On what I am told, is an unsually warm mid November evening (having had a scorching hot day) in Melbourne, I made my way to Cafe Republic in South Yarra.
An affluent neighbourhood where tree lined streets are home to some beautiful fronted houses and apartments. It's got a groovy grown up feel to it and dare I say, it's like a refined version of Ladbroke Grove in London.
Cafe Republic sits on the corner of Toorak Road and Osborne Street - almost opposite South Yarra station. As a modern casual eatery, it's certainly relaxed. There is also plenty of outside seating on both sides of its corner location. It prides itself on modern Italian fare.
We started with the perfect sharing plate - a 'Trio of dips'. The dips were olive tapenade, a green aubergine (eggplant) dip and some sort of bean dip. I couldn't work out whether the aubergine dip was aubergine or not, but confirmation from the waitress cleared up my confused tastebuds. I'm clearly not cut-out for a Masterchef food taste challenge.
The bread was toasted garlic rubbed ciabatta. It was so delicious that we asked for more bread and they proceeded to bring out a basket full. I guess they presumed that we were all extremely ravenous or rather thoroughly enjoying it - of which we all were.
For my main, I ordered the 'Spiced Lamb Salad'. When it arrived, I was astounded at the sheer enormity of it. For a moment, it looked as though I had a whole lettuce. For $19.50, they definitely give you the dollars worth. Portion size aside, it came with pieces of feta, slithers of red and yellow pepper (capsicum), slices of cucumber, halves of greek olives and thin slices of red onion. It was lightly dressed and tasted absolutely divine. The lamb was well spiced, tender and had not a trace of fat. Just how I like it! I ate all but a small morsel - I felt it too piggy to eat the whole lot!
The other mains ordered at our table tonight were, the delicious looking grilled chicken caeser salad with a perfect poached egg on top.
Penne vodka with prawns - doesn't it look so yummy?? Apparently it was. I think I will have to go back to try this dish.
And finally, the 'Vegetarian risotto', again another very generously sized portion.
Needless to say, I think we were all pretty stuffed by the end of it. Having eyed up the cakes in the background, my 'dessert head' was telling me to try one, but my stomach was saying "enough!" Although I normally love to finish off a good meal with something sweet, tonight I was really too full.
The portions here are certainly very generous indeed, one could almost describe them as 'man-like.' This is a great place to have a spot of lunch or dinner with friends; it's unpretentious; service is polite and attentive; and they certainly make sure that customers don't leave hungry.
160 Toorak Road, South Yarra, VIC 3141
Tel: +61 (0)3 9820 0800