Earlier this month we were lucky enough to dine at Cecconi’s on Flinders Lane, a Melbourne institution. Back in the day, Cecconi’s was the go to spot for corporate long lunches and client-wooing dinners, and today it still retains that old school charm, but is decidedly more romantic. When we arrived, we were seated on the slightly more casual side of the restaurant, due to a bit of a booking mishap (we accidentally arrived 30 minutes earlier than expected, whoops…we were just too excited I guess!). Before our champagne and aperol spritz even hit the table, Cecconi’s had figured out the error and offered to move us to the other side of the restaurant. We moved over and thank GOODNESS we did, because we were seated next to none other than Eric Bana! So with drinks in hand and ample eye candy to our left, we settled in for a long, relaxed romantic evening.
We started off with a few oysters, and they were easily the best oysters we’ve ever eaten. The oysters themselves were massive, creamy and lacked that aggressive taste-of-the-ocean flavour that people often find off putting. But what truly made them shine was the incredible red wine mignonette served on the side- it was sweet, a little sticky, and managed to complement the oysters beautifully without overwhelming them. Both of us were left wishing that we had ordered a few more oysters, which is a rarity in itself, especially for me! Our next starter was Scallops with Porcini Puree & King Oyster Mushrooms. This was one that we were a little hesitant about, but we are so glad that we took the plunge. The earthy porcini was beautiful against the delicate scallop, and the unexpected combination was one of the most memorable of the evening (and Alex’s personal favourite).
For the pasta course, we had Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Risotto with Prawns, Preserved Lemon & Basil. The gnocchi was light and fluffy, and the ragu was beautiful, but the winner of this course for us was without a doubt the risotto. I’ve been on a bit of a preserved lemon kick recently, and while Alex hasn’t been a fan of everything that I’ve put up at home (!), he loved this risotto. It was exactly what you’d want from a pasta course- warming and flavourful, but still light enough that you can happily fit another few courses in.
The mains were unfortunately the weakest of the evening for us, however that doesn’t say too much, as everything else during the evening was nothing less than outstanding. Alex had the Beef & Parsnip special, and while he came in craving beef (as we keep a beef-free household), he finished the course wishing that he had ordered something else, as the beef was too fatty for his taste. My duck dish (Twice Cooked Duck with Poached Quince, Potato Puree & Baby Onions) was definitely the winner of the mains- the duck skin was absurdly crispy and so much fun to cut into, and the poached quince was a real eye opener to me. The duck, potato and onion on its own was a nice and familiar flavour profile, but when you added a bit of quince to the bite, it lifted the dish to a completely new level. The quince was sweet, savory and spicy- the flavour of star anise in particular gave the entire dish an unexpected dimension, and I found this the most thought provoking dish of the meal…it even inspired me to make my own poached quince and duck a few days ago (to results that were unsurprisingly much less successful than the original). The only criticism I have was that the dish could’ve used more jus, and another thin slice of that incredible quince!
Finally, came dessert. At this point we had stuffed ourselves silly, but I can never say no to dessert (and poor Alex always gets dragged along for the ride). We decided on the Marsala Apples, Pie Crumble, Salted Caramel & Almond Gelato, which was so rich and so worth it. The flavours reminded me of home- a classic American Apple Pie, but fancy. SO FANCY. While it might not be the most Italian dessert, it was sweet, beautiful comfort food and I’m so glad we went for it…and hey, it still went down a treat with a tall Limoncello!
Several hours later, we left Cecconi’s filled to the brim with delicious food and wine. The service throughout the evening was impeccable, and if you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion, Cecconi’s is a no brainer. We can’t wait to go back, and couldn’t recommend it more highly. Special thanks to Barilla Pasta for this romantic evening- we were not only treated to dinner, but a night in an incredible suite at the Sofitel! It’s a night we won’t soon forget, and hope to relive someday.
Oysters with Red Wine Mignonette
Scallops with Porcini Puree & King Oyster Mushrooms
Risotto with Prawns, Preserved Lemon & Basil
Twice Cooked Duck, Poached Quince, Potato Puree & Baby Onions
Marsala Apples, Pie Crumb, Warm Salted Caramel & Almond Gelato
special thanks to Barilla Pasta for this meal. this review expresses our unbiased views.