Mezzo Bar & Grill

35 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne  VIC  3000
03 9650 0988
Open: Lunch  Mon – Fri  12 – 2:30pm;   Dinner Mon – Sat  from 5pm

Mezzo is located at the top of Little Bourke Street – and presents a classy option for a CBD dinner, especially if you are going to the theatre and don’t want to stray too far.  We weren’t going to the theatre tonight though, so we had the luxury of a bit of time to relax and enjoy ourselves. Mezzo has a great bar at the front of the restaurant – it’s not too loud, or ostentatious, and allows you to kick off your evening in a really relaxed, fun way – and then move on to some really fantastic Sicilian food. Tonight was no different – and we actually started outside on a summery, balmy afternoon.

Now, as far as the bar goes – it’s a happening place.  They have a great, if short, cocktail list – and the divine Ms M and I ended up ordering two apiece over the course of the evening.  This cocktail – Il Sorriso – was dubbed the winner of the night, and will definitely be on my list the next time I get here.

Having started the evening out so splendidly, it was time to order – so let the games begin.

‘Cynar’ marinated Tuna Carpaccio

I ordered the tuna carpaccio for my entrée, which Mezzo tends to serve quite a few millimetres thick. I love this, as it gives the fish a real firmness and bite – a texture which is usually sacrificed when it’s served paper thin.   In this incarnation, they serve the tuna on a bed of finely shredded carrot and fennel remoulade, and top it with some wafer thin slices of bottarga.  Personally, I prefer the previous version of the tuna carpaccio, which included avocado and sesame seeds, and a few other secret ingredients that really made it sing and melt in the mouth. This was just a little bland and, while the tuna was fantastic quality, I found the texture of the remoulade detracted from the tactile sensuousness of the dish.

Fried Zucchini Flowers

The divine Ms M was beside herself when she saw there were zucchini flowers on the menu – and had to have them. Quite simply – they were beautiful. They were breaded rather than battered – which rendered them beautifully crispy and crunchy on the outside.  Inside was a mixture of goat’s cheese, soft ricotta and black rice – which was smooth and creamy.  It was served on a bed of roasted capsicum purée (although the menu called it pesto) and garnished with a herb salad. A really lovely dish.

Risotto of Harvey Bay scallops, fresh peas, chives, crustacean broth

When I recently came here with three other good friends, we decided to share all of our dishes. At that time, the risotto featured spanner crab and was unanimously declared the dish of the night, as all four of us scrabbled for the last grains of rice in the bowl.  On this occassion I was determined – I had been hanging out for this risotto, and was planning to have it all to myself!  Not to be thwarted, Ms M had similar plans – and decided that she would do the same.

However, a new risotto was on the menu – this time with scallops and peas.  We were both happy with the new components and ordered it. The risotto was served quite runny, which apparently is how the Venetians like to serve it – I’m not sure how it translates to Sicily, but I’m glad it translates to Mezzo – because that’s exactly how I like my risotto.  In this case, there was actually a lightly foamed, creamy crustacean broth around the edge of the bowl, and over the course of consuming the dish it changed, becoming thicker, creamier and more unctuous as the night went on. Unfortuntely, I found the scallops were a little small and overcooked, which was a pity.  As a result, I again have to profess my preference for the previous version of the risotto with the crab. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful dish which may just need a little tweaking to bring out the best in the scallops.

After we finished our mains, we experienced our only gripe for the night.  Given we were sitting outside, we found that we weren’t getting much attention from the floor staff. After waiting for some time, Ms M relented and decided to go inside in search for the dessert menus. I think it was simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind” – but for a restaurant of this calibre, patchy service like this detracts from the customer experience and is a bit of a no-no in my book.

Tiramisu della Nonna

Nonetheless, we got hold of the dessert menu eventually – and quickly decided what to order.  Now – if you can fit in dessert – you need to order the tiramisu. It is amazing and one of the signature dishes, served with much aplomb a tavolo (at the table). It must be Joe Vargetto’s nonna that gets the bragging rights on this one – and she would be proud.  It comes in a huge copper pan, and whoever is serving takes a gargantuan serving spoon and gives you two heaped mounds of lusciousness.  Then, they ask you if that’s enough, and would you like some more?  The divine Ms M says.. maybe a little bit more… while I sit there gobsmacked. She tells me afterwards that she wanted to see just how generous they would be.  So, now we have two and a half heaped mounds of tiramisu…

And the wonderful thing about this tiramisu is that it’s not at all heavy or stodgy.  The marscapone cream has been whipped to a feathery lightness, and the savoiardi biscuits – while flooded with coffee and masala flavour and moistness, have not been compressed at all – so they retain their light sponge like texture. The dessert is also liberally dusted with good quality cocoa powder – so be careful to breathe out as you take a bite, otherwise you could accidentally inhale a good dose (not that I would be silly enough to do that – cough, cough…).

Chocolate Mousse

And as if that wasn’t enough – we ordered the chocolate mousse as well.  This was gorgeous! Underneath that dark, sultry layer of chocolate ganache lay a smooth, luscious, creamy chocolate mousse. It was topped with a crispy chocolate meringue to provide a bit of textural crunch, and was surrounded by a swathe of sticky orange sauce which helped to cut through the richness and give it a fragrant lift. Really good!

All in all – it was a very indulgent night with lots of cocktails and great food.  I can only blame the divine Ms M for all this indulgence – she always leads me astray from my best intentions of a modest night out! …. Hee hee… Or maybe it was the cocktails….

Anyway, I would definitely recommend Mezzo Bar and Grill.  It provides you with a bit of a twist on Italian, serving amazing Sicilian food – and has a great ambience and feel.  The restaurant itself is beautiful, having recently been redesigned – and oozes a classy atmosphere that is beautifully offset by an informal vibe which invites you to relax, have fun, and not take things too seriously…

Or, again… maybe that was the cocktails….

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