Church St Enoteca

Massive: Church Street Enoteca is housed in an old metalworks.
Massive: Church Street Enoteca is housed in an old metalworks. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

527 Church Street Richmond, VIC 3121

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Opening hours Tue-Fri 12 Noon – 3:00 PM 6:00 – 10:00 PM, Sat 6:00 – 10:00 PM
Features Private dining, Bar, Accepts bookings, Licensed, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Degustation, Family friendly, Romance-first date, Events
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Sebastian McQuarrie
Seats 85
Payments Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9428 7898

Feeding people isn't a simple business and Church Street Enoteca understands this better than most. It's a clever, consistent 12-year-old restaurant that works all the angles. The building - a massive old metalworks with great presence - has various discrete spaces so weddings and other functions are a big part of the scheme. The sporting precinct is just a jog away so there's a tennis meal deal right now. A decent local business crowd means a steak-and-glass-of-red lunch for $32 ticks along nicely, as does the relaxed lunch menu. Richmond regulars love their wine so BYO is OK on Mondays. They're pretty fond of their kids, too, so there's a bambini menu for $12.50.

The menu is Italian but the approach is modern Australian. An octopus terrine looks amazing with tentacles in cross-section contrasting with bright saffron jelly. The dish also tastes good: the seafood is soft and springy and crunch comes via olive crumbs (good) and potato chips (redundant). Pasta is made here: wagyu shin is braised and stuffed into agnolotti that paddle in an intense porcini broth. A tomato, basil and mozzarella insalata caprese is a juicy bowl of summer sunshine.

There's often a monumental steak special, generally something you'd tackle between two or more carnivores. I loved the way the rib-eye was brought to the table raw for a bit of ogling, then brought back once grilled. It seemed a shame that the cooked beef was placed on a napkin that soaked up the juices, robbing some of the pleasure. A spectacular dish of grilled sea bream was redeeming, garnished with an olive and pine nut crumb and a lemon salsa that elevated the perfectly cooked fillets. The rich, enthusiastic wine list makes a feature of Italian wines and lovely Australian back vintages.

Elevating: Olive and pine nuts top grilled sea bream.
Elevating: Olive and pine nuts top grilled sea bream. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

I visited a few weeks ago and there were some glitches (overly al dente pasta, cool food, forgetful service), none of them serious enough to cast shadow on a lovely meal. I'm happy to put it down to seasonal silliness because there's no doubt that Church Street Enoteca has both soul and spine. We are lucky to have such a sparkling stalwart at our disposal.

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five).