Cecconi’s Flinders Lane, Italian Restaurant, CBD

Melbourne, Restaurants / 19 March 2018

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane, the heart of traditional Italian cuisine delivering ultra-modern dining.

Self-proclaimed ‘Grandaddy’ of Italian dining, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane has history and tradition at its core but with a contemporary finish that maintains a current feel. Owners Olimpia Bortolotto, Maria Bortolotto and Anne Parolin have been delivering the goods since 1998; the food sings effortlessly and the restaurant is run flawlessly – and all with a smile that’s very contagious.

Originally located at Crown, Cecconi’s moved to Flinders Lane in 2006, maintaining its superb fare and drawing guests to the top end of Flinders Lane (near Exhibition Street) to neighbour Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Inc. and the like.

When we walked in every seat bar ours appeared filled. But despite the full house we didn’t feel crowded in this spacious arena for Italian dining. ‘Don’t tell too many of your friends to visit, we’re busy like this every night,’ said one of our waiters. And while bookings are advised there’s no need to fret, Cecconi’s hates turning away hungry guests and spaces are always left for walk-ins.

In traditional Italian style we’re offered Prosecco or an Aperol spritz as an apertif. Prosecco is our potion and we enjoy Furlan DOCG Millesimato (FYI DOCG is an Italian government guarantee of the wine’s origin, it is similar to DOC but more superior).

A pre-orchestrated menu by head chef Maurizio Esposito performs a far better job than we would have in covering the most exciting and delicious dishes. Seared scallops with zucchini, morel mushroom and scallop roe jus simply melt in the mouth and I would definitely order them again. Crispy zucchini flowers were a delight – the batter was light and the flowers oozed with pecorino cheese and zucchini purée. De-lish.

Zucchini flowers

If you love pasta, Cecconi’s is for you. Perfectly al dente house-made tagliatelle arrived in a gooey, porcine mushroom ragu with white wine and sage; an indulging dish for fungi lovers. On the lighter side was spaghettini with Moreton Bay bugs, garlic, chilli, white wine and pangrattato (aka bread crumbs), which provided a welcomed textural crunch. The delicate crustacean was cooked impeccably, and not overpowered by the pasta. A luscious 2015 Russolo pinot grigio was the perfect pairing to the white wine-based pasta dishes. It was a favourite around the table; hats off to sommelier and restaurant manager Marc Habib.

Spaghetti with Moreton Bay Bugs

Secondi arrived in the form of slow roasted lamb loin with roasted eggplant, potato crisps and lamb jus, and crispy slow roasted duck with fresh figs, fig purée and mustard leaves. The fig added natural sweetness to the sauce and was a delicious partner for the duck. Although the potato crisps were an interesting choice, the crispy element was essential in balancing the textures of the dish. I’m a big duck fan and often order it when eating out, however the lamb won me over with its tender, juicy meat cooked medium-rare that was absolutely full of flavour. I was surprised these plates were not paired with an Italian red, such as a chianti, however there were no complaints as we revelled in the 2016 pinot noir from Nanny Goat Vineyard Central Otago.

Roasted Lamb Loin

Now I’m not normally a lover of dessert wine, I consider it something I will appreciate further down the line. Nonetheless, the Pantelleria Passito Liquoroso 2015 from Sicily was refreshing and not overly sweet, with flavours of apricot jam and tangerine. The chef’s selection, normally three dishes, included the soft-centred chocolate pudding with fior di latte gelato; fresh figs with cheesecake gelato atop walnut shortbread and thyme honey; peach panna cotta with basil torta and almond crumble; and white chocolate with coconut and crispy raspberry meringue. The panna cotta was the most savoury, but the herbaceous nature of the shortbread dish with thyme honey overtook any potential competition for me. The raspberry dish was delicate, airy, and extremely light for a dessert. Cecconi’s signature chocolate pudding was everything a chocolate pudding should be, and I can confirm that the middle was rich and oozing just the way it should do. I would recommend the chef’s selection and if you can wrangle the signature choc pud onto the plate too then you’ve done well.

Chef's dessert selection

Cecconi’s is known for its handmade pasta, fresh seafood and meat dishes cooked to absolute perfection. The space shouts upmarket, however the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed – simply great service from great staff. It’s the perfect location for a first-rate city meal.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane
61 Flinders Lane Melbourne, Victoria 3000
(03) 8663 0500
Lunch: Mon – Fri from 12 noon
Dinner: Mon – Fri from 5.30pm
Mon – Fri from 7:30am
Breakfast, lunch and dinner