The Rialto is one of the iconic buildings in Melbourne and Guy Rossi's Merchant is situated right as you enter. It is an Italian restaurant with a Venetian slant as evident by the life sized gondola greeting you before the front entrance.
In an environment which potentially could be viewed as 'posh', it is surprisingly casual. It had a warm ambience and guests are encouraged to take a texta and graffiti the walls. We sat in a rustic little booth. There were plenty of young kids running around on a Friday night. So maybe this is pseudo-casual or nouveau-posh. The prices were definitely in the fine dining arena. The service was impeccable as one would expect in place like this.
For starters we ordered a selection of little plates to share:
...Folpo in the foreground - marinated octopus in chilli, lemon, olive oil, coriander. It was soooo tender. Polpeta in the rear - veal meatballs in sugo. This is by far one of the yummiest meatballs I have ever tasted. It melted in the mouth.
Warm sourdough to sop up the delicious juices of the above.
For mains I ordered:
The Bisteca which was the scotch fillet (250g). It was a good size for me. So lovingly charred and perfectly medium rare. The pesto and lemon sure beats the usual mustard accompaniment.
There was unfortunately no kid's menu here. Kiddo had the Tajadele which was the handcut tagliatelle with veal ragu. I figured since the veal meatballs went down so well for starters, she would love the veal ragu. I figured right.
Kiddo's daddy had the Buo in Squaquacio which was the braised wagyu shin in red wine with porcini mushrooms. Just looking at the pic, you know the meat would just dissolve in your mouth. The verdict was that it was divine. I think he was secretly wishing for a second serve...
Our friends ordered the Tastasal which was the risotto with spiced pork sausage. The feedback was the rice was one of the creamiest she had ever tasted.
The Spedina di Tarzo was perhaps a bit underwhelming. It sounded great on paper - chargrilled Trevisan chicken and pork skewer and the feedback was that it tasted amazing. However there was so little of it. For $36, I would have expected two skewers.
At the suggestion of the very helpful waitress, we ordered a few vegetable sides to share. This is the Trida - Venetian chopped salad.
And my pick - the Faxolin e Noxeta which was string beans with sprinklings of hazlenut. This was so beautiful in it's simplicity, I think I will replicate this at home.
For desserts we got the gelato to share...
...along with the cake of the day which was a cheesecake of sorts.
And a digestive green tea to wash it all down...
Graffiti is strongly encouraged here
Verdict - we loved it.
Merchant has an inviting, kid friendly ambience which would have me definitely going back.