Ragusa Republika, 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9069 6690
There’s good food to be had on Nelson Place in Williamstown.
Good food created and served in good places by good people.
But, sadly, the overall vibe is rather downbeat when it comes comes to tasty high times.
CTS has discussed this seemingly unchanging situation with many Willy locals and other westies over the years.
Yet no one quite seems to know why it is so.
But in that context, we applaud what Eva Maddox and her crew are doing at Ragusa Republika.
Here there are no shortcuts, cutting of corners or scrimping.
Everything is high class and stylish, the dining room itself elegant and warmed just right on the chilly night we visit.
That hands-on approach extends to just about every aspect of the food, from house-made stocks and on up – everything bar the ice-cream.
Eva and wine expert Pino are enthusiastic out front and Team CTS – Kenny, Bennie, Nat – very much enjoys taking up the invitation of a complementary meal (see full disclosure below).
The prices here are on the high side – but punters most definitely get what they pay for.
The building is gorgeous, extending out the back to a high-ceilinged cathedral-like former chapel.
A forerunner had been running for several years before briefly closing as some behind-the-scenes changes were effected, re-opening in April with “Republika” added to the name and a bright new look – but pretty much the same food line-up.
Our Croatian food adventure starts with a bang and hardly ever lets up.
These warm, fresh-baked rolls are sensational and served with olive oil and (house-made) ajvar (relish).
Zagorski štrukli are traditional baked pastry pillows filled with ricotta and truffle oil ($19).
We get one apiece – and it’s almost like they float to our eager mouths.
The squid ink dumplings that come with crni njoki ($20/$39) are almost as light, though it is the fresh-as calamari with garlic and chilli that truly grabs the attention.
Amid richness, it is the plain that triumphs for us.
The chicken noodle soup is the big hit of the night.
It has just the right amount of oil to lend every mouthful a velvety feel.
And, yep, the noodles are housemade.
We are each served a less-than-full bowl for reviewing purposes.
A full bowl goes for $15 – making for a lovely light lunch when teamed with the complementary bread rolls.
Bennie is very satisfied with his svinjska rebra iz paca sa satarašom ($44).
He reports that while the marinated and roasted pork belly meat is not fall-apart tender, it remains moist and “just right” to his way of thinking.
The accompanying jumble sautéed eggplant, capsicum and tomato is fine.
Ribarska popara – traditional seafood stew with paprika, chilli, tomato and polenta ($42) – juggles the delicate and the lusty just as well as I have been expecting.
The mildly seasoned broth turns from red to a sort-of orange as the polenta gradually blends in.
And the plentful seafood is very, very good.
The one dish that falls short of delighting us is Nat’s lignje u prošeku of roasted calamari with potato, capers and prošek ($41).
For all we know, this could be an outstanding rendition of this dish.
But the combined sweetness of the onions and dessert wine leaves us more puzzled than anything.
Are we up for dessert?
Yes we are!
Well, the Weir portion of tonight’s Team CTS is.
Štrudla od višnje (sour cherry strudel with hazelnut ice cream, $17) and …
… knedle (plum dumplings with plum sauce and sour cream, $17) are every bit as perfect and sweet-with-some-sour as father and son were hoping for.
Will we return to Ragusa Republika under our own steam and as paying customers?
Yes we will – for more of that chicken soup.
Though I also fancy getting stuck into the sarma/stuffed cabbage leaves.
Check out the Ragusa Republika website – including menu – here.
(Consider The Sauce dined at Ragusa Republikat as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Ragusa Republika management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)