Tag Archives: Italian

Restaurant Review: Marchetti

Marchetti at Tattersall's Arcade












Though laneways are where the media buzz is these days, I’m all about the arcades. The much fêted laneway offers urban grit and sometimes, if there are there are the right kind of bins around, fragrant urban decay. They hide secret entries and hold within them cool bars and cafes, ready to be discovered by the sophisticated urban adventurer. Arcades are a little more genteel, with their soft filtered light and Victorian or Art Deco details. Rather than hide, they beguile passersby with the promise of aesthetically elevated havens, suckling small stores brimful of niche wares and services. A respite from the homogeny of modern malls.

Without the embrace of a friend or lover, but with only my own company for lunch recently, Marchetti at the Tattersall’s Arcade was just what I needed. With its vaulted ceilings and terrazzo floors, this small arcade just off the Queen Street Mall was built in the early 1920′s and provides an excellent vantage point for watching the comings and goings of members of the upstairs Tattersall’s Club. Sharing the same architects as City Hall, there’s a kind of quiet grandeur at work here, though on a smaller scale. The ceiling friezes adorned with horses reflect founding purpose of the club as a meeting place for wealthy businessmen keen for a punt and members of the thoroughbred horseracing industry. The name itself is borrowed from the London horse auctions founded in 1776. So some history to draw on.

Occupying a small space at the apex of the arcade, Marchetti draws from a different history altogether, though there is a distinct continuity with the level of style and sophistication surrounding it. Seating around 30, there is a central upholstered banquette in the arcade itself from which I observed couple of well heeled socialites waving and blowing air kisses to passing Tatts members. Inside, there’s more discreet seating at a counter for those seeking a different experience. The interior weaves together muted golds, browns and blues with geometric patterns, dark timber and low lighting to create an elegant space that echoes contintental styling of neighbourhood bars and cafes of Italy. It’s a welcoming space that I was in no hurry to leave. Noted for his previous work on the design of Esquire, architect Stephen Cameron again successfully creates a space which invites you to slow down and relax.

And so to the food, which could in such a location be a second thought. There’s Allpress espresso and Italian pastries like flaky sfogliatelle, served by an all star Italian female cast. An all day breakfast features Sicilian baked eggs, omeletta and toasted panino. Lunch offers a short but appealing menu with options like cauliflower and white truffle soup, polpette with napoli sauce, eggplant parmagiana and antipasto plates. I choose vitello tonnato on my visit, a favourite I find hard to go past on any menu. The Marchetti version has large rustic slices of poached veal fanned on the plate with thick slashes of salty, creamy tuna mayonnaise, jewel like tiny capers, plump anchovies and unusually, whole black peppercorns. At first the crunch catches me off guard though they add a textural interest I grow to enjoy as I eat. Perhaps one for those with less sound dental work to look out for. The plate wears a petite crown of herbs rather than the advertised rocket salad. I think they suit the dish better visually. With a glass of Caranto Pinot Noir, it makes a most enjoyable light lunch. A short list of cannily chosen wines by the glass or bottle are offered along with San Pellegrino soft drinks.

Looking for an excuse to linger a little longer, I sampled the nutella and hazelnut rotolo topped with amarena cherries and a flat white. Both impeccable, much like everything about Marchetti.

Tattersalls Arcade
202 Edward Street, Brisbane City
Phone: 07 3003 1344
Mon-Fri 7am to 4pm
Sat 8:30am to 3pm



The Spaghettihouse Trattoria, West End

I’m always dubious about restaurants with long menus. How can the kitchen possibly cook all of them well? Alarm bells went off as I was handed the menu at The Spaghettihouse Trattoria, a new Italian restaurant on Boundary Street at West End.

A relative newcomer to this restaurant strip, I’d watched the fitout of this place with interest. That they hung their sign while the fitout was still underway signalled that there might be experienced operators behind this place. There’s nothing groundbreakingly or original about Spaghettihouse. As the name suggests, the menu has a strong focus on pasta – with no less than 28 pasta dishes listed on the menu and another 3 or 4 pasta specials scrawled on the gilt framed mirrors that line the narrow dining room. Along with this feast of pasta, there’s some typical trattoria style dishes like fritto misto, veal variously saltimbocca, scalloppine, parmigiana and involtini alla Milanese (stuffed veal bearing spinach and mozzarella and wrapped in pancetta with a marsala cream sauce). Should veal not be your thing, try the pollo alla piccata – that’s chicken Kiev given an Italian accent. By now you’re either hungry or weary. If you’re hungry, then I would commend Spaghettihouse to you.

There’s something about Spaghettihouse that makes you feel a little bit like you’ve entered a time warp. Racks of wine in the windows, raffia-matted pine chairs and European chandeliers. Jazz standards play. Is it Frank Sinatra? And no, that’s not Nat King Cole. Ah, but that is Dean Martin! Sade’s ‘Diamond Life’ is up next, unmistakable as the first track, ‘Smooth Operator’ begins to play. It’s not 1995, but in context, it all seems agreeable enough. There’s no candles in chianti bottles and no red checked table cloths, so a tip of the hat to modernity there, though they’d suit the atmosphere and the style of food. It’s an impressive feat to take a restaurant open for months not years and give it this kind of comfort-worn feeling.

Service here is attentive and charming without being polished or formal. A small troupe of young Italian men in red aprons take care of orders, wine, running plates and peripheral requests. This being West End, there’s a perfectly-audible-at-the-next-table request for a dish to be changed to accommodate the ethics and preferences of a diner. Despite the complexity of the request and the entitled attitude it’s made with, they handle it with aplomb. Back at our own table, when a dish of fried calamari isn’t available due to a technical issue, a substitute dish of grilled fontina with garlic and rosemary served with crusty bread is offered. It’s wickedly good. Service is in the warm and generous vein of Italian hospitality, even if perhaps a combination accents and background noise sometimes lead to a breakdown in communication. Another entrée of eggplant melanzane looks and tastes good, but could have done with a few more minutes under the grill to melt the cheese and colour the eggplant to give it a more pleasing silken texture and sweetness. The tomato sauce its served with is packed with flavour and richness.

It’s worth noting that prices at Spaghettihouse are pretty keen with the most expensive dishes at $26.90, which is for shellfish ‘Pasta Speciale’ dishes. With my ever reliable inclination towards expensive tastes, I opted for the saffron linguine with scampi and a cream seafood bisque. This dish hit all the right notes – just the right amount of garlic, background notes of saffron with the seafood bisque sauce providing plenty of depth of flavour without being rich or cloying. Good value too with three fresh and firm halved scampi arranged atop the nicely al dente linguine. A glass of Soave was a good match for this dish, and there’s a decent selection of Italian, Australian and NZ  red and white wines on offer, as well as some more serious Italian bottles. Each of the Italian wines has a concise and easy to operate tasting note, with prices by the glass starting from $6.50. Wine is served in quality stemless glasses, which suit the casual trattoria feel.

Desserts cleave to the Italian classics of panna cotta, tiramisu and gelato with rather delicious sounding semifreddo of mascarpone, berries and torrone (Italian almond nougat)  for something a little different. Somehow we wound up with a tiramisu being called away and glasses of Averna and limoncello presented by our unfailingly smiley waiter. The tiramisu arrived in a giant martini glass with savoiardi biscuits arranged in a sort of crown around the rim. Retro presentation aside, it tasted good, with plenty of punch from the espresso and Frangelico soaked biscuits.

Spaghettihouse offers the kind of food and hospitality that’s hard not to love. There’s nothing confronting or challenging here, and for this reason I reckon it would be a great place to meet for a family dinner or with the sort of mates who don’t Instagram their food, wine and coffee.

There’s no great heights scaled, but rather a good, solid, bums on seats, plates and glasses full kind of good time vibe to this place.

The Spaghettihouse Trattoria
Shop B, 120 Boundary Street, West End
Phone: 07 3244 4844
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 11:30am – 3pm; 5:30pm – 10pm