La Luna Bistro
La Luna may seem like an odd choice for a vegetarian to celebrate getting a new job – but hey! Who was I to argue? I love the place. I think the fact that it was about 200m to Vegetarian J’s house helped – but the truth of the matter is that, as much as Head Chef and owner Adrian Richardson loves his meat – he is incredibly respectful of others’ dining predilections. So it was that we found ourselves midweek at this stalwart of the Melbourne dining scene in the quieter part of Carlton that is Rathdowne Street. The menu is ever changing at this little bistro, making the most of the seasons, what’s good at the market, and what is growing in their small plot of vegetables out the back.
Autumn is a brilliant time – as we get into the colder weather, a lot of that warm, comforting food starts finding its way onto menus. And tonight we gazed at a menu populated by some great meat, some more great meat… and two vegetarian dishes. One entrée and one main. Vegetarian J was very philosophical – At least that makes my choice easy! Indeed it was!
J and I both opted for the four cheese soufflé – it was beautiful, soft, moist, melt-in-the mouth. Absolutely delicious – rich yet light. It’s one of my favourite dishes / weaknesses! The only distraction was the garlic croutons – to me they were a bit superfluous. So, I ended up just leaving them on the plate.
Andrew decided he was hungry enough to go for an entrée served size of the penne with lamb ragout. This was a hearty dish with stunning hand rolled penne, and a rich meat sauce redolent with basil and rosemary, and delicately scattered with some finely grated parmesan.
For mains, Vegetarian J had this amazing gnocchi with basil, feta, olives and pine nuts. The gnocchi were delicate, fluffy pillows and there was a riot of Mediterranean flavours in the mouth – gorgeous creamy feta, sundried tomatoes and olives. Delish!
I was drawn to the pie… I think I was drawn to the pie last time I was here as well. It’s something about the idea of homemade pie that really draws me in. My grandmother was something of a great cook – and I remember her pies. Rich meat and gravy goodness underneath a flaky pie crust.
This pie had beef, onions and mushrooms and sat atop a dense aioli, and was crowned with gorgeous smashed peas! Alas – the pastry was suet. I know it’s a purist’s pie crust – but I just love puff pastry so much. I was a little disappointed (although I do concede it’s very clearly written on the menu – perhaps subconsciously I was hoping the spirit of my Grandma would inspire the chef to throw all caution (and suet) to the wind, and dramatically top it with some puff pastry). Ah well…. To my way of thinking too, the aioli was a little out of place – and didn’t really complement the dish that well. The filling was beautiful and tender – but overall I think my heart was set on that puff pastry.
Naturally, being a steak man (and basically the complete opposite of Vegetarian J), Andrew went for the filet mignon. He thought it was a great piece of steak, but perhaps not up there – maybe not even in the top 5. Nonetheless, he enjoyed it – the steak was tender and flavoursome. Which it should be as its dry aged, grass fed beef – good credentials.
Accompanying our dishes – some sautéed spinach that had been enriched with garlic and a little chilli; and some creamy, buttery mash!! Fabulous!
We were going all out today – we enjoyed desserts as well. Andrew went for the “lighter” option of an affogato – which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Maple Syrup Pudding, Lemon Ice Cream
Vegetarian J (who will absolutely hate his tag line… but what am I to do?) went for the pudding – which was lovely and warm, comforting and moist. It was lovely… but after tasting mine, J said I had the pick.
Caramel Pannacotta, pistachio, spiced poached pear
And it was a good pannacotta – perhaps a little creamier and denser than I was used to, but still lovely. The flavour was delicate, and the pear and pistachio offered a great foil to the creamy meltingness of the pannacotta.
It was great to see Adrian Richardson not only circulating about the diners, but also serving food from the kitchen and tending a bit of bar. Vegetarian J got to talking to him – now I wasn’t privy to the conversation – but when he got back to the table he was very happy. He basically said that Adrian told him to call ahead next time he was coming in – and he would make sure there were 4 or 5 vegetarian options available!! What a great guy! So, our word to the vegetarians out there – don’t shy away from La Luna just because it’s known for its great meat – they can, and will, prepare some wonderful vegetarian options for you. But in order to make the most of your visit, let them know you’re coming and give them that chance to wow you!!
Dining Nirvana and J might just have to venture back soon to give them the opportunity… unless you beat me to it. Bon Appetit!