ON THE MENU: Look out for goat, or capretto on menus. The Australian Meat & Livestock Corporation is encouraging the consumption of goat meat. When it’s good, it’s fabulous, like the best spring lamb but without the fattiness. If it’s in season, it is likely to be on the menu at Cecconi’s Cantina, 61 Flinders Lane, City. Tel. 9663 0222.
OUT TO LUNCH (or dinner). Another lunch spot to recommend: Gill’s Diner, on the corner of Gills Alley and Little Collins Street. It’s been around for a few years, but it’s a while since I ate there. Little quick café/sandwich bar and bakery, and behind that is a big noisy place, with bare tables and tiled walls. There’s a printed menu and blackboard specials. For a quick lunch, I’d recommend the sandwiches. We had a quick lunch in mind, but it wasn’t so quick after all….just allow an hour for lunch, you’ll be fine. I had a chicken and leek pie, served with a house-made tomato sauce in a little jug, chips, and a version of fattoush – an odd mix of things, I thought, until I remembered that pie and chips go together like fish and chips. What makes a good pie? Light pastry, generous filling, succulent chicken. A dish I was pleased to have eaten.
Gills diner, 360 Little Collins, Melbourne. 9670 7214.
Rather grander, and a real treat for lunch or dinner is The Point. Chef Justin Wise, who succeeded Scott Pickett, has hit his stride now. Go now for a salad of autumn globe artichokes with fresh borlotti beans and a champagne dressing. And a version of shabu shabu: beautiful fine slices of wagyu beef in a big wide bowl, some fresh shiitake mushroom slices, and a rich broth poured over at the table. Wonderful dish to eat – both comforting and exciting at the same time. At The Point, they serve chardonnay with fine slices of wagyu (whether as shabu shabu or tataki), and a good chardonnay has the weight for the beef, and an acidity to balance the fat. And no tannins to disguise the meat. I also tried Bass Grouper with clams, black lentils, and a madras curry sauce. Very fetching – the fish can stand up to the spices.
The Point, Aquatic Drive, Albert Park. Tel. 9682 5566. www.thepointalbertpark.com.au
Sher Wagyu. I’ve taken to Sher Wagyu in a big way. I went to two Melbourne Food and Wine Festival dinners at The Point restaurant at Albert Park Lake, both featuring Wagyu. A nice coincidence: 20 years of the Festival, 20 years of Sher Wagyu. I particularly like Sher Wagyu (not only because I so like producers Nick and Vicki Sher) because however high the marble score, it never cloys the palate. Some of the dishes from the chef’s night are to be found again, I think. Izakaya Den’s chef made a tataki of wagyu with a wasabi cream (served with a 2010 Wantirna Estate Chardonnay – who would have thought?). Ezard’s chef made an open burger with quail egg, onion jam, and beetroot chips – how clever a take on the traditional burger is that? The Point always serves great meat – Justin Wise’s braised intercostal was pretty special.
CITY LUNCH SPOTS:
For something much simpler, Somerset Place (off Little Bourke Street, near the corner of Elizabeth) has The Little Mule for breakfast and lunch, and good baguettes and toasties, with very good coffee and a relaxed atmosphere. Try also Captains of Industry, which is a tailor as well. Larger, smarter, breakfast and lunch, and open until 5pm for snacks and drinks. Great crunchy baguettes, but I found the coffee uncomfortably bitter. Have water or tea instead.