September 6 is the anniversary of our first date (now some fifteen years ago) and also our registry office wedding (ten years ago). This year it fell on Fathers' Day, so it was a day of celebratory lunches for many. We had ours at Matteo's, a decades-old fancy Fitzroy restaurant that we'd not visited before. We were constrained to their Fathers' Day set menu (3 courses for $95), but happily found cute little eggplant symbols marking vegetarian options across every course.
We played swapsies on the two veg entrees. I started on the zucchini flowers, which were stuffed with fetta and tempura battered, and set against a rainbow of heirloom beetroots. Under the whole and shaved beetroots was a beetroot puree with a surprising horseradish kick.
The other entree featured cubes of eggplant fried in a thick crunchy batter and glazed with Sichuan pepper and black vinegar. It was set on a basil silken tofu sauce and covered in a cacophonous collection of fresh herbs.
While Michael enjoyed a cocktail and couple glasses of wine from the drinks menu, there were no non-alcoholic options spelt out. With a nudge from Michael, though, one of their staff mocked up a Moscow Mule-inspired soda.
The vegetarian main was very rich and European, and arrived at our table with a heady waft of truffle oil. The dish centred around a brioche moulded charlotte stuffed with truffled mushrooms. It sat atop wilted water spinach in a pool of porcini sauce, with three bafflingly-peeled cherry tomatoes. On top was a poached egg and fresh snow pea shoots.
For dessert, Michael and I went our separate ways. He had a generous board of cheeses with figs and fruit bread, washed down with a glass of muscat.
Meanwhile, I took on the plate of three (really four!) small desserts. They were safe dishes very well executed: a diamond of flourless orange cake topped with burnt orange curd and a candied mandarin; a small pot of vanilla creme brulee garnished with poached apple and rhubarb (my surprise favourite); a dark chocolate fondant; and a spoon of Medjool date icecream.
On its website, Matteo's fancies itself as the "dapper, slightly eccentric aristocrat of Melbourne fine dining". It's modern Australian, but not up-to-the-minute trendy - the heavy tablecloths, plush furnishings and formal service style are quite traditional and this 'fusion' approach has been kicking around a long while too. While our entrees were brightly coloured and flavoured, the mains and desserts were more staid, and the $95 price tag felt a little steep. But this is probably the lot of the Fathers Day set menu, and I remain interested in experiencing their regular vegetarian options.
There are numerous positive blog posts about Matteo's dating back to 2008. See veg blog Nouveau Potato and omni blogs Eat and Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die(t)!, Laws of the Kitchen, The Quest For Noms, The Honest Tongue, Barley Restaurant Reviews, James Ridenour, Ms I-Hua, off the spork, Let's Get Fat Together, My Food Trail, Almost Always Ravenous, Wok You Talking About?, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Cooking Down Under Blog (freebie), Absolutely Famished, Tomato (freebie), Doublecooked, threeForks, ice tea: sugar high, 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights and Eat Almost Anything. There are mixed experiences on BLK's Food Blog and Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog, and disappointment expressed on Capital Food Journal and The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar.
533 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North
Fathers' Day special menu
Accessibility: There is a small step on entry. Tables are quite densely packed. We received full table service. Toilets were gendered, relative narrow, and located up a narrow set of 4-5 steps.