I was a guest recently at the newly-opened Meatball and Wine Bar in Flinders Lane. I had no idea what to expect but my interest was piqued, and arriving to a long cosy room, exposed rough-hewn red brick, the gentle hum of conversation and a warm welcome, I was already feeling at home by the time they offered me an Aperol Spritzer and a seat.
We started the meal with some San Daniele prosciutto and excellent truffle and fennel salamis, but my tastebuds are still talking about the ‘diavoletta’ that came after that…smoked and baked cheese studded with olives and tomato. By god, that was some chewy bitey cheesy goodness. The mozzarella is sourced from cheese makers in local Donnybrook who apparently beat off some stiff competition from Italian-made cheeses, to be included on the menu. Happy days.
And so to the balls. The menu is thoughtfully put together so you can get a taste of everything if you fancy it. You can mix and match balls, sauces and sides, and great care has been taken with the selection of suppliers of each ingredient. Listening to our host, Matteo, describing the lengths they’ve gone to in terms of sourcing the meat, experimenting with mixing cuts and various grinds, to achieve the perfect meatball, you realize there is real passion behind this venture, and when we get our first taste of the beef meatballs, slider style, we couldn’t be more appreciative of their efforts. This ball is pasture-fed Angus, served up within a brioche bun, flanked by Italian tomato sauce and some pickles, perfectly executed.
We also try the chicken balls, made with pistachio, muscatels and Parmesan, which arrive nestled on some glorious folds of house-made pasta, with a creamy white bechamel-style sauce. Heaven.
Our third ball of the evening was the pork, and this was also bursting with rustic flavour. The pork comes from Byron Bay, and is minced together with sage, fennel and orange zest, which provides both acidity and sweetness. This is classic Tuscan fare, served with a pesto salsa verde, and sits atop gorgeous creamy polenta. Bellissimo.
I need to make special mention of the wines, which were also superb, complimenting each dish beautifully. The bulk of what we drank came from Quealy wines at Balnarring, on the Mornington Peninsula, and I’m now hooked on the nicest wine with the kookiest name: ‘Pobblebonk’, which is a Super White and includes a blend of Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Chardonnay (to name about half of what’s in there). A glorious, perfect match for the chicken balls, and a new favourite. We also drank Quealy’s ‘Rageous!’ Sangiovese, Shiraz and Pinot blend, which is their interpretation of a Super Tuscan and a delight to drink with the beef and pork meatballs.
The rest of the wine list features mostly Italian red and white varietals with a few Aussie heroes thrown in from the Barossa, and Heathcote.
As for dessert, if your idea of heaven is a gorgeous giant globe of home-made icecream in a choice of coffee, burnt orange, vanilla or chocolate, sandwiched between two halves of a giant macaron (chocolate, pistachio, berry, or coffee) then you, my friend, have come to the right ball hall.
And for those of us who just can’t get enough balls, they are opening soon for breakfast – the menu is already up on their website. I may or may not have created the Twitter hashtag #getsomeballs. But you really should. http://www.meatballandwinebar.com.au/ 135 Flinders Lane Melbourne ph. 9654 7545