So it was with great anticipation of better things that I dined at Baby yesterday, commencing the New Year with hearty food, a few tasty alcoholic beverages and words shared by exordium to commence a new era of reviews on this blog. As Baby was one of the few places in Melbourne actually open and serving a full menu on New Years Day, I was not only excited to get some sustenance but finally be able to experience what the sibling to Chin Chin had to offer.
Feeling a bit energetic even though I had not fully shaken off the effects afforded to my body from a wild and rampant New Years Eve, I had the great idea to start 2013 off on a healthy foot (sic) and walk to Richmond via the beautiful banks of the Yarra River with the epicurean emo in tow. It was a beautiful day and by the time we presented ourselves at Baby after a 45 minute walk, I was very thirsty.
Cans of Red Peroni were delivered. Cans? I suppose Chris Lucas never professed that this is a genuine Italian clone, but seemingly more of an interpretation of what is fun and can work. The cans would become a fixture on our table after ordering the Banchetto. Like how Chin Chin offers the "Feed Me!" banquet, Baby does the same for $66 per person and I was happy to permit the restaurant to make the hard choices for us.
Offerings for the banquet are extracted from nearly all parts of the menu. Salumi misti (mixed daily selection of cured meats) are served on a board with optional bread along with marinated vegetables before the carpaccio di kingfish (kingfish carpaccio with lemon zest and mint) arrived. The vegetables and meat were a nice way to start and cleansed my palate which in turn prepared it for the delicate carpaccio.
The San Daniele prosciutto pizza followed. Heavy on the rocket and proschiutto but highlighted by the fried crust which I thought was tasty but also leaves the Baby signature on your experience. This is a new and very interesting way to prepare pizza. I liked it because the crust was thin. As a contrast, the bloke at the table next to us was complaining that his suckling pig pizza tasted too "cheesy" which I thought was an odd thing to say.
A hearty Pappardelle con ricotta di bufala pasta followed. The mix of copious amounts of ricotta, basil and pinenuts made this my favourite dish however when it was finished, I was left holding my engorged stomach not even thinking that I could drink any more beer. Service was kind enough to give us some time before the next dishes came out thankfully. Speaking of which, service remained interested and thoughtfully refilled our water and was always there to restore our cans of Peroni when required.
Pesce al forno (blue eyed cod, clams, tomatoes with salsa verde) along with a piselli prosciutto e mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella, san daniele prosciutto, shaved pecorino, peas and mint) finished the Insalate course. The latter being the most visually appealing dish of the night called out to me to finish my fair share. On occasion I would look passionately at the long padded bench that I was sitting on against the wall and ponder how nice it would be to have a deep and long sleep. I certainly was not going to walk back to Southbank.
The restaurant was not finished with us yet. Two desserts from the Dolci menu arrived to finish off the banquet - gelati e sorbetti (red, white and green sorbet and gelato) along with sfinci al cioccolato (hot cinnamon doughnuts and chocolate sauce) and despite struggling hard, I was able to finish my fair share and win this Test match.
Toward the end of the banquet, the restaurant was filled nearly to capacity and it was 2:30 PM. It reminded me that the place does get loud when busy but given the nature of the menu is to share, the restaurant is casual in nature, with a good area outside to languish around drinking whilst waiting for a table, or even whilst waiting for your takeaway, the noise can be excused as you do not go to Baby to fine dine. More so to be with friends, have a wild time and not have your palate challenged.
It took quite some time for me to roll up to the Swan to have a few more pints and recover from the onslaught of food at Baby. It doesn't leave such an intense impression on you after you leave that its sibling Chin Chin does however for a casual eatery, it will give you what you want and some sense of satisfaction despite the time of day that you visit. There was a steady flow of people ordering coffee and pizza and I know that I will certainly be back with to pick-up a suckling pig pizza to takeaway as if that other bloke would go out of his way to complain that something is too "cheesy" really makes me want it more.
631-633 Church St Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9421 4599
My Rating: 13.5/20
Value For Money: 4/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 61% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Baby Cafe & Pizzeria.