by James Ridenour
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Cecconi’s

For me Cecconi’s has long been one of the mainstays of fine dining in Melbourne.  My first recollection of someone I trusted raving about a fine dining establishment was a restaurant manager friend of mine who said Cecconi’s Cantina (back when it was located the Crown Casino Complex) was the finest Italian restaurant in Melbourne.

Cecconi’s made the move to Flinders Lane many years ago and occupies the old Langton’s restaurant.  I worked as Chief Concierge at the Hotel Windsor when this change occurred and I was sad to see Langton’s go but I was thrilled to have such a stalwart in the restaurant industry take up residence in this iconic location.

Today Cecconi’s is still family run.  Nothing escapes Maria’s seasoned matriarchal gaze.  The menu is so extensive it almost defies logic in today’s world of profitability, cost cutting and short cuts.  In fact the menu is changed five to six times a year to cater for seasonal fresh produce.  Cecconi’s defies the odds and delivers on service, value, quality and selection.

One of Melbourne’s greatest experiences is descending the stairs to Cecconi’s to dine.  Walking down the cement stairs with rod iron rails is to some extent like being transported into another world.   You descend into a world of muted tones and expansive open kitchen.  Unlike most restaurant who make the open kitchen choice only a few allow the space of the kitchen to dominate the restaurant.  Compatriots in this category are Rockpool and Vue de monde.  Clearly Cecconi’s kitchen is set to deliver like these two icons of cuisine in the Melbourne dining scene.

For those wishing to have a simple pasta and glass of wine or a light snack the bar area is perfect for this.  There is an extensive bar menu along with one of Melbourne’s best wine lists.  You will often see mid afternoon shoppers or after work crowd gathering here for relaxations and libation.

The dining room is situated on the opposite side of the open kitchen from the bar.  Here tables of varying sizes and configurations combine to make well thought out seating plan.  None of the tables are placed too close to one and other allowing diners privacy, a real luxury in todays world.

The food is divine.  Impressively course and course continues to thrill.  Some of my favourites were the caramelised scallops, creamed parsnip, parsnip chips, smoked bacon, port and sherry vinaigrette, baby herbs.  The golden baby beets, candied beets, roasted hazelnuts with paprika and cayenne, hazelnut oil vinaigrette. Burratta cheese (Buffalo Milk) from That’s Amore Cheese Co.  Another standout was the rotolo of Baked Ricotta, salt roasted butternut pumpkin, parmesan, sage brown butter sauce, house made Fresh amaretti biscuit crumbled on top.  Another standout was the house made Pappardelle, braised beef rump and pork shoulder ragu, red wine, tomato, beef stock and herbs.  For dessert I loved the peanut butter chocolate shortbread, banana butterscotch, peanut gelato and the marsala apples, pie crumble, warm salted caramel, creme fraiche gelato.

Add to this some of the best service in town.  Our waiter has been in the industry for many years and was able to chat knowledgeably about the menu, food preparation, wines along with the restaurant industry in general.  Simply put he knew his competition and he knew how well placed his restaurant is in this extremely competitive industry.

All in all a dinner at Cecconi’s is beyond a special treat.  It is a must for any lover of Italian food.  The best endorsement I can offer is that I am going to take my mother here for dinner when she is in town later in the year.  It will be one of a very few restaurants that we will venture out to as we both love to cook and enjoy meals at home just as much as enjoying the efforts of the best professional chefs.

Cecconi’s is located at 61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne and can be contacted on 03 8663 0500.

 

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