by James Ridenour
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Lupino Italian Bistro

I had high expectations when visiting Lupino as it is part owned by Richard Lodge, ex-partner in my favourite Italian restaurant Becco. Lupino did not disappoint. Richard was as always the consummate host and what was supposed to be a pasta and a glass of wine turned into a full meal. I am glad I stayed longer.

Lupino is located at 41 Lt Collins Street in the city, between Spring and Exhibition. The restaurant is nicely fitted out with a modern and clean lines look. Macrame hangings adorn the venue and the look is simple, clean and casual.

Lupino is above all else great food, great value and excellent service. The business model is a bit different than most and it seems to be working a treat. Open continuously from lunch to late from Wednesday to Sunday this restaurant does what many do not, offers excellence throughout the day. You can dare I say eat lunch after 230pm or have an early dinner at 5 and still enjoy the full menu. Most Melbourne restaurants will not venture out of the set lunch and dinner times making anything other than fast food an issue during off-peak times. Thank you Lupino for getting it right, in particular they are open Saturday lunch, a notoriously hard time to find a good restaurant in the city.

The second unusual business model is that all of the staff are salaried. The restaurant is staffed with professionals who want to be there and is shows. They even go so far as to close the restaurant and take holidays at the same time. In effect this ensures that you get the best in food and service without having to pay an arm and a leg. This is the winning point for Melburnians, you get a great restaurant without out the high price tag. Mains are nicely priced from about $20 to $35, much less than the competition however the quality is every bit as good.

I ate the lamb ragu which was perfect for cold winters night; rich, full of tender lamb and a wonderfully rich sauce that I used the bread to soak up the last bit it was so good. A home-made chilli oil was suggested as an accompaniment and it was as promised hot and delicious the perfect cap for a wonderful dish. The salad was fresh, light and perfectly dressed. For dessert I at a home-made rhubarb crumble it was again as promised, amazing.

The wine list is well priced and there is a good selection. This is one restaurant where you can ask advice and know that you will get a professional answer without having to make a car payment!

Over all I was very impressed with the restaurant and have promised to return with my partner for what I have no doubt will be another great experience. I highly recommend Lupino and urge you all to give it a try.

Lupino Italian Bistro is located at 41 Lt Collins Street, Melbourne – Telephone: 03 9639 0333

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