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Address: 472 Richmond Road
Phone: (09) 360 7590
We hadn't tried Grey Lynn's Italian cafe, Delicious, since it was sold by the man who regularly insulted me when I popped in for a quick meal. So this visit was long overdue. And it proved a transformation has taken place.
Gone is the grumpy proprietor, replaced by a charming maitre d', backed by a small fleet of efficient waiters. The place is brighter and lighter somehow, though they have kept the small pastry and gelato display unit which rather detracts from the atmosphere of the place.
Delicious advertises itself as a dine in/take out Italian Cuisine and Espresso Bar, and that's exactly what it is. The bar and wine list is short and to the point - for example, offering just two varieties of pinot gris. The menu is equally succinct: five main course pasta dishes, two gnocchis and a daily risotto special.
Tables turn over with speed and there always seem to be more customers arriving, often locals with small children. But the biggest surprise was the prices, especially for the main pasta dishes, which have been bumped up since grumpy left.
We started with a double antipasto platter, plus the bruschetta, which effectively covered the options. Both arrived quickly and were demolished just as fast. It was an excellent antipasto, containing a pile of thinly sliced, meaty salami, olives, oven-roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, strips of artichoke heart, marinated garlic and cheese. The bruschetta was slightly, deliciously, singed, one slice topped with roasted tomatoes and the other with mushrooms and caramelised onions. A satisfactory, if not over-filling, start.
Next came the mains: pappardelle with lamb shanks for Brian and Benedict, gnocchi with gorgonzola, walnut and rocket for Oliver and pork sausage tortelloni for me. All were great. My tortelloni, all five fat pieces of it, were wrapped into parcels cooked to the tender side of al dente. The sausage filling was crumbly rather than firm, which became ever-better as it blended with the fresh herb, silverbeet and porcini cream sauce.
Both Brian and Benedict loved their pappardelle. Again, there was plenty of it. The lamb had been stripped from the bone and served with a fragrant tomato and porcini sauce and, again, the plates were wiped clean. Meanwhile Oliver, who had been tossing up between the special risotto and gnocchi with gorgonzola, walnut and rocket, then decided to let our waitress make the choice for him, was happy. His gnocchi arrived looking spectacular, dotted around the large plate and swimming in sauce. In fact, after we all tried a mouthful, even after the richer meaty dishes, it was voted the standout meal of the night, which can be difficult with vegetarian.
Our accompaniments were okay: a rocket salad, lifted out of the ordinary by thickish slices of parmesan; pangratatta or toasted ciabatta crumbs that added a welcome crunch to our meals and a generous bowl of crunchy, marinated garlic to ward off the beastly winter cough. As for the desserts, I couldn't go past the vanilla bean gelato, while the others opted for blueberry cheesecake and what Delicious calls its diplomatico - actually a chocolate mousse. All were fine.
My only problem with Delicious is its pricing. Here we were, in what is more like a stripped-out takeaway bar (complete with counter in front), in Richmond Rd, enduring the sort of fast and furious service that encourages a quick turnover of tables, meaning that we were seated for around an hour and a quarter. Yet all the pasta dishes were priced between $28 and $32. Sure they were damn fine, but this is top-dollar for what is essentially, low-cost Italian peasant food.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $307 for a bottle of Te Mata syrah plus a glass of Spy Valley pinot gris, two shared appetizers, four main courses and desserts, plus salad.
Wine list: Short but appropriate, with plenty of interesting Italian reds.
Verdict: Cheerful rather than cheap, contemporary Italian pasta restaurant offering dishes full of fresh and exciting ingredients, but no bargains to be had here.