After an emotional week, it was great to have a lovely gals dinner out at the new Italian hotspot – Monte Cervino (translates to The Matterhorn). The name deliberately chosen by the ex owners of Matterhorn. Very clever. With my online booking in place, we were good to go. I’d only heard fab feedback, and being an Italian passport holder, my expectations were high.I arrived early, determined to take some snaps in advance, so I could give my full attention to my friends. I was warmly welcomed by the lovely maitre’d, and he offered me seating down the back. Seat check was a pre-requisite and as soon as I spotted the booth seating, I was sold.
The décor is very upmarket and unrecognisable as the former Lone Star. Obviously Sean Marshall’s Italian heritage is mirrored in the style, elegance and class – from the greenery, bottle display, bar, separate dining areas, seat design to the lights. The open kitchen is at the back with an open separate wood-fired pizza oven space.
Post photo shoot, I quickly shimmied up to one of the booth seats, with a view of the masters at work. I scanned the huge drinks menu; amari, digestifs, apertifs, NZ and International wines by the bottle or glass; reds, whites, sparkly, sweet, non-alcoholic wine, beers, and cocktails. I started off with a bottle of Pellegrino to match the Italian dining theme. The gals arrived and were happy for me, with my good track record, to order a bottle of the house cab sav/merlot. It was so smoothe and flavoursome. A second was ordered a little later.
We chatted and perused the menu and specials board. There was lots of oohing and ahhing and consultation over our choices, as this is such serious business. We were going to try the special porchetta pizzette but I was torn between that and the zucchini, lemon and pine nut one. Suddenly out of nowhere, to our surprise and delight , a beautiful complimentary pizzette arrived. The crust was nicely charred and adorned with scamorzo, sweet tomato, fresh basil and garlic. No negotiation with Peter at the Pearly Gates; we went straight to foodie heaven. Grazie Monte Cervino.
We flagged the salumi (cured meats) and primi (pasta, made in house), and opted for some antipasti. Decision time. We finally settled on some eggplant arancini and lamb meatballs. They were both so delicious and generous in portion size. I’ll try the stuffed zucchini blossom next time.
For contorni (sides) we chose fried polenta and rosemary chips, which were unbelievably crunchy and soft. The green beans with garlic, lemon and chilli were nice, not amazing though.
For secondi (mains), we chose grilled calves liver served on soft polenta, sherry and onions as well as the fennel seed porchetta (pork) with crackling. Wow. The flavours and presentation were outstanding and each dish stood out on its own. We were so full afterwards, however that never stops reliable Sally to twist our arm, and have us share a dessert. She chose the gelato/sorbet trio – mandarin, raspberry and chocolate. What an exquisite piece of art. The tart sweet fruit sorbet flavours balanced out the rich, creamy chocolate gelato.
We enjoyed chatting to the French and Canadian waitresses throughout the meal, who were lovely and accommodating.
I returned for our Sunday date/day lunch. Hubby chose the risotto with marscapone, coffee and beer. As a duck lover, I was seduced by the ricotta gnocchi, with duck leg broth, walnut and watercress. We also split a radicchio, endive, caramelised walnut and pear salad.
To my horror my dish was quite small and more like a soup?. We’d just done an 8.5km walk and I was hungry. There were 4 gnocchi which were green parcels, tasteless as was the duck broth, chewy duck and instead of watercress, they’d substituted endive? Ugh. But we just ordered an endive salad? The latter was very nice but I didn’t see any radicchio. I also wasn’t given a spoon. Our French waitress did ask how our meals were. Being honest I expressed my disappointment with the dish, as well as the fact that I’d not seen or been advised of the special squid ink risotto. She replied “You’ll just have to come back then!”. Mmm. Yes but you staff need to advise the punters of the specials.
Fortunately the lovely, more experienced Rebecca came to the rescue and agreed that too much broth had been poured in my dish. It was inedible and I was trying to be polite. She offered to replace it at no charge and I ordered the squid ink risotto. It was fantastic with a lovely oil around the side and rich in all flavours. Hubby got to taste and finish it for me, as it was really filling.
Thank you Rebecca. It’s all about customer service and because of your management of this situation, I will give Monte C one more chance. I’m not sure why food can be so amazing on a week night and fall short just because it’s a Sunday lunch. People want consistency and it’s all about continuous improvement right?.
Genuine, Generous and Honest are my values too. Ci vediamo a presto but definitely for dinner.