30 Russell Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I am a big puddle of sad, weepy tears. Chris finally talked me into seeing Inside Out last weekend – I love Pixar but hate going to the movies – and now everything is ruined. I wouldn’t recommend Inside Out to anyone unless they have a fondness for having their hearts ripped out of their chests with a gnarled claw.
It is an outstanding movie though; good job Pixar, you’ve outdone yourselves – again!
Going back to a happier time, a pre-Inside Out time, I came across Neapoli Wine Bar whilst looking for a restaurant that served both nice food and vermouth. The name rang no bells, but when I turned off Bourke Street, I immediately recognised the stylish wine bar, perched monolithically over the footpath.
Despite its rather urbane exterior, Neapoli was as cosy as my chocolate-orange tea. Whilst the bottom floor was mostly occupied by the bar, a set of stairs led to a warm, dim loft and flickering candlelight. It was love at first sight for both of us, I think.
Starting the night was a glass of Cocchi Americano Bianco ($8.5), a sweet, rich Italian vermouth with astringent after-notes of citrus and herbs.
My freshly shucked Oyster ($3.5), swimming in a shallow pool of brine, slipped plumply and sensuously down the throat. Though I still find natural oysters a bit overwhelming, this one was creamy, mild, and easy on the palate. I can definitely say that I’m getting the hang of this!
The Lamb Cutlet, Cracked Wheat and Tahini ($6.5ea) was altogether a much earthier affair. The medallion of grilled lamb with its charred edges was accompanied by a sharp little salad. The lamb was sneaking towards dry, but the fresh greens, dressed with generous amounts of lemon, made up for it.
The Tempura Crab and Chipotle Slider ($9ea) was serious business. The squishy bun sandwiched an entire soft shell crab, its crisp juiciness complemented with a smear of chipotle mayo. There was also some charred corn salsa which we couldn’t really taste over the crab but frankly, I don’t see that as a problem.
I’m a sucker for Chicken Liver Pate ($9), especially when it’s served with a stack of woodfire-grilled bread. The rosy quenelle of pate was thick and smooth, suffused with the distinctive aroma of liver and brandy.
Spreading easily over the toast, the pate was deliciously rich and pungent. And for those who aren’t as keen on liver, the sticky pickled onions did a great job in drawing out the creamy sweetness in the pate.
As a foil for richness of the pate, we scooped up mouthfuls of Ceviche of Hervey Bay Scallops and Yellowfin Tuna ($15). Ceviche is a bit of a misnomer in this case, as the tuna was cooked, thus making it more of a seafood salad. Splitting hairs aside, it was seasoned liberally with lemon juice, jalapenos, and coriander for a zesty Mexican-influenced bite that made the mouth water.
We both had late lunches that day, so we decided to call it quits with a couple of scoops of Gelato ($3/scoop). Churned in-house, the Fior di Latte was silky smooth and extra creamy, whilst the Saffron and Chocolate had tiny chocolate chips and a hint of spicy woodiness. Top notch finale.
Aside from professional and personal accomplishment, I have to say that what I love the most about working full time is the money, because it lets me check out all sorts of new and intriguing places – like this one. Without the worry that the meal I’m dropping $60 on may turn out to be a dud, I’ve become both more adventurous and more relaxed when I choose my places to eat. And thank goodness too, because despite the food being just a teensy weensy bit pedestrian, Neapoli is a gem.