A couple of weeks ago I had lunch at Verve Cafe with a few work buddies. Over the years I must have walked past Verve Cafe hundreds and hundreds of times. I even worked as a volunteer in the Metro Arts building for a few years. But I'd never eaten at Verve Cafe.
The first trick was actually getting a booking, which turned out to be harder than expected. We had to postpone our lunch a couple of weeks because the restaurant was booked out the first time (it was Friday lunch after all). Eventually we got a booking and wandered down the steps looking for a good lunch and a few bottles of wine.
The first thing that hits you when you get to the bottom of the stairs and into the restaurant is just how dark it is. The next thing you'll probably notice is the noise. Then you look around and realise that the whole place looks pretty cool, and soon enough you'll adjust and completely forget that its either dark or noisy. The restaurant really has the feel of an Italian trattoria. And it was packed. No wonder it was hard to get a booking.
We were quickly shown to our table by a friendly waiter, and the menus were handed out. There aren't a lot of choices for entrees - most people were getting stuck into one of the breads. If it's bread your after, you can choose from herb bread ($4.90), pan bread (kalamata olive, sea salt, basil & bocconcini - $4.90), olive tapenade (smashed kalamata olives, virgin oil, garlic with toasted pan bread - $4.90) or the dips plate (chef’s selection of dips with fresh baked pita bread - $9.90).
If bread just isn't your bag, then kick off the meal with the soup of the day ($8.90), mushrooms filled with rosemary and roast capsicum risotto ($10.90) or the calamari salad (pan fried with olive oil, garlic and lemon on a thyme, roast capsicum & green salad - $14.90).
We decided against ordering any starters and opted for a bottle of wine instead, in true Friday lunch fashion. But within a few minutes a plate of bread arrived on the table. After checking with the waitress, we were told it was complementary. Things were going well at this stage.
There are plenty of mains to choose from. The food at Verve Cafe is mainly Italian, but with modern flavours, so its no surprise to see the main courses covering pasta, risotto, pizza and a few other "plates".
The first thing I noticed on the menu was that there was an option to order any of the pizzas or pastas gluten free. Our bubbly waitress told me that she was also on a gluten free diet and that the pizza bases were great. By that point I was sold and I ordered the excitingly named "ham" pizza, topped with salami, ham, olives, mushroom and mozzarella ($17.90 with a gluten free base). They are pretty much my favourite pizza toppings, so I was happy. Other pizza options include roast pumpkin with pine nuts, sun-dried tomato, English spinach, pesto, caramelised onion and mozzarella ($15.90), chicken with marinated feta, roast capsicum, caramelised onion, thyme and mozzarella ($15.90) and of course a margarita with tomato, basil and mozzarella ($15.90).
The rest of our table all ordered the pescatore linguini, served with scallops, prawns, roasted bell peppers, kalamata olives, fresh basil and an olive oil base ($20.90). I was thinking about ordering the same dish, but had to try something different.
Other mains that caught my eye were the goat's cheese gnocchi (roast pumpkin, chicken, fresh rosemary, goat's cheese and cream - $19.90), the sand crab & prawn risotto (diced Roma tomato, zest of lemon, fresh thyme and cream - $20.90) and the blue cheese risotto (pancetta, chicken, cream, white wine, fresh rosemary and olives - $18.90). They will have to wait until next time.
My pizza was good. Thankfully it had a nice crispy base. So many gluten free pizzas are served on soggy, floury bases that resemble a pikelet more than a pizza. It wasn't overloaded with toppings, which meant that you could actually taste everything that was on the pizza. The pizza wasn't enormous, but I just managed to finish off all four pieces.
The verdict on the pescatore linguini was that it was tasty, but had a tad too much garlic. There was plenty of seafood with the pasta, so there were no complaints on that front. I didn't get to try any, but the pasta smelt delicious.
The wine list at Verve Cafe is pretty compact, but extremely well priced. We had a few bottles of the Hazard Hill semillon sauvignon blanc with lunch, which was about $30 a bottle. There is plenty to choose from at around that price point, so a few bottles of wine here won't break the bank.
Throughout the meal our service was excellent and particularly friendly. The waiters knew the menu well and always seemed to pop up at the right time.
Verve Cafe is an excellent place for a weekday lunch. The food was good, tasty and fresh. Although the place was very busy, we hardly waited for our meals and were never left feeling neglected by the staff. It's always great to come across a place like Verve Cafe. If only there were more places in the CBD like it to enjoy a relaxing lunch with friends.
What does all this mean? Tasty modern Italian food in cool, dark surroundings at very reasonable prices.
food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - A dark, downstairs room with plenty of atmosphere
Value for Money - Great
Wine - Compact selection at good prices
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Great
Basement, 109 Edward Street
P - 07 3221 5691
W - http://www.vervecafe.com.au/
Weekend Life....Aldeburgh, Suffolk
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