Vegetarians, look away now.
There should be no confusion about what is on offer at The Meatball and Wine Bar – meat, wine along with their best friends cheese and bread. If you are vegetarian and accompanying your carnivorous friends to The Meatball and Wine Bar you can still eat but your choices are limited to a veg ‘meat’ ball, the cheeses and five side salads – though I guess you could compensate by drinking loads of wine and hoeing into an ice-cream Whoopie Mac.
Fortunately I have no such dietary restrictions so I was happy to be invited to taste a meaty selection of the menu.
First up was a charcuterie board laying out four meats (three Australian made, one Italian) and warm focaccia ($24). You can’t go too wrong with a plate of cured meats with me and my favourite was the melt-in-the-mouth Capocollo followed by the earthy truffle salami.
The natural partner of charcuterie is cheese and the cheese board presents a fior di latte, diavoletta (smoked cheese with olive and tomato) and mozzarella di bufala ($24). I highly recommend the mozzarella with its creamy squeakiness heightened by some piquant freshly-cracked pepper.
The highlight item on the menu is of course the meat balls, described tongue in cheek as ‘balls & sauce’ ($14) and ‘balls & all – something for your balls to sit on’ ($18). Basically this means three decisions – 1. choose your meat (or veg) balls 2. Choose your sauce from a red Italian tomato, white sauce and green salsa verde; and 3. Choose an accompaniment – Italian beans, polenta, potato smash, pasta or something green.
We were offered tastings of the pork balls containing Kurobuta pork whole fennel seeds, sage and orange, free range chicken balls with pistachio, muscatels and parmesan, an indulgent béchamel, the lighter pesto sauce, al dente sheets of homemade pasta and a creamy cheesy polenta.
All the flavours are designed to work in whatever combination of balls, sauce and sides you choose but my vote goes for the pork balls with the polenta and if you can stand the richness, folding through the white sauce.
Each serving comes with three balls and even though it may not look substantial it’s definitely the right quantity for one, making it great value for a hearty under-$20 meal.
We also tried the beef balls – made from pasture-fed Angus beef, a little bit of tomato, onion and garlic – within cute trio of sliders (3 for $15). I didn’t enjoy them as much as the main meals – I thought that more sauce was needed as each mouthful was on the dry side, though admittedly it’s difficult to balance such proportions correctly given that you don’t want to make the brioche bun soggy. And as a non-pickle eater generally I must say I really enjoyed the homemade green tomato pickles inside the burger – I’d even say more pickle please!
The only dessert item on the menu is a Whoopie Mac ($11.50) – a huge ball of ice-cream sandwiched between two macaron shells. I’ve never encountered a Whoopie Mac before so I can’t say whether these are great exponents of the dish or not but it was an ice-cream sandwich of positives and negatives. Positive – a huge ball of awesome ice-cream! The vanilla was studded with vanilla seeds, the chocolate was rich and smooth and coffee was strong without any bitterness. Negative – every mac shell was of a can’t-talk-I-have-to-concentrate-on-chewing density. The sticky toffee texture was unlike every French-styled macaron I’ve ever eaten and frankly a bit uncomfortable to eat.
I think The Meatball and Wine Bar will do well in its Flinders Lane location. Care has gone into sourcing quality ingredients and in general the food is well-made, hearty and with comforting home-style touches. The space is funky yet warm and you can choose to have a quick meal at the bar or settle down and make an evening of it at the booths or communal tables.
The Meatball and Wine Bar, 135 Flinders Lane, Melbourne + 61 3 9654 7545