Posted on August 11, 2011


There aren’t many reviews out there on Lupino (41 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC) just yet because it’s still pretty much brand spankin’ new! Prior to visiting, all I was told was that it’s an Italian bistro. I can now confirm that it is indeed Italian and further, it hosts a small menu of pizza, pasta and a few other dishes with price ranging from about $10 for appetizers and ~$14 -$35 for pizzas/mains.

It’s taken over the space that Champagne Lounge used to occupy next to Bar Lourinha. In doing so, Lupino has inherited a long sprawling bar to the left of venue thanks to the previous owners. In repurposing the space, there has been numerous changes to both the interior and exterior. Gone is the old purple brick wall on the outside, it’s now a fresh white, and the same treatment has been conducted inside. Interesting black pendant lights hang over the bar and matching black decorations draw the eyes to the back. The bar has also been revamped with terracotta tiling to match the tiling on the back of the booth seats. Interestingly, all the red tiling in the construction site when they were still renovating made me wonder whether another Nando’s was opening up in this end of town (there’s a Nando’s just a block away!). Thankfully not – diversity is a good thing.

In terms of food, we took up both specials for the pizza and risotto options. The eggplant and ricotta pizza ($20) was very tasty. I found the dough particularly fantastic. It was a thin crust pizza, but unlike most thin crusts, the dough maintained a really nice chewiness. The puffy sides were still very fluffy, a fabulous consistency for any bread lover. Delish!

The tomato based seafood risotto ($28) didn’t really stand out for me. The rice was just ever so slightly undercooked, but perhaps others would rather like it for the lack of sogginess. Not especially memorable, but there was a good lashing of seafood so that’s a plus.

For dessert we opted for the bomboloni which is an Italian doughnut served with imported (from Italy of course) nutella and yoghurt icecream (~$14). Is it better to present the positives or negatives first? Hmm. Perhaps it’s better to get the bitter before the sweetness…Personally I didn’t taste anything different about the imported nutella versus the more common nutella brand (Ferrero) in supermarkets. Perhaps it would have been a different story if I tasted the two types one after the other. But, it just begs the question, why go to the trouble of using imported nutella if it does not immediately affect the overall dish? I question whether others will be able to tell me that the Italian nutella made a significant flavour impact on this dessert. Secondly, both my fellow diner and I found it strange that it was paired up with a yoghurt flavoured icecream. I know some chocolate and tangy combinations work, I’m just not too sure this one does. Plain old vanilla probably would have done a better job in this case.

I acknowledge I’ve only been criticizing peripheral elements of the dish and not the main event. So what of these doughnuts? Well. The doughnuts were utterly delightful! Despite being deep fried, they were surprisingly light and not at all oily. Just ever so crisp on the outside, but still soft and doughy on the inside, all topped with nutella goodness. Two chocolately thumbs up! It’s more than enough to make you overlook my gripes. And all this coming from a person who doesn’t usually like doughnuts, if that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is.

Service was attentive and quick even though they were reasonably busy for the lunch run. Would be interesting to see whether their patronage will taper off or fly after the newness wears off. In concluding, I found the pricing a bit on the expensive side of things. A pizza with vegetable and cheese surely shouldn’t warrant a $20 price tag, even if it is the daily special. But I guess given its location and the crowd it seems to be pitching for (corporate lunches and the after work drinks/dinner type), it’s probably about right.