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Friday, 9 August 2013

Meatball & Wine Bar Richmond

My Mum's meatballs are pretty awesome. Mine are... okay. Considering they are effectively just lumps of meat, it's hard to see how anyone could turn them into AMAZE-balls and make a whole restaurant out of them. But add Wine, and I'll give anything a go.*

The original Meatball & Wine Bar on Flinders Lane opened roughly a year and a half ago (? CITATION NEEDED! -- oh shit, this isn't Wiki) to a strong reception, and still seems to be going well. I have heard a few "Meh, it's okay"-s, but equally as many, if not more, positive responses, and was keen to sample these balls. (By the way, it's near impossible to write or talk about this place without sounding naughteeeeee... but you can have a lot of fun with it.) Fortunately, MWB recently opened a second venue at 105 Swan Street, Richmond - so close to my work, I had no more excuses not to play ball. (Okay, that was bad, sorry.)

I don't know what the city venue's like, but the Richmond Meatball & Wine Bar is housed in what used to be Bess, a corner-site restaurant I always thought looked nice, but never had the balls to venture into. (Are we tallying these??) It's a sparse, airy space, which the owners have played up with cool white bricks, a partly-exposed cement wall and neon lighting.


Strong textural materials like brown leather, dark wood, wrought iron, and copper finishes warm it up. There is lots of natural light and, over a partial black-and-white-checkered floor, the vibe is clean, relaxed and grown-up, but moody enough to be sexy.

Our meal was a midweek lunch, so we kept it light. A friendly, chilled-out staffer dude recommended a delicious white wine special with toasted almond overtones - very quaffable. Then a bubbly, funky, English waitress explained the menu and, although the restaurant became quite busy, she did a great job of working quickly and efficiently, but never making you feel as though you were on limited time, or not special. I HATE FEELING NOT SPECIAL I liked this girl.

M for Marvellous

The general idea is that you choose your balls (pork, beef, chicken, fish or veg... I know, right, some interesting ones in there), then your sauce (red, white or green... don't worry, they taste better than they sound), and finally your sotto palle (base) (beans, polenta, potato smash, pasta, or veg). It's a choose-your-own-ballsventure. It's not balls-only, though; other menu options include cured meats, mozzarella, sliders, mini balls, jerky, sides, and the excellent dessert offering of a Whoopie Mac (sadly something I have not yet sampled, but fully intend to rectify).

Old-school American style fonts

Well, I was dubious. I mean, HOW GOOD COULD BALLS REALLY BE?!

Answer: Pretty darn-tootin' good.

Despite being simple in theory, it was quite difficult to choose our balls, so we shared stuff. We had...

Chicken balls with red sauce on potato smash

The chicken balls had pistachio and parmesan in them... surprisingly DELICIOUS.

Slider special: pulled lamb

I've normally only had pulled pork before, never lamb. It was much drier than pork, but I liked that, and its flavour went perfectly with the cute l'il brioche buns.

Even though we came out full, I felt like I hadn't tried enough of the multitude of flavours available. So, we went back again for lunch the following week (!) and this time, were not quite as light with our choices.

We started with an amazing burata. It's basically a white cheese ball tied up at the top, like a money bag, and soft on the inside so when you break it, it oozes everywhere (oh lordy). It was served with little gritty, nutty bits, which were a great contrast in texture. My friend described it as a "tasteless egg", or a "cheese water balloon"... I think he liked it, but I thought it was amazing. I'd go back just for that. Burata-me, baby.

The artistic just-happened-to-leave-my-cutlery-like-this shot

We tried different meatballs and sliders this time:

Pork, fennel and orange balls with white sauce on polenta... SO rich and creamy

Delicious crusty bread to mop up the leftovers

Wild boar and mushy pea sliders... taaaaaaaaaastyyyyyyy

The staff kindly indulged my photo-taking. This particular shot reminded me of the decor at Casa Ciuccio. Must be the animal pic.

To add to the overall feel-good experience, a bit of Shazza and the Dap-Kings was playing overhead and I got a warm-and-fuzzy.

Not even a ball-related one.

*Almost anything. My housemate is yet to convince me that I should skydive.

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