533 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North, Victoria

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Hospitable flair: Matteo's is a stayer.
Hospitable flair: Matteo's is a stayer. Photo: Ken Irwin

Dani Valent

A mature and satisfying restaurant culture needs buzzy newies, but it also needs restaurants like Matteo's. For 20 years, Matteo's has balanced consistency and innovation, striving for high standards ahead of saturation coverage. Proprietor Matteo Pignatelli grew up in the northern suburbs, making pizzas in his family's takeaway shops; he's a genial presence here and in Melbourne's broader hospitality scene. He's watched them come and go, and through it all, he's welcomed diners into his glamorous restaurant.

Chef Brendan McQueen has led the kitchen for 10 years. His food is original, mixing French and Japanese (and other Asian) flavours and methods. The combinations are robust rather than whimsical. Think miso and bisque, roulade and daikon, or polenta-crusted tofu. It can be a bit out-there, but it can also be sublime. A seafood tasting plate stars seared tuna, dotted with spiky wasabi mayo and anchovy-salty olive tapenade. Both condiments amplify the richness of the fish. Also on the plate, a dainty carpaccio of octopus tentacles is topped with octopus and prawn dumpling bound with bechamel sauce. The third element is a terrine of citrus-cured salmon; its creme fraiche and fine herbs say France, but the Chinese broccoli-leaf wrapper tells a different story.

I think some plates have too much going on. Rolled rabbit mousse is a good medium for spicy Korean flavours, but a sauce and two condiments introduce coconut, tomato, kimchi, coriander, parmesan and lime, muddying the integrity of the dish. An earthy dessert demonstrates McQueen's knack with textures and sweet-savoury collisions, partnering chestnut and mascarpone cream with cocoa nib ''granola'' and beetroot sorbet. There are plainer dishes (steak, chocolate fondant), but you can almost hear the resigned sigh that accompanies the imperative to put these crowd-pleasers on the menu.

The seafood tasting plate.
The seafood tasting plate. Photo: Ken Irwin

The wine list offers interesting drinking and excellent value. Service is smooth and gracious. Creature comforts include upholstered chairs. Longevity requires working the angles. Matteo's has function spaces, a relaxed Sunday lunch offering, and respectful vegetarian and children's menus. It's professional and hospitable, offering sophistication with a cheeky wink, and plenty of reasons to return.

Rating: Four stars (out of five)

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533 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North, Victoria

  • Cuisine - Contemporary, French, Japanese
  • Prices - Entrees, $19-$26; mains, $40-$44; desserts, $20-$24
  • Features - Accepts bookings, Licensed, BYO
  • Chef(s) - Brendan McQueen
  • Owners - Matteo Pignatelli
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Sun-Thurs 6pm-9.30pm; Fri-Sat 6pm-10pm; Sun-Fri noon-3pm
  • Author - Dani Valent
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4 comments so far

  • They also do a vegan degustation menu which is absolutely incredible.

    Date and time
    April 14, 2014, 1:29PM
  • I was here last night for the Degustation "set menu of small tastes over 4 courses....with 100ml taste of each matched wine (7)" delicious ! — I am always thrilled to be dining there. Maybe a quick 2-course lunch or thoroughly indulgent dinner degustation
    . Matteo & staff ALWAYS serve up a wonderful experience. My on-going thanks for helping me enjoy total 'food love'. —

    Date and time
    April 14, 2014, 1:41PM
  • I was here recently, celebrating my husbands birthday. I remembered the food to be wonderful, service to be excellent and consistency second to none.
    I can't wait to go back. I have been looking for a restaurant to have my birthday at, and am tempted to go back to Matteo's based on how fabulous our last experience was.
    There is a reason they have been around for as long as they have.
    Go if you've not experienced hospitality the way you should!

    Date and time
    April 14, 2014, 3:45PM
  • I dined at Matteo's recently and would agree with many of Dani Valent's comments. We chose this restaurant for its comfort and what we expected would be its reliability for excellent food and service. However, not having been there for some time, found the menu on offer perplexing with its enormous influence of Asian ingredients. The entree of tempura stuffed zucchini flowers along with its accompaniments was delicious and well balanced. However, my main course of fillet of snapper was overpowered by taramasalata and the other accompaniments on the plate. The fish itself was well cooked but I did not enjoy the dish. The side dish of stir fried green vegetables were sitting in a deep bowl such that those that were not already overcooked became stewed in what seemed an unnecessary amount of sauce. Regarding service - one wait person was excellent, one was not to the standard of a two hat restaurant. My dining companions similarly enjoyed their entrees, but found their mains uninspiring.
    The wine list offers a good range at fair prices, the fairly long list of Italian wines on the list seems to be at odds with the food on the menu. This seems to add to the feeling of not really knowing what kind of restaurant you are in. This would not really matter if it all came together on the plate, but if did not in the case of our three main courses. We left feeling disappointed.

    Date and time
    June 04, 2014, 10:20AM

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