|Duck egg salad|
While restaurants don’t tend to do sales the way that shops do, I can often satisfy my love for a bargain by having lunch at a restaurant. Lots of restaurants do reduced price lunches all year with no need to wait for special deals like the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Express lunch. A perfect example is Esposito, Maurice Esposito’s eponymous seafood restaurant in Carlton. Esposito ran the festival’s express lunch deal but all year round it runs a “Loaves and Fishes” deal of $30 for two courses at lunch time.
|Mud crab fritter|
I set off with my fellow bargain hunter Joyce of Mel: Hot or Not (a girl who like me gets excited over discount King Island yoghurt) and her daughter to have the Esposito special lunch. The restaurant is just off Lygon street but is a world away from the street’s typical red sauce pasta places. Inside everything is cool and elegant with heavy white tablecloths, contemporary art and a slightly hushed atomosphere. The maitre de Bruce appeared to know half the diners who walked in but although we were not regulars and eating on the cheap deal he was charm personified.
The deal allows you to choose any dishes from the seafood heavy menu, however smaller servings of the dishes are provided. The dishes we tried reflected great skill in the kitchen and enormous effort, but did not always succeed.
|Spaghettini of the sea|
Esposito’s painstaking assembly was evident in the duck egg salad which featured the runny yolk of a singular egg that had been poached in red wine. The egg yolk was teamed with crushed white beans and slivers of sugared pancetta with the sweet pancetta provided an interesting contrast to the savoury egg. It was a tiny work of art on the plate and although more emphasis seemed to be on appearance than flavour this was an enjoyable enough dish.
The mud crab fritter was spectacular to look at with the fritter surrounded by clouds of foam comprising a sweet corn custard and almond soup. However, disappointingly the fritter was floury and the foam bland.
|Seared rock flathead|
From the mains, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the spaghettini of the sea, was tasty as could be with a rich tomato sauce, swirls of al dente pasta and fat, juicy prawns. However in contrast to the rest of our meal the presentation of the dish was sloppy and uncaring with the prawns thrown to one side of the pasta. A better option was the seared rock flathead which showed off Esposito’s talent for cooking seafood. The fish flaked off the fork and was perfectly cooked and teamed with bouncy slow cooked octopus, and creamy cold potato.
Although we were eating at Esposito on a bargain deal the food we were served was too uneven in quality for me to want to return to experience a full priced meal at the restaurant. It’s high concept food but for me it lacked heart.
Details: Esposito, 162 Elgin Street Carlton 3053 (Ph: 03 9347 9838) Mon- Fri lunch from 12, Mon -Sat dinner from 6pm.
Damage: Reasonable. We had the $30 Loaves and Fishes lunch deal.