It's Elle's birthday and for the first time in a few years she's actually in the country to celebrate it. We'll be joining Elle and Al at a restaurant none of us have visited before.
If we were to judge a restaurant solely on its external appearance you'd be quite happy with Zio's - it's housed in one of the few remaining two storey Victorian terraces in East Melbourne, wedged as it was between high rise and medical suites.
The dining area has been formed by opening up the two original front rooms - their marble fireplaces remain as do many of the Victorian features. The room looks as if it was last renovated in the late 90's - the menu also seems to be of a similar vintage with only the prices and the presence of wagyu the only nod to present days.
One thing we all found odd was just how meat heavy the mains where - none of us could really see the point in offering three different beef dishes as well as lamb, duck and kangaroo.
To keep us company while waiting for our starters we nibbled on garlic bread:
It was good but I can't remember the last time I've seen it on a menu.
Birthday girl Elle chose: Pan roasted Ricotta Gnocchi with wilted spinach, chestnut mushrooms and crisp bacon ($17.90)
These were surprisingly good - the gnocchi extremely light and fluffy.
Paalo's choice: Risotto of Toulouse Sausage with baby peas and fresh sage ($18.90)
Once again, it was surprisingly good.
Al's choice: Twice Baked Blue Cheese Soufflé served with white asparagus and prosciutto ($20.90)
My choice: Char-grilled balsamic Vinegar Quail with Sweet corn pancake and a muscat glaze ($20.90)
This was probably the least appealing of the starters - the pancake was flat and just seemed it had been cooked a while ago. The quail also didn't have the taste of something that had been freshly cooked and was overdone and a bit tough.
Elle's choice: Oven roasted Lamb Rump (served medium) with roasted pumpkin, ragu of lentils and a lemon thyme reduction ($35.90)
This was quite a large dish and after Elle's fairly large starter most of this was left uneaten.
Paalo's choice: Char-grilled wagyu Scotch Fillet served with mushroom compote, parsnip crisps and café de paris butter ($51.90)
Another large portion of what was a fairly tender piece of scotch.
Al and I both had the same thing: Char-grilled aged grass feed rib eye, flavoured with garlic and rosemary and served with lyonnaise potatoes and pear chutney ($44.90)
Our dishes were similarly large although taste wise they were quite pleasant.
I can't help but think they would be better off shrinking the portion sizes and dropping the prices and adding a bit more variety to the mains.
We didn't have dessert at the restaurant but retreated to Elle's place to sample Al's specially made Brandy Alexander Pie. It was excellent and I should get Al to guest post the recipe on the Cook Blog!
14 Lansdowne Street, East Melbourne
Phone: 9419 0252