At 8pm on a balmy Wednesday evening Bar Idda was pumping. Every outside table was filled with people tucking into food and wine, inside the tables were packed and the wait staff were almost run off their feet. Thankfully, unlike so many other great Melbourne food haunts, Bar Idda does allow bookings so our meal was certain. Unfortunately, the two-sittings-a-night (6pm and 8pm) policy meant we arrived ravenous.
Shoe horned in to the large back table, we immediately ordered some pre-drinks and nibbles while we waited for our dining companions. The Sicilian Spritzer (made of Rosso Antico, Cinzano Bianco and gassosa) was a perfect drink for a hot night – cool, tart and refreshing:
I could seriously drink a lot of these, and Bar Idda realises this by offering them either by the glass or by the jug. Definitely a jug next time!
We also ordered the green olives (marinated with fennel and lemon) and the salami platter with smoked provolone (apologies for the dodgy photos):
These arrived at the table as our friends arrived and were promptly demolished.
Our hunger had only somewhat abated, so we immediately turned to the menu for more. Bar Idda is a shared plate type of place and the menu is divided into small starters, main sized meals and sides. With the advice from our waiter, the six of us ordered 2 entrees, 5 mains and 3 side dishes.
Everything began arriving at once: sardines, pork and fennel sausage and pistachio encrusted lamb cutlets:
The sardines were served fried, coated in semolina with fresh lemon, with some great crunch from the batter. The fennel and pork sausage (which looked a little strange) was strongly flavoured of fennel and the capsicum relish added some sweetness. The cutlets were quite simple, tender and coated in a pistachio batter.
The mains arrived, firstly the rabbit. It had been stewed with carrot, capers, olives and sultanas and sat atop a bed of couscous. The rabbit flavoursome, unctuous and falling apart in my mouth.
The grilled fish (I think it was swordfish) was perfectly cooked and perfectly unadorned.
The side dishes we had were as follows:
The potatoes with mayonnaise/aioli were a little bland. The chicory salad made up for this, with the strong flavour from the leaves together with a simple dressing. The best of the sides was the broadbean, pea and asparagus salad with spanish onion and breadcrumbs – this was well judged with sweetness from the onion, crunch from the breadcrumbs and the freshness of the greenery.
So we had managed to put quite a bit of food away, but the dessert menu beckoned. I ordered the gelato, which turned out to be cinnamon flavoured:
The gelato was excellent, particularly on a warm night – the flavour of the cinnamon was perfectly judged.
Around the table a range of other desserts were ordered:
The cassata was seriously good, even with the lurid green icing. Sandwiched between layers of boozy soaked sponge was whipped ricotta studded with dried fruit. The cannoli was reportedly pretty good as well – crisp outer with a rich chocolately filling. Finally, the fig stuffed cake – dense, sweet and rich.
As we got up to leave, I realised that while we were eating the place had emptied (I guess it was 10.30pm on a Wednesday):
All in all, it was a very solid meal. Bar Idda aims for simple Sicilian food and does this very well. I felt that some of the dishes could have had a bit more punch or interest, perhaps this was particularly so after my great meal at Gigibaba. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable night and I think I’ll be back (particularly for a jug or two of the Sicilian Spritzer!!).
UPDATE: We have since returned, for a meal with friends as part of Mr M’s thirtieth celebrations. We sat in the upstairs room, ordered the set menu and had a raucous time. Still highly recommended!
132 Lygon Street,
East Brunswick (at Rumi’s old premises)
Ph: (03) 9380 5339