Rosa Mitchell (ex-Journal Canteen, Hobson’s Bay Hotel and author of famed cookbook My Cousin Rosa) has set up her first owner-operated venture in the CBD with new business partners David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew (MoVida Group, Pei Modern).
Opening just two weeks ago, the flashing neon sign outside still directs you to Luccatini’s, the Italian bistro that occupied the Punch Lane site for more than 20 years. But things are a little different once you step inside. It’s a smart, tasteful refit: linen tables and dappled gold walls have been replaced with a fresh, whitewashed interior, concrete flooring and up-cycled, mismatched coloured chairs.
A large kitchen gives Mitchell and head chef Lucy David (Coda, Pei Modern) plenty of space for the kind of menu classics that Melburnians follow Mitchell from venue to venue for. Pasta is a feature, as you would predict. Think penne with beef shin ragu, cauliflower and saffron orrecchiette alongside beef cotaletta with a tomato and cucumber salad or polpette (meatballs) in fresh tomato sugo.
The menu will rotate fortnightly depending on availability of ingredients, many of which come from Mitchell’s 140-acre farm near Yandoit, such as the mulberries in an excellent short-crust custard tart. Look to the blackboards for inspiration and value (most mains are under $30 a plate).
An excellent bar snack list serves all day, with plates of fried broad beans, pea fritters and arancini perfect for perching at window-side bench seating with a glass from the wine list put together by sommelier and maitre ‘d Lazlo Evenhuis (ex-The Crimean).
The 40-seater takes bookings and given Mitchell’s band of loyal followers, you will benefit from the ability to plan your visit. Once inside, you’ll find Mitchell happily floating between front and back of house, ensuring her new venue will become as much of an mainstay as she is.
22 Punch Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9662 2883
Tues to Sat noon–11pm