We were really looking forward to this. Portello Rosso is tucked away off Lonsdale Street and we would never have known if not for getting lost walking around looking for a munch. Unfortunately, we were turned away as they were too full that particular weekday to accommodate us. So why did I pick this over Movida Aqui and other more interesting and high profile places during the Melbourne food and wine festival? Because I felt that smaller restaurants like these deserve to share the limelight with the big names.
We were there at 6.30pm and sat around on the big table downstairs with the rest of the guests enjoying a drink before the night started. There was no expectation. I had the freedom to roam the place before service but I chose to agonise over the choice of my first drink. Not long after, we were told to proceed upstairs for the start of the dinner. We shared the table with 6 very delightful diners.
It was a tasting of 5 course dinner served with matching local and imported Iberian wine varieties. Our first sherry, Alfonso Oloroso, was poured for the night and the meal began. I have no experience with Sherry and only associated it with the older generation and cooking! Totally naive but very willingly learners. I did not like it. It tasted a little savory and a little like butter scotch. I think it dulled down the beautiful Joselita Iberico Jamon with Manchego on toasted brioche for me. Mister thought the dish was a little bland and did not enjoy it.
My mood and taste buds came alive after having the first sip of Mocen Verdejo. It tastes like a Sauvignon blanc but more punch. It was delicately floral and complimented the next dish. We were served the . The pickled onions provided both the tang and subtle sweetness. The herbs and lettuce gave this dish its lightness and freshness. Very well balanced and we were happy campers again!
This will be my favourite dish of the evening. I have failed in cooking with rabbit. But this humble rabbit, mushroom and vegetable pie served on a tomato and cardamom radish is one of the best rabbit that I have ever tasted. Very clean taste but the pulled rabbit was so tender. The slight hint of cinnamon gave this dish its sweetness and it complimented the sauce and brought the whole dish together. The matching wine, Vina Albali Tempranillo, tasted a little like black berry. It was not too heavy and so went well with this rabbit dish.
From here, I have to apologise but the following photos from this point is just not good enough to post. Yes, I will blame it on bad lighting but in actual fact, I am not a good photographer. The very tender grilled lamb loin with piquillo peppers that is filled with honeyed pumpkin. The sides of lightly pan fried zucchini added a nice textural difference to the pureed smoked eggplant. This dish is matched to a sweet berry and woody finish, Quatro Pasos Mencia. Such a smooth operator and very so slightly peppery.
At this point of the night as we had a few drinks, our conversations around the table became lighter and very comical. It was a table of 4 baby boomers and a mixture of Gen X & Y. I think we had the loudest table. Just laughter and a mixture of conversations of all sorts. We found out that the television was introduced 2 weeks before the 1956 Olympics that was held in Melbourne! There were stories about it around the table. How was life like before television and Internet?
And for finale, we were served Churros with chocolate sauce and orange, almond, coconut and chocolate truffle. The churros was so light against the sweet and aromatic chocolate sauce. Our last drink of the night is another Sherry, Nectar Pedro Ximenez. It was syrupy sweet and tasted a little like sultanas. It was delicious! I never thought I would say that but I really liked it. And Michael, the restaurant manager, said he left the best for last. I am now tempted to get a bottle for our own consumption!
The night definitely ended on a sweet note. We enjoyed ourselves so much and this has to be the best meal for the year. The company made the difference. Michael was a great host and I shall be back. I like the intimate setting. I like the location. And actually this place serves really good and affordable lunches. I have to come back and try it one day. I miss working in the city.
What would you do for a week without any Internet?