Having just completed my four day journey from Philadelphia to Melbourne with an overnight flight from Singapore, I was hungry. With an early check-in to the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, I was eager to forage for food after reading so many fantastic articles about the Melbourne restaurant/food scene. But I had a problem. I was hungry, the kind of hungry that you shouldn’t be when you go grocery shopping. The Sofitel was attached to an office complex with a small food court – while everything looked nice, I was interested in a uniquely Melbourne experience.
Walked toward the historic Flinders Lane, which houses many “Soho” type of boutiques, cafes and restaurants, I was in search of the award winning Cumulus, Inc. which was recommended for their Modern Australian cooking. Along the way, I passed a few interesting restaurants and smiled when I passed The Meatball & Wine Bar. It looked interesting from the outside and who doesn’t like meatballs and wine? But I was on a mission now to find a cloud.
Finding Cumulus was easy, getting a seat for one was another story with a sad ending – there was no space for me and the wait could be an hour. Now famished, I again passed The Meatball & Wine Bar. This time, fate was practically yelling at me to stop and eat some meatballs! Time for comfort food. Lucky for me the small wine bar had a few options for solo diners – the bar, the high top tables against the wall and a communal table. As it was a Saturday lunchtime in the Central Business District, I had my choice of seating.
Opting for the communal table, I was seated next to a lady with a massive camera on the table, a family of four on the corners and a couple next to me. The waiter arrived quickly to take my order and they like to be a bit cheeky when asking you questions about their balls. I chose the Balls & All for $21
- What kind of balls did I want? There are some serious options to be had – Pork (Black Berkshire pork, fennel, sage, orange), Beef (pasture fed angus), Chicken (organic chicken, pistachio, muscatels and parmesan), Fish (market line caught white fish, dill, lemon) and Veg (cauliflower, chickpeas, coriander)
- What sauce? Red Italian, Creamy White or Green Pesto Salsa Verde
- What should the balls sit on? Options included veg, potato, pasta, etc.
The famished me kept it simple with Beef, Red Italian and Pasta – the classic spaghetti and meatballs in Melbourne with a glass of Australia Red. The tempting menu had cured meats, cheeses, veg options, sliders, desserts and wine so everyone can find something yummy here.
While waiting the camera lady started talking to me – she was a professional artist from Sydney in town with friends for the Melbourne Cup (the Australian Kentucky Derby as the race is said “to stop a nation” as they watch the thoroughbred horse race). I explained my journey from the US and how I had just arrived a few hours ago and this was my first visit to the city. We had a delightful conversation as we ate which was a nice benefit of the communal table – to bring people together.
Happily fed with the tasty meatballs, pasta and wine, I went on to explore the laneways of the city. Little did I realize then that ten days later my last meal in Melbourne would again take me to The Meatball & Wine Bar, this time by choice. It was dinner time on a weeknight and the bar was packed with business folks -the bar was full as was the communal table with a party of ten. I was lucky to get a high top table staring at the the brick wall. Normally this is a nice setup for a couple to be close but solo it was just me staring at the wall thankful that I had a game on my phone to pass the time and flowers to enjoy. Again, I chose the pasta, meatballs and wine figuring that I should end my Melbourne visit as I had started it – happy fed with tasty food and wine.
Sometimes, you want to find the acclaimed restaurant, the one that is trendy, popular, etc. and yet it’s often the comfort food that makes you most happy where you find the good memories. For me, The Meatball & Wine Bar was a happy find to provide Meatball (and Wine) Memories.