Centonove in Kew

Centonove was recommended to me by most esteemed friend K – a great friend of mine from early University days who I’ve recently reconnected with through Facebook.  In my new attempt to go further afield than the Melbourne CBD, I asked her to nominate her five favourite restaurants in her local suburb – Kew.  Centonove made the top 5 – and one browse of the website and I was like… Hello… where have you been all my life?

So, we made a booking, hopped in the car – grabbed out the Melways and hit the road. I know – how pathetic!  But when you haven’t visited a suburb in heaven knows how many years – well… just trust me, we needed the Melways!  So, after foolishly going straight up Victoria Street – such an easy ride at 6pm on a Saturday night (NOT) … we finally made our way to Cotham Street and drove right past Centonove.  Which is an easy thing to do… the blinds are down at this cute little Italian restaurant, so there’s no windows to provide an early warning system to us out-of-towners that this was even a restaurant.  After over-shooting, u-turning, and finding a park – we were determined to trust the street number… 109… Centonove… (get it?) – and there it was!

We were led upstairs to a gorgeous room which had been fitted out with beautiful artwork, gilt mirrors, an understated chandelier, and linen set tables.  It sounds a bit garish – but it wasn’t in any way. 

With bread, olives and olive oil to appease us as we perused the menu – we made a quick decision on our meals, ordered a bottle of beautiful Escarpment pinot noir from NZ and got underway.

Special – Selection of House Cured Meats

Andrew chose the special which was a selection of house cured meats.  It was not too large for him to enjoy by himself, and he thought the variety was great.

Tortellini of Moreton Bay Bug with Zucchini Puree, Capers and Cress

I couldn’t go past the tortellini of Moreton Bay bugs – it was the promise of this dish on the online menu that had drawn me here to begin with!  The pasta was probably a little thicker than I’m used to – but it was well cooked.  The bug meat inside was sweet and moist.  And the zucchini puree was just divine.  The capers were the genius touch – really balancing out the flavours and adding a burst of salty goodness with every mouthful.  A very satisfying dish.

Eye Fillet of Beef with a Pecorino and Herb Crust, Braised Cavalo Nero and Port Jus

For mains, Andrew opted for the eye fillet (we’re not surprised are we?) – this came with a pecorino and herb crust, which is not usually his thing.  However, he was happy to eat it and thought the meat was well cooked.  It was sitting on a bed of cavalo nero – which I happily ate for him and it tasted fantastic.  I do think the fact that it was soaking up all the jus might have helped… because then Andrew was lamenting… wishing there was more jus!! I must have got most of it.

Slow Cooked Pork Belly and Fillet with Mustard Fruits, Corella Pear and Dutch carrot puree

For my main, I ordered the pork belly. Oh my goodness – the pork belly was so tender – it basically melted when you touched it with a knife. Dangerously good.  The fillet was a beautiful complement to the belly, providing a solid, lean piece of perfectly cooked meat alongside the indulgence of the belly.  The accompaniments were not substantial, so they didn’t over power the dish – but were perfect in their execution – with gorgeous little balls of pear, and touches of puree carrot.  Just look at the glisten on the pan juices – a truly spectacular dish.

As a side we had the beautiful rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes.  These were delicious – crispy on the outside, steaming softness on the inside, with the aroma of garlic and rosemary – you can’t go wrong.

Affogato – Vanilla ice-cream, espresso and Frangelico

Andrew loves an affogato – the dessert you have when you’re not having a dessert. It’s small and manageable (especially after two protein dishes).  It just melts away to nothing…

Vanilla pannacotta with confit orange, pistachios and citrus curd

Oh my goodness – can I tell you?  This is, quite simply, one of the best pannacottas I have ever had.  It had a great wobble factor, and when you put it in your mouth it just dissolved into creamy heaven. Beautifully plated – the citrus curd and confit orange segments added a gorgeous zesty counterpoint to the creaminess of the pannacotta, and the pistachios had been blitzed into crumbly goodness. My only criticism being that I could taste a little too much flour.  This was a fabulous dessert.

This is a one hat restaurant, so the bill at the end of the day wasn’t a small one.   We paid $275 including tip – because the service was excellent, and there was a really lovely vibe to the place.  In particular, the tables were spaced beautifully – and with such a high ceiling, there was a real sense of spaciousness that I loved. 

Now, the big question – would I go back again?  I think I would, but not necessarily in a hurry.  It got me thinking about Italian restaurants in the CBD, and I couldn’t really identify a brilliant Italian restaurant in the city that could match this one – but maybe I need to do some more research, because I’m sure there a couple of lauded ones out there. 

As far as good Italian goes – Centonove delivers in spades.  If you’re in the area, or lucky enough to be a local – there would be far worse ways to spend an evening.  Now… where did I put the Melways… ?

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