Romulus and Remus, Grey Lynn: 14.5 - Good
A neighbourhood trattoria to wax lyrical about? Kim Knight thinks so.
Espadrille wedges. Who invented espadrille wedges? A perfectly good shoe ruined by four extra inches and more ribbon than a florist on Valentine's Day.
Kate sighed. That morning, her feet had been perky, pedicured and tres European. Now they may as well have summited Everest, sans oxygen. Her ankle wobbled and her stomach rumbled. Starving! Had she eaten anything since that tiny biscotti, wrapped in a cheery napkin after her morning espresso and nibbled discreetly en route to David?
The memory made her face flush. Get a grip, she thought. You haven't so much as kissed a man for 12 months and now you're ready to do it with a 5m-high marble statue? Kate had left the Galleria dell'Accademia in a daze and the rest of the day had passed in a dream. Now she was tired and hungry. She was a little bit lost and those bloody espadrille wedges hurt like heartbreak . . .
Restaurant review as romance fiction?
Romulus and Remus, the new trattoria on Richmond Rd, ticked every cliche in my imaginary book (albeit, the one set in Florence, not Rome!). This is the neighbourhood restaurant that chick-lit heroines eat in; that you stumble on while travelling and talk about ad nauseum when you're home - decent food, excellent service, affordable wine and a cast of characters to fill a light summer read.
Out front, the owner's family sat at a long table, carving chunks of meatloaf and sending it gratis to guests on a little plate with pulpy tomatoes and grilled green peppers. Next to me, kids ordered pizza and across from me, after-work women ordered wine. A man in a hat sat, inexplicably, to one side of his friends, refusing most food but raising a glass.
Meanwhile, the waitperson told me the meatloaf was actually Greek and if I liked that, I should really try the Italian meatballs. It was happily noisy, there was a warm breeze blowing across Grey Lynn and I wanted everything on the made-for-summer small plates menu.
I ordered salsiccia e pane, which is sausage and bread but nothing like a Bunnings fundraising barbecue. Fennel-infused meat, fried chunks of sourdough - food to drink wine with - and yes please to another $10 tempranillo.
The batter on the eggplant chips was a bit thick and dry and the vege itself a bit dank and mushy but the feta dip was yum and the whole dish was only $7. Pick of the bunch? Vitello tonnato ($17). It came with cold poached beef rather than the traditional veal, but mostly you order this for the creamy, blitzed tinned tuna sauce.
Remember that late 1970s tuna pasta salad with condensed milk mayonnaise? This is the grown-up version. No pasta (because its 2020 and we have learned this is a separate course) but that same tangy, slightly grainy fish emulsion. Bonus points for the properly crispy capers.
My own fairy-tale ending had ordered the osso bucco ($22 and, again, beef not veal) on a saffron risotto. The meat was braised tender, though the nature of a shin cut means more bone than meat. It was fine, but if you want angels singing in the Sistine, go straight for the risotto - so cheesy and buttery, I was tempted to ask for toast.
"Roman chicken" was tender thigh meat on bed of orzo pasta. I really love orzo, mostly because it reminds me of a classic first-student-flat comfort food, rice (that-was-really pasta) risotto from a box. This was far superior - garlicky, sweet with tomato and just enough bite to be interesting.
There's something earthy and honest about the cooking at Romulus and Remus (named for the twin wolf statue procured by the owners who are the people behind Tasca, Lokanta and more). You could make this at home, but with all the mains $22 and someone else doing the dishes and ferrying the wine, this is a great midweek option. Sure, you could have cold and/or soggy Uber Eats fries but food tastes better with company, neighbourhood restaurants build community and we could all use a bit more of that in our lives.
That said, I'd think twice about dessert (all $12). A negroni pear in Campari syrup with blue cheese filling was, on paper, the most appealing pudding I've seen in forever. The reality was like licking nail polish; the ridiculously bitter flavour (Campari yes, "syrup" I'm not so convinced) enhanced by an inelegant scattering of raw walnuts and a filling that was gummy and sharp, when I'd imagined pungent but creamy.
Better luck with the torronata - a slightly chewy nougat semifreddo, perfectly balanced with burnt oranges and a dark caramel. Bitter but balanced. We had actually tried to order the cheesecake with a pastry lattice. "It won't be ready for another hour," said the charming waitperson. "Another wine?" Tempting.
Romulus and Remus
551 Richmond Rd, West Lynn
Ph: (09) 360 5111
WE SPENT: $168
WE THOUGHT: 14.5 - Good
Sip the List
Well, the story of Romulus and Remus is hardly one of positive parenting and brotherly love is it? Families, amirite. Anyhoo, while the selection at Romulus & Remus isn't powerful enough to inspire the construction of a city like Rome (that was one of the top bullet points on Romulus' resumé), they have packed in enough Italian liquid lovelies to make you start rolling your "R"s and doing that "hands waving shrug" and adding an "O" to the end of every word. My picks are start with a glass of the Brilla Prosecco (the bottle itself is a gorgeous thing to behold), then move to the Poggio Anima Grillo from Sicily or the Villa Sparina Cortese di Gavi from Puglia — both crisp, crunchy, floral and citrus-stacked white wines. Red lovers should try the Basilico Cafaggio Chianti from Tuscany or the Maretti Barbera Nebbiolo from Piedmonte. Sweeten it all up at la conclusione dei pasti with a cheeky Vin Santo. Beer fans should snatch a sip of the "Romulus" Lager, but there are sexy IPAs, pilsners and porters from the likes of Fortune Favours, Hallertau and Urbanaut and even the new Peroni Zero 0% is highlighted, which I think is great. — Yvonne Lorkin