Reminders of Italy are not difficult to find in Melbourne. In many ways, Melbourne could lay claim to being one of the most Italian places outside of Italy. Gertude Street Enoteca is not classically reminiscent though of an Italian wine shop and bar.
Not that it is trying to be Italian. This is a place that features the ingredients, the techniques, but is quintessential modern Melbourne. This local take has been around for years but the only time I’ve tried Brigitte Hafner’s food is at a winery in Red Hill over summer.
It is cold, bitterly cold today, and winter has come. Sitting next to Catherine on the banquette at Gertrude Street is warming and comfortable. There before us are many wine friendly lunch dishes on offer, and more importantly, several expertly chosen wines by the glass. There is no rushing around by the staff, not to say that service is slow, just assured. Not long after ordering we have our carefully selected glasses of wine, and shortly after that we have a couple of dishes to share.
Today we are drinking from the riches of Burgundy. Catherine with a chardonnay; me with a pinot noir. As you would expect from a revolving list of twenty wines, you really cannot put a foot wrong when it comes to wine. We share the gravlax, and a salumi platter. Both very reasonably priced, the salumi selection features sausage, a softer salumi like mortadella, and mild salami. Served with pickles, and giving fresh bread, the thin slices of meat are simplicity at its best.
The gravlax is still reasonably simple bistro food, but again is perfect. The salmon is bright and enticing, but shares centre stage with fluffy dill cream cheese, both enhanced by the classic additions of capers and extra thin pickles.
Relaxing here with a great glass of wine and sharing delicious ultra wine friendly dishes is something we could get used to doing. With no immediate plans for a trip to Europe, we may have to come back sooner rather than later.
Rather than cutting today short we decide to stay for dessert. There are several options with some tarts, cakes, and pastries. We choose the pear and frangipane tart and we chose well! It is perfectly executed, the quality of the pastry, slightly sweeter than usual, particularly good. Impressively there is a mini Synesso machine and the espresso is a good quality.
As we step out the door we wonder why we have left the comforting indoors on this terribly cold day. While there would ordinarily be an opportunity to browse at the diverse offering of retail along Gertrude Street, today we hardly make it past Belle’s Hot Chicken before we scurry to the car. Maybe we’ll have another wine next time around.