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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Tutto Bene (Southgate)
Everybody loves a lazy day. Wednesday was that day for me, pay day, and a day off. The perfect combination. So what did I do? Head on up to the city of course for a little shopping and more importantly some dining.

For dinner I wanted to try something new. Choosing a new restaurant is always a hard decision, especially when you are searching for something last minute. It is often the case that when you finally make a decision the restaurant is "fully booked". This was nearly the case for me, but luckily I managed to snag a prime-time booking at Tutto Bene, recommended along with others by Vida, and a place that I have wanted to try for a while now, but have always put it off. For the record the restaurant was full after I arrived, hence I really was lucky to get the booking.

Tutto Bene is described as a risotteria. Most people come here for one thing - risotto, and not just any old risotto, but the best risotto, created by master risotto chef Simon Humble, who has trained extensively in the art of risotto in Italy. I must confess that I am somewhat obsessed with risotto and cook it every week, often for my colleagues at work, some of whom tell me it is the best risotto they have eaten. So I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on the dish, and must say that unlike the stuff served at many other establishments the risotto at Tutto Bene is the real deal and compares favourably to any others that I have tried before.

With a selection of 15 on offer choosing just one risotto is a difficult task. So difficult that I opt to order two. One as an entrée, and the other as a main. That’s fair enough isn’t it? Before I go on to review the signature offerings though, I will give you a bit of commentary on the restaurant.

Tutto Bene is located on the mid level of the Southgate complex, just opposite Flinders Street Station, beautifully overlooking the restaurant. It is a fair sized establishment seating about 40 diners inside, plus more on the outdoor deck. I am seated inside along the window. The views should be fantastic, but are somewhat obscured as a result of the dirty blinds that are pulled down. The restaurant has a real buzz to the place though and is jovial, albeit rather noisy, in a good way. It has a traditional feel with unclothed wooden tables and chairs, and a genuine rustic charm to the place.

After a few moments bread arrives along with the signature Tutto Bene olive oil, which is so good that I almost bought a bottle. I had to resist though, as I already have some great oils at home.

To start with I am offered some olives ($5.50). These are an excellent way to begin the meal here. Tagglasche olives served warm, mixed through with rosemary and roasted almonds. There is enough in one dish for the table, and they are so tasty that you will continue to munch on them until the food arrives.

After a short wait the first risotto course arrives. It should be noted that Tutto Bene does serve many other dishes, which sound and look fantastic but it is largely the risotto that the punters are attracted to, myself included. To start with I have one of the chef's specialties.

"Al Presidente - a unique combination of 2 year old parmigiano and balsamic vinegar, produced from a 1912 mother must, created by our chef for the Italian President visiting Australia" ($19):

This is an excellent combination and not the sort of thing you are going to try everyday. Surprisingly the parmigiano is not at all overpowering, but rather mild and stringy with a slight richness to it. The rice is, as expected, cooked perfectly. The dish is finished with a swirl of balsamic reduction, which adds an extra dimension to the plate and provides a suggestion of sweetness and fullness to an already good dish. Unfortunately the serving plates were not wiped properly before serving, a little slack on the kitchens part. The texture and preparation of the risotto itself is perfect though.
To drink: Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay

Second Risotto: “Anatra, funghi e salvia – braised duck, porcini mushroom and sage” ($21):
This is more like the kind of risotto that I cook, and it was really good. A creamy, smooth risotto, with a nice, pungent flavour. The aroma of the porcini mushroom was very appealing, as was that of the sage, which was perfectly infused into the sauce. The plate is finished with a drizzling of olive oil and is served steaming hot, unlike the former, which was merely warm. Excellent, classic style risotto cooked perfectly.
To drink: Darling Park Pinot Noir

Shortly after finishing this dish the dessert menu is presented. I am rather contempt already, but have heard many good things about the house made gelato and decide that I must try it. The menu lists a selection (three scoops) for $13.50. I ask for a reduced serving ($4.50/ scoop), and the waiter happily obliges presenting a lovely scoop of limoncello, which is sweet and tart at the same time, with a perfect gelato texture. After a good espresso it is a refreshing way to end the meal.

Tutto Bene is a pleasant, informal style restaurant with friendly service, a nice atmosphere and very good food. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a really good bowl of risotto at a reasonable price. Some may like to know that water is priced at the upper end of the scale at $9.50 for a 750ml bottle, but tap is always an option.

Tutto Bene received a score of 14 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide.

My Score: 14.5/20 - A really enjoyable dining experience.
Food 7/10 (Very good) Service 4/5 (Friendly, efficient) Ambience 3.5/5 (Relaxed, traditional)

And guess what, tomorrow is lazy Wednesday so the adventures must continue. I’m thinking a leisurely lunch in the city would be a perfect way to enjoy the afternoon. Where? I guess I will decide tommorow!

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  posted at 4:00 PM  

At November 21, 2007 at 9:42 AM, Blogger claire said...

Hi Jon, good review! Wow, two risotti, eh? :)

I love risotto too - my favourite one to make is with chicken, leek, lemon thyme and a bit of lemon juice. Do you ever use Ferron rice? Signor Ferron, the guy behind the Ferron rice empire, once gave a cooking demo here in Melbourne, and was all over my Mum - invited her to stay with him next time she's in Italy (!) - my nonna was impressed with the quality of his risotto and adopted his cooking method...

Don't know if you've read the review I did of Tutto Bene about six months ago - I also loved that limoncello gelato, and drank the Darling Park Pinot! Mmmmmmm. I was strongly tempted to try the Presidente risotto, but opted for the blue swimmer crab one instead. Tutto Bene is a great option if you're off to the Arts Centre or Hamer Hall, I reckon.

Oh, and $9.50 for a bottle of water is outrageous! I went to Press Club last night (review coming soon!), and at the bottom of the menu they offer to provide your table with "unlimited San Pellegrino or Aqua Panna for $8.50 PER PERSON" - !!!!!!!!!

At November 22, 2007 at 10:51 AM, Blogger Jon! said...

Nice to here from you Claire. I have read your review on Tutto Bene, which was great. I often make a risotto somewhat similar to the one you describe, without the lemon juice. No I have not tried using Ferron rice, but will certainly give it a go. Interesting story :)

I can't wait to try the Press Club (on my must try soon list). Love the unliminited water policy, which is also in place at Rockpool and a couple of other places. It is great for those who drink a fair amount of water with their meals like myself, although for some who only drink a glass or two it can be seen as bad value. I read a review where a couple (not knowing the water rule) drunk less than a bottle between the two and were charged $17 - yikes! I think that restaurants win both ways.

Can't wait to read your Press Club review.

Cheers, Jon!


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