We recently headed across to St Kilda for a meal to celebrate my birthday and Mr M & Saskia’s brother, W’s birthday. W’s birthday fell on a Monday this year, always a tricky night to find a restaurant that is open.
S suggested Cicciolina, the St Kilda institution adored by locals and frequented by regulars. Cicciolina is open every day for lunch and dinner (thus helping us out on a Monday night), although it is a strictly no-bookings affair, something that stresses the anally retentive, control-freak inside me. We arrived early (about 6.30pm) and found the restaurant to be almost empty. However, by about 7 or 7.30 the place was packed. Clearly, it’s all about timing!
According to wiki, Cicciolina loosely translates to ‘cuddles’ and is also the alias of Ilona Staller, a Hungarian-born Italian politician, porn-star, and singer. Interesting. The restaurant’s website plays up to the ‘adult’ connotations of the name, a little confronting if sneakily ‘researching’ during work hours, but I assure you it is all above board!
The space is dark and cosy, with unclothed wooden tables, dimly lit hanging lamps and walls covered in artwork. The atmosphere is relaxed and service is friendly. I can imagine this being a great venue for a dark, romantic date as well as a raucous, wine-soaked meal with friends.
On to the food. Mr M started with the yellowfin tuna carpaccio ($19.50):
I had a taste, it was lovely, with a bit of acidity from the lime olive oil, saltiness from the capers and some bite from the cress.
Saskia had the swimmer crab soufflé ($19.50):
This impressive looking cheesy soufflé was rich and moist, but still fluffy. It sat in a champagne and chive veloute, which was buttery and sweet. Saskia was pleased with her choice. This was one of her favourite dishes, ever.
J & S shared the antipasto platter ($20.50) (apologies for blurriness):
W had the chilli fish cakes ($15.50):
These were served with a pesto mayonnaise that wasn’t particularly strongly flavoured. Asian style fishcakes with a pesto mayonnaise seemed like a weird piece of fusion to me but it seemed to work.
On to mains, W had the salmon linguine with leek, capers, baby spinach and olive oil ($26.50):
He enjoyed his dish.
J had a special, the orecchiette with white anchovy, salted anchovies, shallots, spring onions, garlic, capers and cream ($26.50):
Saskia has the orzo with zucchini flowers, ricotta, lime zest, pine nuts and garlic crumbs ($24.50):
Saskia enjoyed this dish, though it was a touch heavy on the garlic (and she’s a garlic devotee). It was good, but she sort of wished she’d ordered back-to-back crab soufflé instead. So tasty.
Mr M had the slow cooked rabbit ($38.50):
This came with a rabbit, liver, lentil and chorizo ballotine on a potato mash with wilted rocket. This was a good choice, with the rabbit being flavoursome and unctuous. I rarely order rabbit myself, but always enjoy a taste, and this was great.
S and I both chose a special, roast hapuka with tempura zucchini flowers ($39.50)
The dish was meltingly tender, and sat atop a buerre blanc with ruby grapefruit. The zucchini flowers were stuffed with some kind of prawn concoction. It was an enjoyable dish although slightly underflavoured, which seemed strange given how much was happening on the plate. I found myself resorting to quite a bit of salt and pepper and lemon in order to make this dish sing.
On the side, we shared a special of caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes:
Yes, heirloom tomatoes are very ‘in’ at the moment (and we too have succumbed and got on the bandwagon) but they are seriously delicious. So full of flavour, and so far from those bright, almost shiny red tomatoes you get in the supermarket that taste of absolutely nothing. The buffalo mozzarella was rich and delicious. Such a simple but gorgeous dish.
We also shared a pea, fetta and mint salad:
I was a little alarmed to see that the salad contained somewhat wilted iceberg lettuce, but it all worked. Again, very simple but well executed. I’ll be attempting this at home.
On to desserts, Mr M had the sticky date pudding:
As you can see, it was a pretty impressively sized offering and it sat in a pool of butterscotch sauce. Mr M really enjoyed this.
I had the creme brulee with berry compote:
I love creme brulee and this was great – smooth and rich, with the wonderful crack of caramel on the top (I always fondly think of this when eating creme brulee).
J had almond gelato and peach gelato:
The almond was unusual but nice. I didn’t try the peach as I am allergic to it.
All in all, a lovely night in a great atmosphere. Definitely recommended. The only issue is whether you will be able to snag a table! Good luck!
130 Acland St
St Kilda 3182 VIC
Phone: (03) 9525 3333