A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published June 6th 2014
Look for the snappy red motor scooters out the front of a restaurant as you walk down Hardware Lane in the heart of Melbourne, and you'll know you've found Campari House. It screams 'Italy', highlighting the restaurant's focus on modern Italian cuisine.
Look for the red Vespa out the front
This venue has been around since 1968, although previously as Campari Bistro. Since its Campari Bistro days, Campari House has been extensively renovated. However, through retaining many of its original features, much of the charm from the earlier era remains. Fittings and furnishings have stayed and original timbers have been restored to create new bars. Artwork is scattered throughout the venue. The result is a warm, inviting feel, with a relaxed, laid back atmosphere.
Campari House is a large venue. It stretches over four levels. There is a bistro on the ground level, function space on the first floor, a lounge on level 2, and there's also a rooftop bar. The venue is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A friend and I visited Campari House to try Aperitivo Thursday. This takes place from 5 - 7pm each Thursday, in the Laneway Restaurant (ground floor). The concept is that 'classic Italian cocktails' are served with a platter of antipasto. You can choose from Classic Cin Cin, Campari Sbagliato or Aperol Spritz. We were fortunate enough to be able to try all three! While I enjoyed them all, for both of us, the Aperol Spritz was the clear winner. It is essentially a mixture of prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), soda and Aperol (the lower alcohol, less bitter cousin of Campari), served with orange slices. Seeing my friend Mel's face on tasting the (more bitter) Campari Sbagliato was priceless! Definitely don't go for that one if you have a sweeter palate (as she does!).
Our favourite cocktail - the Aperol Spritz
We were also impressed with the antipasto platter served with the cocktails. It was thoughtful and elegant, and a great mix of flavours and textures. We had the following on our platter:
- house pickle
- truffled pea and mozzarella arancini with saffron aioli
- pork rillette
- cauliflower and gorgonzola croquettes with sherry caramel
- flash fried calamari.
Antipasto platter. At the front is the Truffled Pea & Mozzarella Arancini
The champion for us - while it would not win on appearance - was the pork rillette. The complex flavours and the wonderful melt-in-your-mouth texture of this dish were divine.
Do keep in mind though that this is a sample of the antipasto that's available and it will vary from day to day.
We were so happily settled in the restaurant that we stayed on for dinner, choosing a spicy lamb pizza. The pizza was also delicious.
Campari House is offering a jug of one of their classic Italian cocktails, plus an antipasto platter, for $55. What a great place to bring some friends or work colleagues to unwind at day's end!
Finally, a mention of the excellent service we received. Tracey, the Restaurant Manager, was delightful and very helpful during the time we were there. Other staff also seemed friendly and attentive.
I'm looking forward to my next visit to Campari House!