Melba Social, 524 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 2982
Melba Social lives in the premises formerly occupied by Mr Griffiths Alibis & Libations, which closed some time ago.
We don’t know what happened there – its beer, burgers and poutine routine seemed to be going pretty well judging by the people bustle we observed there on numerous occasions.
But … onwards!
Melba Social is up and running just as two other new/newish places – Kensington Food Hall and the revamped Hardimans Hotel – are offering similar offerings, all three joints within a few street numbers of each other.
Of course, we are interested to see what Melba Social tastes like so are happy to accept an invitation taken up by a CTS Team of three (see full disclosure below).
We find the food and service to be lovely, with much of the latter crossing over to very good.
It is mostly straight-up Italian fare here.
Notably, the portion sizes and pricing both serve to generate an impression of good value, that impression given heft by the busy Thursday night of which we are part.
Three entrees for us (see menu below) …
A trio of arincini ($13) – plump, generous and gooey with mozzarella and mushroom, topped by parmesan and rocket, all residing upon a superb, basilised tomato sugo.
“Freaking hot” buffalo wings ($15) are only mildly spicy and look rather drab.
But the proof is in the eating – they taste very fine and the serve is plenty big enough for all of us to have a hearty go.
Oddly enough, it is the entree with the plainest visuals – “smokey” mushrooms ($12, above) – that most impresses.
The panko-crumbed mushies are quite delicate and so, so juicy and tasty.
The queso sauce is very rich.
Thursday night is steak night at Melba Social, though one of the three costs exactly that anyway.
Whatever – my 200-gram porterhouse ($22) is top stuff, delivered just right at medium rare.
I’m normally no fan of mashed spuds that render the lead vegetable into a rich puree with only the faintest tuber vibe.
But here the mash goes not that far and is a fine steak friend.
The “cafe de Paris” butter is somewhat excess to my richness requirements.
The coleslaw is finely chopped and a little wilted – that is, just how I like it.
But I find myself wanting more acid or bite. Or salt.
Julian loves his three cheese gnocchi ($24) with gorgonzola, grana padano and vintage cheddar.
It, too, is a big serve – Bennie and I get a good sample, so fully understand his enthusiasm.
The pasta pillows really are like the proverbial clouds and very wonderful.
Based on his regular experience with this dish at another establishment, Julian wistfully mentions that he would’ve liked to experience some actual bits of cheese in the otherwise entirely smooth sauce.
But even he admits that’s a case of being very, very picky.
I am trying to wean Bennie off chicken burgers – both for his own good and for purposes of CTS diversity.
But he enjoys the Melba Social rendition ($18), noting with thumbs-up approval that he considers his twin chook chunks to be “expertly fried”.
The shoestring chips are $6 extra, just OK and place the package up there into the restaurant burger combo category.
Our minor quibbles about our meal thus far are put behind us as we gleefully devour both desserts on the menu.
They are superb.
Stone fruit and raspberry almond crumble ($10) immediately elicits from me the comment: “This is just like My Mum Makes!”
And that’s all that needs to be said.
A good deal richer and more decadent is “sizzling” brownie ($15).
The brownie square is bigger than it appears and swims in a sticky sauce studded with blueberries.
The vanilla bean ice-cream that accompanies both desserts is excellent.
Melba Social strikes us the sort of place that will become a cherished “local”.
(Consider The Sauce dined at Melba Social as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Melba Social management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)