For those who are familiar with the nightlife and times of Little Collins Street, newcomer Lupino occupies an unlikely space – the former site of Champagne Lounge.
After the initial shock (the Champagne Lounge has closed!), one marvels at the transformation – gone is the DJ booth, the faux leather couches and the sticky floors. From the newly whitewashed walls to the generous displays of dried pasta, pickling olives and some very large jars of Nutella, it’s unrecognisable. From beneath the dancefloor, a little gem has emerged.
We’re in a party of nine, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We descend on a pre-booked table in the back – it’s big and square rather than long and rectangular, so we can actually converse as a group, which is great. As the owners are only six weeks in, they’re yet to establish a set menu for group bookings, so we’re asked to share a whole lot of entrees to start with, before moving to a la carte for mains and dessert. We’re more than happy to oblige, and before too long, the table is groaning with dishes.
Highlights include an amazing goats-cheese souffle with a creamy double-something white sauce (so good), the homemade olives and warm, crusty bread. We also have two pizzas (one with rosemary and sea salt and one with tomato and boccocini), with the thinniest woodfired bases. There are some antipasto and meatball dishes too, which are reportedly delicious. The service is friendly but never rushed, which gives us plenty of time to settle in and chat.
Moving on to mains. You know that unspoken rule where you avoid ordering the same thing as your other dining companions? When it comes to the gnocchi quattro formaggio, this goes out the window. I think at least four of us order it, and no-one feels apologetic. It has four cheeses, for god’s sake!
We can’t quite work out what each of the four cheeses are – taleggio? Ricotta? A very mild blue? Whatever goes into that thick, thick, creamy sauce, it tastes delicious. The gnocchi is perfection, it melts.
In the meantime, I join the birthday girl in knocking back a very delicious white wine, which is a soave from the Veneto region of Italy. It went very well with all that cheese …
A few of us have room for dessert – which looks great, but I will have to save it for another time … very soon.
Ah, Lupino – where have you been all my life? Easy yet classy and modern Italian in the city, with beautiful food at reasonable prices. This could be the start of something beautiful …
41 Little Collins Street, Melbourne