Being a public holiday, it was a bit of a struggle to find any decent restaurants that were open on new years day. A drive up and down of Gertrude St, Smith St and Johnston St proved fruitless, as did driving through the CBD. However a quick call to Crown confirmed that all of their restaurants were indeed open, so we happily drove there, knowing that we would be easily able to choose between the likes of Rockpool, Atlantic, and Bistro Guillame amongst others.
While I usually try to avoid Crown like the plague (expect for the restaurants), it actually wasn't too crowded for once. A quick walk down the main row of restaurants along the river confirmed that this would be a hard decision. Most of the restaurants were only half full, and I forgot just how many nice places there were along there. We were pretty set on French at Bistro Guillame until we reached the 'suite' of Neil Perry restaurants at the very end. Having dined quite a few times at Rockpool, and more recently Spice temple, I was quite excited at the prospect of eating again at one of the aforementioned restaurants. However I had forgotten that Rosetta, the Italian offering, had recently opened here. After a quick look at the menu (and the restaurant) we quickly decided this would be our dinner venue.
After entering and getting a table at Rockpool, Spice Temple, and now Rosetta, you notice a common 'vibe' as you walk across the dining rooms of all three. These restaurants feature some of the most personal and friendly service in Melbourne, not to mention incredible fit-outs that transport you to another place entirely. Gone is the noise, riff-raff and flashing lights of the casino; instead you are enveloped in opulent textures and colours that feel luxurious, yet comfortable all at once.
After a few minutes we had forgotten that we were sitting next to the murky Yarra, instead, it was feeling distinctly 'Mediterranean' - mostly I think thanks to the ingenious ceiling and floor heaters that line the outside dining area, and the rosemary growing in the planter boxes next to us. The white and blue colours of the furniture, and the rattan of some of the chairs added to the effect. Most of the people walking past, and all bar the brightest lights of the city across the river were blocked out by the trees separating the restaurant from the river path. The city lights reflected back off some low cloud enhanced the sky colour, and it was a pleasant, hazy, purple/orange hue that filled what I could see of the city skyline.
The menu, while not as expansive as Rockpool, still had many delicous sounding options to choose from. Our fantastic server recommended picking and choosing from all sections of the menu, and sharing - taking the 'journey' in her words. We started with 'Manzo' - beef carpaccio with anchovy dressing and parmesan - I could have happily eaten a huge plate of this, it was simply divine. Vitello tonatto was on the menu - this is something I had been dying to eat again for a few years now, and it did not disappoint. Strangely enough after being plied with house made bread, grissini, delicous wine and these two amazing starters I was feeling quite full already!
After a short break our pasta was served - delicious pillows of roast rabbit, veal and pork agnollotti with sage, covered in a creamy, buttery sauce. The main we chose, the veal cotoletta, while hardly pushing the envelope of culinary imagination, was spectacular - every part as delicious as it was simple. To accompany the veal we chose sides of crispy potatoes, and carrots with ricotta, which were superb.
I should point out at this point that the service (as it always is at a Neil Perry restaurant) was just superb. Every time we began to think about something else, whether it be parmesan for the pasta, or simply some more water, seemingly telepathically our waitress would appear! That said, the service was definitely not obtrusive - there was no constant asking 'how is everything?'. The bread and water seemed to be magically refilling themselves, and the pacing of the dishes coming out of the kitchen was perfect. The staff were all so friendly and accommodating, and we also spied Neil Perry coming out from the kitchen several times to one of the inside tables to talk to the diners seated there.
There was no way we were going to skip the 'dolci', no matter how full. We chose the sumptuous Ciocollato torrone, while also indulging our inner child with the gelati. The pistachio flavoured gelati was simply divine. I have not tasted it's match anywhere (and I have eaten a lot of gelati).
Despite the pain inflicted on our bank balance, it was worth every last cent, and we walked away happy. Happy that we had eaten a meal while being transported halfway around the world, happy for a night away from the kids, and happy to spend some quality time together at such a nice venue. Whilst the expense may keep us away for a while, I would happily go back any time to try out other parts of Rosetta's extremely tempting menu.