76 Bourke Street Melbourne, Victoria 3000
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat, 11.30am-10.30pm; Sun, 11.30am-10pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Bar, Business lunch, Events, Groups, Late night, Licensed, Outdoor seating, Romance-first date|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Chef||Alessandro Tintori, Guy Grossi|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9639 1927|
Where and what
Busy man, Guy Grossi. He's in the final days of refurbishing his flagship restaurant Grossi Florentino, he's keeping his eye on the offshoot Grill and Cellar Bar, the osteria Merchant and St Kilda gaff Mirka at Tolarno but, somehow, he's also found time to open a sophisticated little salumi bar with the help of manager son Carlo. Ombra is one of those places that nails its brief from the get-go - small and perfectly formed, it ought to hit the sweet spot of Melbourne diners, imbibers and night-owls.
Where to sit
It's a surprise to remember that Nudel Bar occupied this narrow slot in the upper Bourke Street landscape for many years. The Ombra makeover has added a deliberate patina of age, creating the illusion that, like neighbour Pellegrini's, it might have been here since mid-last century. Smoky mirrors, leather upholstery, high seating at wooden benches - it's authentic, with jars of preserves and the glass-walled wine cellar. If perching on stools isn't your bag, there's proper table seating upstairs or kerbside.
When to go
Monday to Saturday, 11.30am until late; Sunday, 2.30pm until late (starting the end of February).
Carlo Grossi is on a mission to repopularise lambrusco, ''the unloved gem of the wine world''; from the examples he's chosen he might just have a point. Other varietals from an Italian-leaning list are curated by palate weight, with points for originality and pouring options that run from the small glass to the big carafe.
It's a salumi bar first and foremost, so play it smart and keep that Ferrari-red counter-top slicer busy - capocollo, culatello, maybe a bit of mortadella and prosciutto San Daniele. Grab a little dish of pickled turnips to shock the mouth from its piggy coma. Beyond salumi, the menu can take you as far as you like - it's snacky but five or so small dishes easily add up to a decent meal. Cured ocean trout with fennel, soft goats' cheese and fish roe, for example, could be a textbook lady lunch or cut four ways as an amped-up side. Pizzas are great - light, crisp, whisper-thin. Gratinated mussels with lemon-spiked tomato and onion are excellent; rabbit empanadas could have done with more meat, less pastry, but the beef intercostal (rib meat) and slaw gets the edge on the city's million sliders thanks to house-baked buttermilk rolls that are soft, sweet and transcendentally good.
Business powerbrokers, dates and Italophiles.
To ponder history's unfairness to lambrusco over persuasively good food.