Dear Readers, I’m currently going through another food crave and this time the victim is ‘Polenta’ not sure what started but all of a sudden I have constant cravings for it! In cakes, part of a dish or chips everything and anything with polenta I want it! Hahaha you don’t need to be too worried about me, I go through many phases every year actually every month, soon enough I’ll get over it :D
So in my quest for the best polenta dishes in Melbourne, I turned to Twitter and asked my dear friends ~ There were a few suggestions Libby (The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar), Ash (Im So Hungree) and Amy (Melbourne Food Snob) all suggested The Mess Hall on Bourke St. I haven’t heard of it before nor visited but realized that it was one of those oldie but goodie restaurants that have been around for quite a few years.
Initially wanted to catch up with Libby and Ash as well, but seems like April is a busy month, so Amy and I caught up with our partners :) The boys start off with a drink, a Gypsy Pear cider for Mr Bao ($8.5), he’s really into ciders lately which is fine because I prefer it much more than beer ~ It’s quite light tasting and not too sweet for him.
First thing we ordered was the polenta chips with parmesan and roasted garlic aioli. I couldn’t withhold my excitement when i saw these golden fingers! I took a polenta chip smeared a thick layer of garlic aioli over it and immediately popped it into my mouth. But unfortunately, it didn’t have the ‘crunch’ factor I was longing for… it didn’t feel very hot either like they had pre-fried them but flavours were great not too salty or bland. A shame as I’ve heard that the chips are usually piping hot and super crunchy :(
Another starter was the arancini with herb mayo they were super tasty with blue cheese filling inside as well, but the risotto was a little hard in my opinion. But I’ve heard that traditionally there should be a bit to risotto and I assume with arancinis as well ~
Moving onto something more substantial the Bianca pizza with pumpkin, potato, goats cheese, buffalo mozzerella and sage. I liked the flavours of the toppings, especially the pumpkin and goats cheese was such a nice combination, however, I found the pizza dough to be too thick and dense, not exactly what I expected.
I’ve actually never had Gnocchi alla romana which is a variation of gnocchi which is made out of semolina instead of potato. I don’t really know the difference between semolina and polenta because they taste quite similar to me, and I loved it! especially with the prosciutto and smoked mozzerella love that bouncy texture. After all that polenta I’m still not satisfied think I’m going to have to buy some and make it at home :)
I love how Amy is a dessert lover as well, I quote “It’s not a review without dessert”, I couldn’t agree with her more! So we ordered 3 desserts to share, starting with the Tiramisu which came in a small coffee cup. We were quite impressed with the tiramisu as it had strong coffee flavours without being to over powering and the mascarpone cheese was very smooth. It also wasn’t very sweet so perfect for those who like a lighter tasting dessert ~
Next up was the Sticky Date Pudding Bob (Amy’s partner) wanted to order, I already had a sticky date pudding that day at Red Cup Cafe, but who said one can’t have more than one puddings in a day :P This sticky date had a texture more like a cake than a pudding, and I found it a little dry. But really liked the mascarpone cream and think it’s better than regular whipped cream ~
Was surprised when Mr Bao initiated that he’d like to try the Nutella Calzone, he doesn’t normally ask for desserts. For those not familiar with calzones they are like folded pizzas and can be hand held, to me like an Italian sandwich made out of pizza dough with the toppings enclosed inside instead. They can be made savoury or sweet, and this one had a generous amount of Nutella in the filling and vanilla ice-cream on the side. I can’t complain about the Nutella or ice-cream because they’re both my favourite :) but once again I found the dough to be a little thick and too doughy, it would have been the perfect dessert if it was not for the dough.
Overall, it was a pleasant meal at The Mess Hall, we found some dishes to be hit and miss for instance, the arancini were great, while the dough for the pizza and calzone to be a little thick. But I am still going to come back and try the polenta chips again as I have been told that they are generally very fresh crispy and maybe I just went on a busy night :) If you’re looking for a casual restaurant to catch up in the CBD, The Mess Hall is a good choice especially since they open all day from breakfast till late ~