On Sundays lots of people like to relax by sleeping in, lounging around with the Sunday paper and maybe going for a stroll. On the other hand, I tend to have a lot of get-up-and-go on Sundays (my body just refuses to sleep in) but my one concession to slowing down is to enjoy a long lunch.
I’ve never been to Mirka at Tolarno Hotel but I thought a special Sunday lunch would be a good reason to cross the river and try it. The event was organised by Guy Grossi with special guest Stephanie Alexander as an opportunity to sample the rustic dishes from his upcoming cookbook Menus from My Mother’s Kitchen and Stephanie’s mother’s rabbit pie.
Mirka at Tolarno Hotel is a Melbourne institution because of Mirka Mora’s colourful murals adorning the walls. In fact, parts of the red and green mural are also on the cover of the Grossi Cookbook ‘My Italian Heart’.
We were seated in a prime position right by the large window facing Fitzroy Street and settled down to crunch on some homemade grissini and a loaf of crusty ciabbata with olive oil.
Glancing at the menu, I thought we were going to choose one dish from each course, but no, for $55 a head we received every single dish. If that’s not excellent value I don’t know what is.
First up, Farro e Fagioli soup, or cannellini beans with little pops of farro, an ancient grain I’d not come across before. There are no photos of this dish because it wasn’t particularly photogenic, but it was a rich and soothing way to start a wintery lunch. I did like how the soup was presented in differently patterned bowls of stripes and dots.
First course, Risotto Milanese which is typically flavoured with saffron, chicken or beef stock and grated Parmagiano-Reggiano. The risotto had a wonderfully creamy texture while the rice grains still retained a good bite.
Manzo Salmistratto, cured beef tongue with a simple salad of rocket and shaved Parmagiano-Reggiano. Beef tongue is something I would normally shy away for the yuk factor, which just goes to show that if you don’t know what it is, sometimes it’s worth tasting anyway and you might just like it!
Insalata di trota affumicata con patate e limon, a classic combination of flaked smoked trout, chat potatoes, capers, parsley and lemon.
For main courses we started with Mary’s rabbit pie. Stephanie Alexander introduced the dish by explaining that her family had a property down in the Mornington Peninsula but not much money, so her mum Mary learnt to be creative with rabbit, a meat typically associated with dull Depression-era food. This rabbit pie uses all the parts of the rabbit and includes the unexpected crunch of almond flakes. You can find the recipe here.
Seppie in umido con vino bianco, or cuttlefish braised in white wine. Again, no photo because it was presented in a large bowl and just looked like a big red soup. The cuttlefish was incredibly tender and the sauce tasted of the sea – one of my favourite dishes.
Pesce fritto, or fried fish, seafood and vegetables. Love the small detail of the muslin covering the lemon half.
Insalata di ceci e funghi saltati, two side dishes of chickpeas with tomato, parsley and olive oil and sauteed wild mushrooms which you can just spot in the top right corner.
We battled onto our dessert platter consisting of superbly moist and springy budino di arancia (steamed orange marmalade pudding) and torta di polenta (polenta and lemon cake), a little on the dry side for me, served with rich cream and chilled martini glasses heaped with homemade vanilla gelato.
Four hours later, we congratulated ourselves on a lunch well eaten and rolled home with some leftovers of the chickpeas and mushrooms (can’t let good food go to waste) and a bottle of Grossi’s extra virgin olive oil ($16).
On Sunday 27 June Guy Grossi will be hosting another lunch with dishes from Menu from My Mother’s Kitchen and with special guest Damien Oliver. It is being held at Grossi Florentino’s Wynn and Mural Rooms and costs $75. For bookings, contact Maria on 03 9662 1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda +61 3 9525 3088