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Look behind Grossi Florentino to find a place of Italian wines, spaghetti and late-night mischief
Melbourne is a city of laneways and obscure dead ends wherein lie some of the rarest jewels of our hospitality industry. It’s good to see the Grossi family, custodians of the service lane behind their upper Bourke Street empire, finally realise the obligations to the citizenry of Melbourne. A nondescript, dumpster-strewn alley no more, Mornane Place has finally borne fruit with the arrival of a very late night bar with some seriously good eats.
A city cannot have too many places like Arlechin. Beneath the sexily arched cork-lined ceiling lurks a place that feels like a subterranean clubhouse. It has long marble bar, seating for 40, clever lighting and a good part of the Grossi cellar stored behind glass like a votive offering to the god Bacchus. The wine list is as Aussie-Italian as the Grossis themselves, with plenty you’ll recognise and a subset that will have you plugging grape varietals into Google. A push into the world of cocktails has seen Grossi neighbour Joe Jones of Romeo Lane enlisted to the cause. Order the Half Moon, a bracingly evil combination of mescal and cynar with orange bitters and a grapefruit twist over one of those hologram-like Navy Strength ice cubes, and applaud the wisdom of outsourcing.
Even if you’re planning to be tucked up in bed by 10pm, the midnight spaghetti will play ball with your timetable. This is no booze-sopping gut-buster – it’s a dainty twirl of rigorously al dente spaghetti capturing a flavour burst of sugo, salty giant capers and sweet basil leaves. It’s kind of like an aerodynamic puttanesca, with colatura (Guy Grossi’s got a thing for this liquid anchovy sauce) standing in situ for the wee fish. It’s Italian sophistication on a plate.
Grossi’s menu is a complete snack attack: a punchy list of 15 or so sub-$20 wonders with the added bonus that most require one hand to eat. The Bolognese jaffle is a no-brainer. The luscious smoosh of smoked eel parfait does well under its sharp hat of Madeira jelly. Garlicky baccala whipped to within an inch of its life saddles up in a petite toasted milk bun with caramelised swatches of buttery leek. More al dente action arrives in the form of risoni, that rice-imitating pasta cooked like risotto in a heady saffron stock with dabs of smoked bone marrow. Surf clams come as nature intended: in a garlicky white wine and parsley broth.
One of the best things about Arlechin is that it’s open until three. Yep, that’s three in the AM. With another suave newcomer, Mayfair, serving oh là là snackage over at Sofitel until 1am, it looks like Melbourne might be getting over its food equivalent of the six o’clock swill. But they can’t do it without your support. So saddle up for some late-night eating. Set the alarm and roll out of bed for a date with post-midnight spaghetti, if you must, because this is the kind of thing we need to see more of. In fact, Arlechin wins our Bar Award for Best Late Night Venue for 2018.