MELBOURNE | Caffe La Via Malvern has been around since 1999, and while its been a consistently popular spot with locals, the management that took over in 2012 decided that it was time to spruce things up a bit to keep the place relevant. The interior has been modernised with help from long time St Ali collaborator Richie Brownfield, who amongst other things, designed the timber furniture, much of which uses reclaimed roof beams from a fire station in Ballarat. While the menu still heavily relies on the Italian favourites that it’s known for, there’s now more of a modern-Australian flair to the menu, with a range of dishes inspired some of the other cuisines that Melburnians are enjoying today – Modern Australian dining with Mediterranean influences. The City Lane was invited to sample the new menu, so we headed down to see what it was all about.
The coffee offering has been stepped up a notch, with beans coming from Sensory Lab. I had to take a photo of the new coffee machine which is quite an impressive unit. A brand that I haven’t come across before, Victoria Arduino have been making espresso machines since 1905 and this is their flagship model which is used in espresso competitions around the world – the 388 Black Eagle.
The drinks offering contains a range of wines, and cocktails, along with a few beers (although they aren’t the focus). I only discovered recently that Cricketer’s Arms was bought out by Asahi. Don’t be surprised to see more of their beers, along with another recent acquisition Mountain Goat, on the taps of places that currently stock Asahi in the future.
The Aperol Spritz’, which used Zuccolo Prosecco, got the balance between bitter and sweet just right and were a great way to start the warm evening.
Moving onto the food, and the menu includes an assortment of cafe style food during the day that moves onto a more substantial selection of food with a focus on sharing in the evening. Throughout, there is an emphasis on using fresh, local produce.
Battered Zucchini Flowers Stuffed With Ricotta
The battered zucchini flowers were served with mint sauce and provided a nice start to the dinner. The batter was light, and the mint served to add a further burst of freshness to each bite.
2 Point Honey And Rosemary Lamb Rack
This was one of the more simple dishes of evening but also one of the most satisfying. A beautifully cooked spring lamb rack glazed with the classic flavour combination of honey and rosemary.
Chicken And Oregano Spiedini With Roasted Marinated Capsicum
This was one of the highlights of the evening, and again was a very simple dish. Everybody at the table was unsure what “spiedini” was – it’s basically pan fried crumbed chicken. The chicken was moist and tender, the crumbing light and crunch and the marinated capsicum nice and tangy. Basic food done well.
Soft Shell Black Crab Bun
Many of us thought that the menu was going to be very Italian focus and were surprised when the soft shell black crab bun was served. It was served ona Japanese Tang Zhong bun with home-made radish
and vinaigrette slaw, miso mayo, edible herbs & citrus. It was very delicious, with the flavours combining very nicely and the textural complexity being much appreciated. There was a very good amount of crab in this bun and it really filled us up.
650gm Cape Grim Rib Eye, Whole Marinated & Slow Roasted Jerk Spatchcock, Soft Polenta, Roasted Butternut Pumpkin, Grilled Asparagus
By this stage everybody at the table was full, and we weren’t expecting what was to come out next. The rib eye was nicely crusted on the outside, although there was some inconsistency as to the level which it was cooked. The one on our table was medium but others did comment that their steak was well done. Regardless, there’s no doubting the quality of the ingredients and our steak was very tasty.
The slow roasted jerk spatchcock didn’t quite hit the spice levels we were expecting when we saw the word “jerk” mentioned but it was very tasty and tender. The roasted butternut pumpkin was one of the more simple things we ate during the night, served with garlic yoghurt and burnt butter while the grilled asparagus were served with with chilli and shaved parmesan. Both really nice sides with a good balance of flavours. The polenta was probably the least impressive of the sides. Not that it wasn’t good, just that the others were better in comparison.
Pear Crumble Pizzetta
The pear crumble pizzetta was topped with slow poached pear, crispy crumble, salted caramel & ice cream. This tasty dessert was lighter than anticipated but as sweet as was expected. The cold ice cream provided a nice counterbalance to the warmth of the rest of the ingredients.
Sticky Date Pudding With Warm Butterscotch Sauce
The sticky date pudding was a much simpler affair than the pizzetta, but equally as tasty. Simply a classic sticky date pudding done well. Moist on the inside with a nice caramelised exterior.
We never visited the old Caffe La Via but were very happy with the food we were treated to during the evening. The food isn’t experimental and certainly doesn’t have that wow factor that you get with some Melbourne restaurants but that’s not really the point. What Caffe La Via does right is to stick to the ethos of what has made it a popular spot with locals since 1999. Honest food, quality ingredients and a focus on great taste and good service. The new menu and revamped interior means that Caffe La Via will continue to serve those who walk through its doors very well for many years to come.
Caffe La Via
252 Glenferrie Road
Mon – Wed: 6:00am to 10:00pm
Thu – Sat: 6:00am to 10:30pm
Sun: 7:00am to 10:00pm