Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cecconi's Cantina

I'd never heard of Cecconi's Cantina before it was recommended to me for dinner, but as it turns out, it has quite a celebrated history. An offshoot of the Cecconi's originally at Crown, this restaurant has been the recipient of a The Age Good Food Guide One Hat award every year since 2008.

Cecconi's Cantina
The restaurant is spacious with a mixture of sit-down tables, and a bistro for those looking for a quick bite to eat. The decor is probably a little dark for my liking (bad photos you see), and noisier than I expected, but the staff were experienced and efficient.

Cecconi's Cantina prides itself on using the freshest local and organic ingredients where possible, and the menu reflect this offering a diverse range of pastas and meat mains, and a selection of entrees that focuses heavily on seafood.

Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio, Shaved Fennel, Black Olives, Baby Herbs, Fennel Seed Lavosh

The raw fish was amazingly fresh and and tender, with the accompanying ingredients barely needed to make the dish shine. I would have been happy with just a squeeze of lemon in all honesty, but they might not have been able to justify the $25 price tag if they'd done that. While this was clearly a winner, my friend was a little impressed with his John Dory with Nicoise Salad. 

John Dory with Nicoise Salad – Green Beans, Potato, Tomato, Olive, Quail Eggs

This was mainly due to the lack of 'salad' in the dish as I'm not sure the vegetables on the plate amounted to the standard definition of a salad. In any case, the fish was flaky, tender and lightly seasoned, and the quail eggs were a nice substitution for your standard hen's eggs.

Not one to usually order pastas, I couldn't go past the Potato gnocchi with housemade pork sausage, buffalo mozzarella, rich Napoli and fresh basil.

Potato Gnocchi with Housemade Pork Sausage, Buffalo Mozzarella, Rich Napoli, Fresh Basil
The best part of the dish was the gnocchi, and perhaps rightfully so. The dough had obviously been treated well and the gnocchi melted in the mouth. The pork sausages had plenty of flavour although I was a bit disappointed in the mozzarella which was overpowered by the other flavours, and acted more as a filler. 

Knowing that the basil in my dish barely counted as greens, I ordered a garden salad. 

Chef's Garden Salad
Nothing special, nothing interesting, but I suppose it doesn't need to be when it's only a humble garden salad.

We didn't particularly feel like ordering dessert (shocking, I know) and decided to call it a night early. My experience at Cecconi's Cantina was fairly average, and I wouldn't have picked it to be a hatted restaurant if I didn't know otherwise. I've been told that the food was significantly better in the past so maybe we ordered the wrong dishes this time around. Nevertheless, the service could not be faulted, and the atmosphere was decent, if a little noisy. 

Cecconi's Cantina
Basement, 61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Lunch Mon-Fri from 12pm, Dinner Mon-Sat from 530pm

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