef. My favourite dish currently is the shabu shabu with fine slices of wagyu, and Otway shitake mushrooms. And the rhubarb and apple for dessert. Quite gorgeous.
Ombra is another new favourite, the latest in the Grossi Florentino cluster on Bourke St. It’s next to the Cellar Bar, where the Nudel bar used to be. The trend is to bars and wine bars; this is a different style again. Ombra, so-called because in Verona, ombracame to mean a glass of something, rather than the glass of something served in the shade (ombra). You can imagine how the word slid in its meaning: “Do you want to go and sit in the shade?” would have been a way of saying indirectly “Do you want a drink?” It’s also in the shade of the Bourke Street trees, and perhaps even in the shade of Grossi Florentino.
This is casual – an ideal place for a drink, and lots of things are served on tap, which minimises waste and the energy needed for recycling. The food choices are all about preserves and pizza. Lots of salumi – cured meats – and meats especially cured for the Grossi family. I love the way fine slices are served on waxed paper on a wooden board. (That way there’s no risk the fat will ever taint the timber.) Take your pick of capocollo, motadella, sopressa, cacciatore, musetto….
It reminded me of a tiny place in Turin, a kind of bar where the choice of drinks was chalked on to a board, along with the day’s selection of salumi. I found it looking for a snack – and got a roll filled with 30-month old prosciutto and house-made preserved yellow peppers. Simple, really good quality.
At Ombra, there are house-made preserved vegetables, too, as well as cheeses, salads, a range of cicchetti (little snacks, such as crisp lamb ribs and oxtail crocchette. Three classic pizze – margerita, marinara, and bianca.
There’s a serious side of all of this. Ombra wants to preserve not only food, but Italian culture – through food. So there’s Friends of Ours, just anyone who wants to join in discussions about food and preserving, and maybe attend an event or two. I’m a Friend. Of course.
Ombra, 76 Bourke St, Melbourne. Tel. 9639 1927. www.ombrabar.com.au