I was pretty excited to be finally dining at what I consider to be an institution, Grossi Florentino. The upstairs, fine dining arm of the Guy Grossi empire.
But I was in a bit of dilemma in regards to blogging the experience. I wanted to blog it of course, but I like to have at least a couple of photos to break up the text, and like a lot of people, had seen this article about the restaurant having a no photo policy.
We were celebrating J’s birthday so part of me also wanted to sit back and relax and not even worry about photos. But the dreaded itch to pull my camera out started after we had enjoyed awesome snacks and an amuse bouche of bean soup.
I needed to visit the bathroom and was escorted there by one of the female wait staff. As she held the door open I asked whether they had a no photo policy. She said, “of course not, go crazy, take as many as you like”. I was very happy, and even happier, when over her shoulder, I spotted Grossi himself in the kitchen. I do like it when the main guy or gal is in the kitchen.
So I took some photos. I didn’t go crazy, but I captured most of the dishes we enjoyed from that point on.
And I had to capture the magnificent dining room.
Let’s pause and go back to the beginning. Despite walking past the establishment many times, and even having dessert at the Grill, I wasn’t sure where the entrance to Florentino was. It turns out there is a center doorway off the street and you go up a curved staircase where there is someone standing at the top waiting to greet you, confirm your booking and show you to your table. The main dining room, where we were, is to the left as you come up the stairs. There is a private dining room directly opposite and to the right is the bar, hallway to bathrooms, and to the right of the bar is another smaller dining room.
We were seated at the very end of the long room, next to the exit to the kitchen, so there was a bit of foot traffic but it didn’t bother us. The building is heritage listed so minimum modifications can be made, which I think is a good thing. One can get sick of modern, granite warehouse type places. From the cornices to the murals, to the grape vine red lamps, this is a stunningly beautiful room.
Are you wondering why the lamps are only on down one side of the room? Turns out an insurance commercial was being filmed in the room and the ad people decided to replace the light globes in the lamps with modern ones, which the lamps, being so old and all, didn’t like, and a circuit was blown, leaving those lamps in a non-working state.
After we were seated the waitress asked us about any allergies, which she wrote down on her pad. She then asked about pre-dinner drinks and I had a champagne and J had a negroni. My glass of champagne was poured at the table and what I found interesting is that the glass is seasoned (their word) first. A small amount of champagne was poured into the glass, swirled around to coat the sides and then poured out. A full glass was then poured and served to me.
With our drinks we enjoyed some of the longest grissini sticks I have ever seen, house marinated olives, and an arancini ball stuffed with ragu. The arancini was amazing, and presented sitting on a saucer which was covered with a red and white checked piece of cloth.
We were offered a choice of three different breads, a ciabtta, a sour dough and something else I can’t remember. The bread was accompanied by salt, oil, a salted butter and lardo with herbs. All the bases were truly covered for what to put on the bread! And I discovered I don’t like lardo.
We were then served a bean soup as the amuse bouche. Simple but soooooo good. I could have gone home happy at this point!
It was after the soup that I made my trip to the bathroom (dark, but posh, and has excellent soap and hand lotion options) and returned to my seat to pull the camera out.
Both J and I played around with the settings to get them right for the dark space, and the lovely waitress also offered to take a photo of us.
The first publishable photo was the one I took of our table decoration, an artichoke! (the above picture of the room was taken later on)
We had quite a discussion about artichokes, as Australians seem to use them different to Americans. J attended a BBQ at a friend’s place in California where the artichokes were cooked and then the leaves pulled off and dipped into a sauce before eating. This discussion influenced some of my ordering decisions as I had to have something with artichoke in it after all that talk!
We had originally decided just to have main and dessert, but of course, that all went out the window when we actually got to the restaurant!
J started with the binch albacore tuna (jamon iberico, charred leek, fennel and red onion carpione, toasted brioche). I did not take a photo of this dish (trying to be restrained) but I didn’t believe it was tuna as it had white flesh. J explained that the blood had been drained out.
I don’t have the proper description for my first dish but it consisted of bresaola, pecorino, artichoke and beans.
Great flavours and not too heavy.
We then moved onto the pasta course.
J had the orecchiette (guanciale, anchovies, cime di rapa, chilli, pecorino). Again, no photo but J enjoyed this dish. He did make me try a piece that, as he put it, did not have any anchovy on it. I bit into the al dente pasta, got an appropriate hit of chilli, a taste of cheese, and then my mouth was flooded with the taste of anchovy. Oh dear. I think I pulled quite a range of faces as I tried to chew and swallow the offending mouthful as quickly as possible and then wash it down with copious amounts of water and wine! I really don’t like anchovies!
My pasta dish was the garganelli (braised ox tail, red wine, spice).
The meat wasn’t as soft as I was expecting, it still had some bite to it (possibly supposed to be this way). I asked before I ordered what garganelli was, and as you can see, it is like a large hollow penne. Another great dish and J must have liked it too, as he was more than happy to help me finish it and he normally doesn’t do that.
Somewhere in here we ordered a bottle of white wine to share. The waitress that served us most of the evening asked us what style we liked and was looking for a particular bottle on the list she thought would be suitable but couldn’t find it. She did her wine training in Burgundy so knows her stuff, but said she would get the ‘head som’ (her words, not mine) to help us. He returned with this:
Instead of pouring a taste into our wine glasses, a separate tasting glass was used. I can’t remember if our wine glasses were seasoned or that was only for the bubbles.
I really enjoyed this wine, it had a good mix of acidity but also some richness, and I thought it was a good match to the dishes I had ordered.
J’s main course was the seared John Dory with bulgur, scallop, flat leaf parsley salad, braised endives, kohlrabi, orange.
Mine was roasted partridge with quince puree, glazed chestnuts, truffle reduction, parsnip, partridge leg buckwheat risotto.
I think this dish was the highlight of my meal. I love anything risotto related, but I had never had partridge before (that I can recall). It has a stronger flavour than quail, but is not too meaty or gamey. The bones were left on and a finger bowl was provided if I required it. I did.
I think there was talk of sharing a dessert (there always is), but of course we ended up ordering one each (as we always do). There was a slight mix up with the menus though. J suggested the IL Mandarino Murano, and the Tartufo. However there was no Tartufo listed on the copy of the menu I had. When the waiter came to take our order we asked if the Tartufo was available. He was most apologetic and said that the Tartufo had been on the menu for months and I must have been given an old menu. He immediately whisked the offending menu away to be destroyed.
Before dessert was served, we enjoyed a palate cleanser of Strawberry sorbet, shortbread and house made strawberry jam.
It was the perfect size and the jam was incredible, so much flavour.
I think my eyes might have popped out of my head when the desserts came out, and I saw J’s.
The full description of this dessert is IL Mandarino Murano (sugar ball, mandarin sorbet, shortbread, pearl tapioca, mandarin mousse, green tea cake).
Murano is a series of islands just north of Venice and is famous for its glass makers. This is Grossi’s tribute to these talented people.
The sugar ball is hand made in the kitchen and made a satisfying crack when J tapped it with his spoon.
My dessert was the Tartufo (hazelnut praline, hazelnut mousse, chocolate mousse, amarena cherry, white chocolate crumbs, truffle ice cream)
J commented that we both had desserts that were perfect for us, me with my chocolate and him with his citrus. The white truffle ice-cream was too strong for me, but J happily finished it for me.
We enjoyed our dessert with a half bottle of champagne.
When tasting the champagne, only a tiny amount was poured into the tasting glass and J smelt it and gave it the OK. Once we had a full glass in front of us and tasted it, we realised it was oxidised. We caught the head som’s attention and there was no issue with getting a replacement bottle. For those that are wondering, restaurants send any corked or oxidised bottles back to their suppliers and get refunded, so don’t feel bad about sending an ‘off’ bottle back, the restaurant doesn’t lose out.
The service throughout the night was absolutely exceptional, could not fault it. Guy Grossi came out of the kitchen and did the rounds of the table to say hi, which I think is nice. I also got to say hello to him again as I was standing near the bar waiting for J to use the facilities before we left, and Grossi was leaving for the evening.
I will say that Grossi Florentino is very pricey. For example, when we dined, the mains were $56 each, and all the desserts were $26. It would have to be the most expensive non-degustation meal we have had. There is a degustation menu at $140 per person, so that is very reasonable. We did consider it, but we wanted to pick our own dishes, so went with a la carte. As with everything, we knew the prices going in so can’t really complain, but it is definitely not an everyday dining experience.