Celebrity chef Guy Gross is the owner of the two-hatted Melbourne city restaurant, Florentino, 80 Bourke St, Melbourne. There are three restaurants in the building – the Cellar Bar (casual), the Grill (not as casual) and Upstairs (two-hatted, fine dining).
Setting the scene
When I eyed ‘bistecca florentino’ on the menu, I knew the Grill was the place for me. On a Monday night, the place was packed, not a spare table. Lucky I’d booked.
I was looking forward to this dinner for two reasons – firstly, I was finally eating in Guy Grossi’s restaurant, and secondly, a long over-due catch up with my dinner companion, K. K was my BFF in high school and it has been years since we caught up. Each time we do, we talk non-stop for hours. There’s just something about old friends, wouldn’t you agree?
From the street, I stepped down into the dining room. The tables were close together and the waiters were busily tending to patrons. I was seated soon after at a table for two along the wall opposite the open kitchen – presumably, the grill. I ordered an Aperol spritz for apertivo while I waited a few minutes for K to arrive. During that time, I studied the menu.
We decided to share two entrees, the anchovy stuffed zucchini flowers ($26) and the special for the night, the prosciutto, figs and balsamic ($28).
I thought long and hard about ordering the zucchini flowers – an absolute favourite of mine – because I’ve recently adopted the paleo lifestyle and at the time of this dinner, I’d been quite strictly paleo for 10 weeks (no grains, no sugar, limited diary, legumes, potatoes). I knew the zucchini flowers would be coated in either a batter or flour. Not paleo. However, I promised myself I’d be 80-90% paleo, and this was one night where I could stray, just slightly, for Guy Grossi’s zucchini flowers (I left the bread basket alone).
Both entrees were fabulous. The only problem with the zucchini flowers is that there weren’t enough of them! They were gorgeous – crisp light batter and stuffed with gooey mozzarella and the salty anchovy. Heavenly. Figs and prosciutto should just marry each other because they work so well. The sweet juicy plump figs with the salty delicate prosciutto that melted on my tongue, was divine.
For main, we shared a huge 600g Black Angus T-bone steak ($52), cooked medium rare. I’m so glad we shared, it was a massive piece of meat.
The waiter presented us the steak first, then whisked it away and sliced it up for us to share – genius! The meat was charred just slightly on the outside and succulent and tender on the inside. It was a lovely steak, but – and I’m sorry Mr Grossi – it did not measure up to the Bistecca Fiorentina we had in Florence. In Florence and Tuscany, a special breed of beef is pasture-raised for bistecca fiorentna. For that reason, I expect it’s not fair to compare the two.
For contorni (side dishes – all $12) were green beans with tomato and roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic – both delicious. Again, potatoes are not paleo, but I ate them and enjoyed them anyway.
The wine list is huge at Florentina. Many Victorian wines feature, Italian varietals produced in Australia, and international wines, with an emphasis on those from Italy. To help wash down our food, we thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of 2011 Shoreham Park Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula ($65). The wine bouquet was light with hints of spice, the colour was dark cherry red with some transparency and the taste was smooth with little to no tannin. It was really delicious.
Dessert is challenge for paleo followers. There aren’t many desserts on menus that don’t contain diary or sugar. After a query from my dining companion, the waitress said, “The chocolate pudding is good, but the tiramisu is amazing.”
Yeah, right. My tiramisu is amazing.
“No, truly, this tiramisu is fabulous, it’s really popular.”
Popular? Sure, whatever. Popular doesn’t cut it with me. Ordering tiramisu out has resulted in disappointment after disappointment in establishments across the globe – mainly because my version is delicious and I make it to suit my palate – check out my recipe here. My friend K said she was going to order it, and if I wanted to, I could taste it. Okay, fine.
The waiter brought a huge salad bowl filled with tiramisu to our table. He took a cake cutter, sliced a wedge from it, lifted to a plate. The biscuit layer was very dark, like dark chocolate cake. I watched K take the first spoonful. As soon as she tasted it, she closed her eyes and said, “Oh yum, it’s good, really good.”
Resisting was futile. My first spoonful evoked an identical reaction. The creamy layers were smooth and luscious, there was a taste of coffee, but it wasn’t overpowering, almost a hint, and then the taste of rich bitter dark chocolate came through just after the coffee. Oh. My. God. I took a second taste just to be sure. Yes. I have found a tiramisu that’s better than mine. I never thought it would or could happen. It was out of this world and definitely 100 per cent worth straying off the paleo way for. Seriously good – and so good in fact I would say that it’s worth going to Florentina for the Tiramisu alone.
Immediately, I grabbed a waiter and told him to fetch the chef. Mr Grossi came out and I shook his hand to say thank you, and congratulations. He probably thought I was lunatic, but he deserved a bit of tiramisu groupie adoration. He insisted we take a photo (ok!) and we chatted for a few minutes. And that made my night.
A trophy deserving tiramisu, meeting Guy Grossi, a happy satisfied belly, and hours of delightful company with a lovely friend. Now that’s what I call a perfect dining experience. Thank you Mr Grossi and great to see you again K!
The service was professional and what you’d expect from a place with one hat. Our waiter was from Lecce in Pulglia and our waitress was from Bordeaux in France. I love European wait staff – they know how to do it properly.
80 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000 (CBD)
T: 03 9662 1811