Rosa's Kitchen or rather 'Canteen', as is its official name is located next to the reception desk of the CAE on Flinders Lane.
With no obvious signage, this place can be hard to find. Apart from a red neon lit 'Rosa's Kitchen' sign in the window above the ground floor (which incidentally can only be viewed from across the street), one can be forgiven for not knowing that this place exists or even where the entrance is.
Go up the stairs from the ground floor (next to the CAE reception desk) and you'll see an open working kitchen which looks across into the well lit room full of metal and wooden canteen style tables and chairs. Leather bar stools are positioned along the front window, perfect for those dining solo or in pairs.
We were greeted by a lovely waitress who seated us at the end of one of the tables. There is a chalkboard menu and it's limited, so those wanting a vast menu will be disappointed. Their menu changes from day to day which, in my opinion, makes for a proper canteen style experience.
Today, my companion and I wanted to share. Since we were told by the waitress that the 'Degustazione' isn't for sharing, we decided to share a small 'Antipasto' and the 'Spaghetti with tomato, basil and ricotta'.
We had arrived at 12:30pm which was lucky as we were one of the first diners there. However, it didn't take long for this place to fill up and soon the room was fully of busy chatter. If you don't like noisy canteen places, then this isn't for you either.
The only reason I say this is because I took a friend to a noisy canteen type place the other week and although she loved the food, she looked terribly uncomfortable and didn't talk throughout the whole meal. Instead she looked rather pained and kept professing that she couldn't hear what I was saying due to the loud chatter of the place. Needless to say, I just gave up talking!
Anyway, back to Rosa's or Canteen rather. The waitress brought over a bottle of cold water with two glasses, which was soon followed by a basket of white and wholemeal bread.
Our 'Antipasto' arrived looking deliciously fresh and tasty. There were black olives (two to be precise), green beans (again, just the two), a slice of roasted eggplant, grilled ricotta, sliced capsicum, salami (one large piece), mint and garlic zucchini, panzanella (tomato, bread and red onion salad), sliced chat salad and a tasty potato fritter type thing. Sorry, I really don't know the name of it!
I will just say that it was very, very good indeed! The ingredients were fresh, delicious and boy, I could have eaten more.
We had a little wait for our spaghetti to arrive. But it wasn't a drumming the fingers on the table kind of a wait. The canteen was brimming today, as I am sure it is every day in fact. So the staff were being kept as busy as bees - buzzing around tables with plates of food and collecting up empty dishes to take back.
Our spaghetti arrived and although it may not look like the biggest dish, it was certainly enough for the both of us.
The tomatoes were as fresh as a daisy, the ricotta was lovingly broken up and the basil added that extra herby boost. The pasta was also fresh which always makes a huge difference. As we murmered with delight, our eyes widened in happy surprise at how tasty it was.
It also came with a side of lightly dressed icebery lettuce and thinly sliced radish salad. It was so simple, yet so deliciously awesome.
We both loved our lunch and my friend, who has lived in the Melbourne for the past decade or so (and is regular out and about Melbourne diner) commented on how wonderful the antipasto was. I had to agree, it really was superb.
I love this place for being a no frills canteen when it comes to the decor. But I love it even more for its amazingly fresh, well balanced and well prepared food. I don't care that it has a limited daily menu or that the seats aren't anything plush. Service is polite and efficient. It's all about the food here and Rosa has done a very fine job.
Note: just remember to have some cash when you come here as this place doesn't take plastic.
Canteen (Rosa's Kitchen)
Level 1, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Mon-Fri Lunch: 11:45am-3:45pm
Mon-Fri Dinner: 6-9pm