The Grossi family are quietly making the ‘Paris end’ of Bourke Street their own (or maybe that should be the Roman end of Bourke Street?) with the addition of Ombra Salumi Bar next door to Grossi Cellar Bar, the Grossi Grill and Grossi Florentino.
Ombra is both a grown-up wine bar and a casual, relaxed restaurant – sort of the fun, younger sibling of the other Grossi establishments – and in fact it is managed by Guy Grossi’s son Carlo. The narrow downstairs area is dim and clubby, with high tables and stools framed by walls of wine bottles and jars of homemade pickles – a perfect space for imbibing and chatting conspiratorially. Upstairs is more of a sit-down affair, with the prime position being the large table by the window overlooking leafy Bourke Street.
The menu is tightly written – antipasti/cicchetti, salads, salumi, condimenti (pickles), pizza, cheese and dessert all on one sheet.
Before we get started, let’s get one thing straight. ‘Salumi’ is salted and cured meats vs ‘Salami’ which are dry cured susages. Ombra specialises in salumi which includes familiar cured meats like pancetta, proscuitto and salami as well as less familiar items like felini and ventricina bucia culo. Either way it’s not really somewhere I recommend taking vegetarians and I went with fellow omnivore Gourmet Chick.
Almost all of Ombra‘s salumi is made in-house while others are produced and aged off-site. To sample a range of their wares I recommend the ‘tagliere di salumi’ (3 salumi of $18) and on Carlo’s recommendation our marble slab contained a melting proscuitto, strongly gamey venison salami and rich lonza made from pork loin, for maximum contrast. The accompanying foccacia was soft and richly oily, the kind of bread that will make you throw your no-carbs resolve out the window.
From the antipasti selection we shared some aracini of the day, crisp balls hiding nuggets of golden pumpkin in our case ($4 each) and the not-to-be-missed 12-hour braised lamb ribs ($16) that had been flash fried, meaning that the meat was crispy and fell easily off the bone without requiring Neanderthal teeth tearing. It was served with a pot of sticky chilli jam, an unexpected Mod Oz culinary touch.
After some time our third antipasti arrived, a spicy njuda atop some rice polenta ($16), which was my least favourite dish as the njuda was stone cold (research indicates that it’s not necessarily supposed to be at that temperature but correct me if I’m wrong) and the overall textural feel was of pappy sameness.
There are only three basic pizzas on offer so we chose one of the pizza specials – anchovy, eggplant and chilli ($18). After an inexplicably long wait it arrived, the base as spectacularly thin as it was possible to imagine and more on the crispy side than chewy. It was delicious and would make a great sharing meal.
It’s not possible to walk past Ombra without gawking at the beautiful still life of sweets displayed in the window. We tried a retro coffee and chocolate cake slathered in cream and a very tart marscapone berry cheesecake ($10 each). The salted caramel profiteroles are calling my name next time and maybe one of the flaky sugar-dusted crostata.
Finally, a word about the service. When we were first arrived Carlo asked us whether we’d like the food to come out in stages. Given that we were perched on a small table and had ordered so widely from the menu this seemed like a sensible option – but what we hadn’t realised was that this meant we waited almost 20-30 minutes between each plate of food and our impromptu drop-in lunch turned into 2 hours of watch-watching. So when Carlo asked me how everything was I ventured that while the food was excellent we thought that it came too slowly. He quickly apologised and without drama removed our cakes and coffee from the bill, an unexpected but appreciated gesture. I’m of the view that if a restaurateur asks you how everything was they genuinely want to know – and if you don’t provide constructive criticism where it’s warranted then how can they improve?
Anyway, Carlo’s management of our complaint turned a rather impatient, slightly stressful dining experience into a very positive one and as a result I will definitely return to Ombra and recommend you try it too. You can relax and graze on the wine and food for a long lunch or drop in for a quick coffee and some nibbles. Just make sure that if you don’t want to linger for too long that you let them know.
Mon – Sat 11:30 am till late
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