Portello Rosso

15 Warburton Ln
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Melbourne is a magical place. You think you know it all then BAM, you turn a corner and there’s something else you had never expected. Portello Rosso is one of those places. It’s so well hidden away, down an alley with nothing except a small rectangle sign to indicate it’s presence.
As soon as we stepped inside, we knew we had struck gold. The front room was classy yet comfortable, the walls lined with exposed brick and bottles of wine. There’s also an upstairs that we never got to see, but I’m completely ok with that, considering they sat us down in full view of the open kitchen. The small tables are just the thing for a cosy date, and the romantic lighting was augmented by flicking candles. Unfortunately that also meant that my photos turned out grainy and horrible, so the moral of the story is: the grainier photos I take, the better date spot it makes. 
I’m so glad I had decided to make a booking on a whim because as it turns out, they weren’t accepting walk-ins until 8pm that day. We watched smugly as several parties got turned away whilst we were having the menu explained to us. On offer was a tantalising $55pp banquet, where the chefs will make it rain 7-9 dishes into our eager mouths. Shame our eager mouths wanted paella, so we regretfully skipped on that. 
Clams cooked with Chilli, Garlic, White Wine and Parsley ($16.5)
Clams cooked with Chilli, Garlic, White Wine and Parsley ($16.5)
We made our start with an exquisite bowl of Clams cooked with Chilli, Garlic, White Wine and Parsley ($16.5). I can’t even begin to say how much I loved this, scoffing down the well-marinated clams with pillow-soft bread that’s been grilled, and then drizzled with garlic oil. The tender little morsels were vivaciously flavoured with chilli and garlic, and I licked the shells clean, loathing to waste even a little bit of it. 
Crispy Pork Belly over Almond and Garlic Puree ($6ea)
As an interlude, we shared a piece of their famous Crispy Pork Belly over Almond and Garlic Puree ($6ea). This was once again astoundingly good, the square of pork cooked to utter tenderness, the fat rendered so it was just a thin, flavoursome layer between the meat and the crackling. But what really made it was the almond and garlic puree. Fragrant from the garlic, nutty from the almond, and just a little bit sour, it gave the richness of the pork belly some much-needed balance and intrigue. 
Paella de Carne ($19.5pp, min. 2 people)
Paella de Carne ($19.5pp, min. 2 people)
But what we’ve really been hanging out for is the Paella de Carne($19.5pp, min. 2 people), a paella stuffed full of all the good things Spain has to offer – Chorizo, Botifarra, Morcilla, plus a plethora of other meats and vegetables. Topped off with a sticky, caramelised bottom, this wasn’t amazing but it was so amazing – comforting, delicious and hearty. If I were Spanish and had an open flame for cooking paellas, I’d make one after a bad day, and eat the entire thing in front of the TV with a season of Futurama. 
Ice Cream Terrine ($9.5)
We were surprised we still had room for dessert after the paella, but luckily we did – for something light anyway. I normally wouldn’t go for ice cream, but this time I’ve been craving it for weeks, so Ice Cream Terrine($9.5) it was. The flavours of the day were Salted Caramel, Pedro Ximenez, and Pistachio, all compressed into a rectangle with hazelnut nougat drizzled across. This was some good ice-cream, and I had trouble picking between the Pedro Ximenez (fruity and a little alcoholic) and Pistachio (nutty with that unique pistachio taste) as my favourite. The crunchy hazelnut praline only made things better. 
Portello Rosso was brilliant. It reminded me once again why I love Spanish food so – simple, good food with bold, intoxicating flavours. Whilst it’s much, much less well known compared to the dominating Spanish presence in Melbourne, MoVida, I think it’s just as good in its own way. And that’s lofty praise indeed coming from me. Go to MoVida if you want your tastebuds titillated, but Portello Rosso is where you want to be for a simple yet outstanding dinner with no pretention.
Rating: 16/20 – viva espańa!
The rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.

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  • Reply sophler 19/05/2013 at 8:52 am

    It looks like an absolutely adorable date spot, and the meals you’ve chosen look divine! I haven’t yet had the chance to visit the city, but when I do, I’ll definitely try and pass by this lane or even MoVida!

    • Reply ming 20/05/2013 at 11:42 am

      Hey thanks for dropping by! The food was certainly lovely and it was great for a date, though we were seated right in front of the air con so it was a bit chilly! I say definitely give both portello rosso and movida a visit – we are so spoilt for choice in Melbourne!

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