It is quite easy to rack up a large bill at Adelaide’s legendary Chianti Classico – but you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.
Positioned on a busy Hutt Street corner, Chianti has built up a reputation over the last 25 years as one of Adelaide’s classiest restaurants.
The secret to its longevity is that it hasn’t changed that dramatically. It has, instead, nuanced the menu in recent years rather than re-creating it – which is a good thing.
Chianti has made a habit of winning awards and it is easy to see why. It is one of Adelaide’s fanciest restaurants, serving traditional Italian fare in a stylish and relaxing setting.
The restaurant is large and open; a bar and wine rack lining one wall, exposed brick contrasting nicely with the white themed settings. Cleverly placed mirrors create the feel of a larger space.
Staff are well dressed, cutlery is well polished and there is not a speck of dust to be found.
Street-side, there are two cosy and covered alfresco areas which is where we decide to settle for a weekend lunch.
The menu is large and split into starters, pasta, seafood, meat and then dessert, all under Italian headings.
We choose a Jeff Grosset and Robert Hill Smith Riesling from the wine list. The book-sized list is long and accomplished, and while some wines are steeply priced, it features a good mix of South Aussie and east-coast varieties and a nice range of Italians.
For starters, we order the antipasti misto and a slow-poached veal with anchovies.
The antipasti, one of Chianti’s signature dishes, is impressive: prosciutto, parma ham with rockmelon, a delicious salami which seems house-made, arancini balls of mushroom, a salt cod dip, cheese, bread and olives. Ordered for two ($35), it is easily enough food for four people. Slices of tender veal sit in a truffled-anchovy aioli; long anchovies and green caper leaves top it off. It is bold, rich and delicious, even if the tender veal, which does melt in the mouth, is vastly overpowered by the salty anchovies and earthy truffle of the aioli.
The service during this time is first-rate; glasses are kept full and dishes are removed as soon as necessary. The staff are well versed in the menu and are friendly yet not overbearing.
For mains, we order the roasted rabbit, angel-hair pasta with chicken livers, and a selection of SA seafood in a blue swimmer crab and saffron broth.
Each of the dishes is wonderfully presented. Angel-hair pasta is twirled into a high bird’s nest with plump chicken livers nestled throughout. The haunch of the aromatic rabbit is crossed in the middle of the plate, legs pointing upwards. Large prawns, slices of squid, mussels and scallops sit invitingly in a clear broth, tantalisingly orange from the saffron.
The pasta is deliciously rich, the dense and iron-heavy livers cleverly counter-balanced by a garlic-and-rosemary-infused oil. It isn’t the largest of servings but its heartiness makes it a struggle to complete.
The seafood broth is light and simple and a perfect main if you choose a rich starter. The scallops and prawns highlight an ever-so-slight bitterness of the saffron-infused consommé. The delicate flavours ensure the seafood is the star of the show.
The rabbit is roasted golden brown and from appearance alone you might predict it would be dry. It isn’t; the earthy meat peels away from the bone easily. Salt from pancetta and a port sweetness deliver a depth to a dish that is rarely served in restaurants these days.
Chianti’s strength is its creative chefs who are willing to serve dishes that are admirably consistent, have bold flavours and use ingredients not common in most household kitchens.
While some diners may question the price, the whole experience is worth it.
Elegant is the best way to describe Chianti. Impeccable service, a warm and inviting atmosphere, and first-class food.
Four and a half out of five.
160 Hutt St, Adelaide
Tel: (08) 8232 7955
Open breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days
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