Celebrity chefs are so 2014. What about the unsung hero of restaurants: the service staff? A few weeks ago I was invited to a special dinner at The Grand in Richmond celebrating three of The Grand’s waiting team. Long serving staff members Branco Cokesa, Alex Almatrah and Peter Watt have worked in hospitality for over 40 years and the dinner was fittingly called The Grand Masters in tribute to the trio.
Previous visits to The Grand have confirmed just what a difference these hospitality veterans make to the experience. Service is knowledgable, smooth and most importantly, makes dining there fun. At this special celebration the trio were having a ball: they recounted tales of celebrity diners (including ACDC) and the demanding customer who once requested a Big Mac.
Of course the food at The Grand also delivers. The meal started with Battuta di Tonno: a tuna tartare inspired by Olimpia Bortolotto’s dish served at Cafe Meni’s in St Kilda. Next came the highlight of the meal chef Valerio Nucci’s vincisgrassi lasagne. This traditional dish from the Marche region of Italy includes chopped kidney brains and liver in the ingredients. Something the waiters only tell customers if they ask but it really adds to the flavour.
The main course was a tender roll of porchetta served with roasted carrots, beets and potatoes: this was The Grand’s tribute to Bill Marchetti’s Latin restaurant.
The finale looked to the future rather than the past with The Grand’s “Young Guns in the Kitchen” serving up a white chocolate semifreddo with caramelised rock melon. Each dish was perfectly matched with wines by Peter Watt, in particular I loved the delicate 2012 Oakridge ‘Lusatia Park’ Pinot Noir he paired with the vincisgrassi lasagne. A grand master indeed.
Gourmet Chick was invited to The Grand thanks to my friend Joyce from Mel: Hot or Not.
Details: The Grand Hotel Dining Room, 333 Burnley Street, Richmond (Ph (03) 9429-2530)
Kids: Welcome. The Grand’s owners have a toddler and during the day there are often a few younger children dining. The Grand also has high chairs.