I had been given a strong steer from the restaurant manager at Amaru that I should check out Tipo 00 and/or its next door sister place Osteria Ilaria.
I found Tipo characteristically busy so headed to Ilaria which while also buzzing had a couple of potential corners into which to squeeze me. I opted for a seat at the kitchen bar so I could watch the chefs at work.
As the name suggests, Osteria Ilaria is Italian in focus. It was described to me as being a little more structured than Tipo’s pasta bar, but it still has a fairly informal feel to it.
I started with a glass of Champagne while I perused the menu. It’s focussed on sharing dishes in progressively larger sizes as you go down the list. I was pleased to see the final entry offered a chef’s selection which cost $80.
I asked if they would pair some drinks and they were happy to do so. They offered “classic” or “innovative and experimental” matchers so I obviously chose the latter.
First up we had a fennel ciabatta roll which came with excellent butter. A little snack of a porcini mushroom croquette promptly followed. It was stratospherically good and one of the highlights of what proved to be an exceptional meal.
Lightly cured ocean trout, almond emulsion, camomile oil and foraged leaves was the next dish. This was accomplished stuff with a really high quality piece of fish at its heart.
An elegant looking plate of buffalo mozzarella, yellow beetroot ribbons, and purple beetroot sauce was the last of the snack style dishes. It was another winner.
We then moved on to an incredible seared baby octopus in nduja sauce. This was pared-back simplicity with an outstanding central element showcased to best advantage.
Beautifully al dente paccheri with Crystal Bay prawns and sorrel and tomato sauces was a highly pleasing pasta course.
The main course was pork neck fillet with celeriac, served with an asparagus side salad. The pork was excellent, with immense flavour and tenderness. Accompaniments were first rate.
Desserts were a chocolate millefeuille and rhubarb semifreddo. The latter had an excellent array of textures with jelly and crumb. Both were excellent.
Throughout, the paired drinks were an absolute joy with some of the most creative matchers I’ve seen. From biodynamic chenin blanc to wonderfully complex vermouth with the octopus to stellar chinato with the desserts, this was outstanding work reflecting their exceptional drinks offering.
So overall, Osteria Ilaria served me a meal of supreme quality and charm. I loved the whole set-up of the place, the atmosphere and buzz of the open kitchen, and the hugely impressive array of dishes, all of which were delivered to a quite magical standard. Make sure Ilaria is on your list for a visit next time you’re in the city.
Blythe scores Osteria Ilaria
5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
5/5 for service
4.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 18.5/20
I ate: chef’s selection
I drank: Champagne, chenin blanc, friulano, sweet vermouth, corbiere, amontillado, marsala, chinato, amaro dilei, espresso
I wore: linens
Total bill: $161
Address: Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000