Rosa’s Canteen Restaurant Review
As I get older, I am plagued with indecision born of too many choices. Which colour merino jumper at Uni Qlo? Which of the 80 cereals at the supermarket? Which cheap AirBNB with a view for our holiday?
Thus, with my one day train trip into Melbourne from Ballarat, I was spoilt by choice for a lunch venue.
Even when narrowed to Rosa Mitchell’s establishment, another choice was uncovered. The classic Rosa’s Kitchen with the Wino Olds hearty endorsement, or the new Rosa’s Canteen?
As it turned out, we let our bellies, and our feet do the deciding. We wandered into the little eating and shopping hub at 500 Bourke St, looked at the menu for Rosa’s Canteen, and we were sold by the deciding factor of a winter Prosecco with quince.
Up the stairs and we pulled open the door to the brand new establishment.
First thing I saw a sign saying “homemade limoncello”.
I had made the right choice.
We were warmly greeted by the three front of house staff who escorted us to a bar table. From my perch, I could see a beautiful old building with a copper dome on the roof, Frank Commora’s new Movida, and Poco Loco Tacos on the rooftop across the courtyard.
The canteen is crisp in whites and dark wood with grey blinds.
Louvred windows control fresh air which is carefully managed by the staff, accustomed to the changeable Melbourne weather.
On the ‘L’ shaped bar, sit antique, mismatched espresso cups, a stovetop espresso pot steaming steadily, and tasty looking tarts. The cosy tables around this corner are watched over by a cartoon like mural of Rosa cuddling a chicken and her husband.
The bar includes taps in the wall which dispense the house white wine (bianca – pinot gris), a rose (rosata – sangiovese) and red (rosso – cabernet sangiovese).
And just take a look at those cocktails! Torino (Turin) Vermouth, Prosecco and Torino Campari! Yes please! But I do love all things Turin.
Staff return quickly with table water, two Quince Proseccos ($12 each) a Red Peroni ($9) and menus. Apparently Rosa grows, and then cooks the quince herself, just in water. With the prosecco, it lends a nutty, grainy, pear-like flavour to the crisp green apple prosecco.
Service throughout is friendly and attentive but not intrusive.
A perfect aperitif with the complimentary house baked sourdough and grassy, fresh green olive oil.
The compact menu is all killer, no filler.
Choosing is tough.
Before long, polenta chips with anchovy mayo ($13) arrive.
Super crisp, tasty with rosemary and cheese, the polenta chips are perfect building blocks of deliciousness. The cool mayo adds an extra creamy, sweet, salty hit. For vego’s like me, the chippies are just as delicious on their own.
Food friendly is the hallmark of Italian wines, and the house “Rosso” or red was no exception.
House Cabernet Sangiovese
Well Looky Here
Very light, bright, crimson, with nice legs.
Red berries and barnyard. Black pepper.
Not varietally cabernet at all.
Quite savoury, tannins are pretty soft and acid also pretty soft leaves you with lasting raspberry and leather.
Drink with polenta chips or ravioli with nuts and sage butter.
$8 a glass.
Sub – bronze – quaffable.
The Rose from the tap is equally enjoyable.
House Sangiovese Rose
Well Looky Here
Hint of coconut, freshly sliced strawberry.
Lovely and juicy, soft and not too sweet despite the nose.
Drink with the mussel spaghetti with chilli.
$8 a glass.
Sub – bronze – quaffable.
When buffalo mozzarella is on the menu, I can’t resist it. Crostini with green olive tapenade and buffalo mozzarella ($4.50 a piece) is so simple, so delicious, creamy, salty, crunchy, yielding.
Again, unable to resist, we order the Cauliflower ($10) from the sides.
Steamed and then roasted to nutty perfection, napped with a pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and nuts, plenty of parsley and preserved lemon, and salty bursts olives, and the distinct vinegary tang of capers. Loved it so much I tried to recreate it at home (wasn’t as good!).
There was a little wait before our mains came out, being the lunchtime business suit in-n-out rush. We understood and were happy to soak up the atmosphere. By way of thanks, our charming waiter brought dad an extra glass of rosso on the house. Not that’s service.
Spaghetti with mussels, tomato and chilli ($26) was fragrant and beautiful, with a generous portion of plump, sweet, juicy mussels. There was just enough chili heat and the spaghetti was perfectly ‘to the tooth’.
Casarecce is my absolute favourite pasta shape (read about the casarecce I ate at Turi Siciliano in Adelaide here).
Here it was served with a rich pork and fennel ragu ($26), making for another perfect match to the house rosso, or even the savoury rosato.
Any hint of food envy disappeared as my ravioli ($27) was presented.
Light, flavoursome, filling. Crunchy toasted hazelnuts made a marriage of texture and flavour with the sweet pumpkin, salty cheese and herby sage. One of the best Italian dishes I’ve had.
Don’t leave Rosa’s Canteen without one the cannoli ($5), and forget about sharing too. Super flakey, they crumble as you bite, it is fun to eat and lick the ricotta from your fingers.
Coffee ($3), too, is strong and brewed stove top, in the Italian style.
There was another treat in store for us.
Our waiter offered us a complimentary glass of the house made limoncello, aged and infused right on the counter in the restaurant. A blood orange version was next on the agenda.
This was one of those rare meals (like last year’s lunch at Shane Delia’s Maha Melbourne or the stunning meal at Orana in Adelaide) where everything was perfectly in tune.
Lovely surrounds, happy, fun, generous service lending itself to the jovial vibe. Flavoursome, seasonal food. Perfectly matched and reasonably priced beverages.
Go, but save me a table!
TOTAL $176.50 for 3.
Comments make my day – so tell me – What do you want to try the most at Rosa’s Canteen? Have your say below!