Wine bar Agostino joins the King & Godfree Italian food and drink empire in chic corner block on Lygon Street, Carlton. Pop in for a glass of Italian Prosecco and stay for a plate of Fried Mozzarella or a bowl of Pappardelle.
Location: Inside King & Godfree, 297 Lygon St, Carlton, VIC 3053 Ph: (03) 9347 1619
Over the last few years, King & Godfree has evolved into a multi-storey foodie haven.
First came the King & Godfree Deli (K&G Deli). Here, you could nip in for a wedge of Gorgonzola Piccante and treat yourself to a plate of Grilled Octopus ($20) or even Veal Cotoletta, Slaw and Lemon ($39). How incredibly civilised!
Then came the King & Godfree Espresso Bar, which did, well, coffee. After that, things moved upstairs with the opening of the rooftop bar Johnny’s Green Room. With impressive 360-degree views over Melbourne, it’s a cool spot to grab a Limoncello Highball ($18) and a Mortadella Bella Pizza ($26) and kick back with the cool kids.
Oh. And somewhere along the way, Pidapipo – an artisanal Italian gelato shop – also materialised. And let us quickly confirm that on a hot day, their Bacio – chocolate hazelnut – Gelato ($6.20) really hits the spot.
Finally, came Agostino. A classy wine bar with sleek lines and a menu that reflects the Italian heritage it holds in common with the rest of the King & Godfree stable.
The fit-out is deceptively simple. Earthy tones and moody lighting create a calm, yet sophisticated ambience. It’s the kind of dining space where you can lose track of time – in a good way – whilst you nibble your way through a a procession of antipasti plates.
And why wouldn’t you? At Agostino the menu may be small, but the produce is of the highest quality. Spending an hour or 2 grazing at the bar or sunk into one of its leather banquettes is a very appealing prospect.
Agostino – The Food
Part of the joy of antipasti is that it lends itself so well to sharing. And this is especially good news when you have 3 hungry people at one table.
We opened with Prosciutto, Melon & Gnocco Fritto ($26). As suggested, we wrapped the salty, raw pink slices of prosciutto around sweet slivers of pressed melon. When combined with the crunchy bite of the fried gnocco, ladened with a drift of umami-rich Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, the competing flavours harmonised into an addictive flavour-bomb. It’s the kind of simple dish that I can eat all day.
Next came the Wagyu Tartare, Ortiz, Hazelnut ($26). The fine strips of beef really came alive when you hit a chunk of hazelnut and a spike of anchovy. However, without the help of those punchy little fish, the forkful of tartare were a rather bland. Personally, I like more gutsy seasoning on my raw meat.
The Calamari Fritti & Lemon ($27) was a return to form and showed how good ingredients need very intervention to them to make them shine. Here, thin, nobbly curls of squid were lightly dusted and flash-fried, leaving them soft and flavoursome. A spritz of fresh citrus really was the only accompaniment the delicate flesh required.
Another winning plate was the Fried Mozzarella, Pomodoro ($12). I love tactile, yummy dishes like this. Golden, crumbed globes of gooey cheese in one bowl and a bright, garlicky puddle of tomato sauce in another to dip them in. In fact, we added a serve of the Schiacciata Pizza Bread – Rosemary ($8) to ensure we wiped up every last drop of the pomodoro.
If you’re looking for a lively atmosphere and are eager to try some indigenous flavours, give Big Esso by Mabu Mabu a visit.
The portion sizes aren’t huge at Agostino, but no one us were desperately hungry, so we only ordered one Main course between us.
We plumped for the Bigoli with a Duck Ragu. When it landed before us, it wasn’t the prettiest pasta dish in the world. Thick worms of spaghetti-style pasta, cloaked in a slightly anaemic-looking cream and reduced stock sauce and uneven morsels of duck meat. Thankfully, however, looks can be deceiving. It smelt promising and tasted utterly divine.
When in a new (to me) Italian restaurant, if there’s a tiramisu amongst the sweets, I tend to order it. Firstly, because it’s a classic Italian dessert. And secondly, because from the number of curdled/overly sweet/coffeeless versions I’ve eaten over the years, not as easy to get right as you might think.
At Agostino, this much-loved dessert is re-imagined as a Viennetta ($18). I’m not sure why – it ticked all the boxes for a ‘tiramisu’ in my mind. Plus for me, a Viennetta is a well-known ice cream cake. Either way, Agostino’s Viennetta was beautifully light. It also had just the right amount of cocoa bitterness to cut the richness of the creamy layers.
We all pretended we’d had enough when we got to the last forkful. And then promptly fought one another for it. Always a good sign.
Agostino – The Drink
The wine list is as small and tight as the food menu.
Initially, this seems surprising when an eatery professes itself to be a ‘wine bar’. However, Agostino is, of course, part of the larger King & Godfree food and wine business and so more bottles really are only a few steps away.
Indeed, the adjacent bottle shop carries almost 200 bottles, a number of them back vintages. What’s more, customers at Agostino are more than welcome to choose a drop from the bottle shop and drink it in the wine bar’s dining space. For a corkage fee, of course.
Incidentally, they also mix a very palatable Negroni, if you’re in the mood for a cocktail.
Agostino Cellar – Private Dining
Finally, if you want something a little more exclusive, there’s Agostino Cellar.
Set downstairs from the main wine bar, Agostino Cellar is, as the name implies, a wine cellar. Currently able to accommodate up to 28 guests, this is a sexy private space for a special evening. Perhaps for an important birthday or long over-due catch up with old friends.
Featuring a lush sound system and delicious food from the kitchen upstairs, booking out this space should result in a night to remember.
Another wonderful Melbourne wine bar/restaurant is Embla on Russell Street. Read our review here.
With Agostino wine bar, King & Godfree has added a modern, refined, casual dining spot to it’s upmarket Italian deli and bottle-o.
This is a great venue for an intimate date, rather than a rowdy birthday celebration.
Focusing on a small, but carefully chosen, menu built around superior produce, it is mostly successful in showing what great Italian cooking does so well. Taking fresh ingredients and doing just enough to them to produce big, wholesome flavours.
Is there room amongst the many Carlton restaurants for another Italian eatery? Yes, there is.
It’ll be interesting to see if Agostino becomes as intrinsic a part of this most Italian of suburbs as some of its neighbours.