Having just flown in from Perth, I had two tired and hungry little girls. The only thing they could agree on was that they wanted spaghetti bolognaise, so it was lucky that Macchiato was around the corner from our hotel. I had already searched the menu in our room, and the pasta options looked limited and grown up, but I felt confident that an Italian restaurant would have to have a simple bolognese on the menu. Right?
When we arrived at 7pm on a Thursday, the place was heaving. It is a large room, and the prospect of spilling red sauce on your white top tend to make people pretty jolly (or is it the free flowing red wine?) but either way, it had a positive, happy vibe from the waiter who greeted us at the door, to the gorgeously accented waitress who took our orders, to the couples, families and groups who were enjoying their meals.
I only had one prerequisite before we asked to be seated, but the waiter took one look at my knee-high guests and pre-empted it. 'We have a kids menu,' he told me. 'It has bolognese' Seriously, how did he know?
Although the room was popping at the seams, he found us a table and gave the kids their menus which had a word search and maze on the back (no pens though). Only a few minutes later there was a queue outside the door, but one of the benefits of Italian food is that you can cook and eat it quickly, so the tables seemed to turn over quickly, and the queue was never there for long.
The kids menu is very simple. Three pasta/risotto choices (spaghetti bolognese, chicken risotto and Napolitana penne) and four pizzas (Hawaiian, BBQ chicken, margarita and capricciosa). A note on the menu suggests you can also make your own pizza, and to ask the waiter. The kids meals are $15 and also include a drink (juice or soft drink) and a bowl of gelato (vanilla with a choice of three toppings).
As a parent, I couldn't really fault it. The food servings were generous, the price was good, and the flavour was good. Although for my taste, the spaghetti sauce had a strong flavour of aniseed in it, fennel perhaps, but the kids didn't mention it and lapped it up.
A watermelon and cucumber cocktail - makes any night feel like summer
While we waited I sipped my watermelon and cucumber cocktail ($13) and looked around the room. Polished concrete floors, recessed black wooden ceilings, low spherical lighting. A large leather banquette runs the length of the room, splitting it into two spaces. The bar, coffee area and kitchen are open, bringing with it all the flavour and movement of cocktails being shaken, pasta pans being flipped and coffee being pressed.
And here's a tip, don't forget to look up: at the front of the restaurant is an original painted pressed tin ceiling. It gave the whole room a cavernous underground, New York feel. Or how I would imagine it would feel if i had actually ever been to New York.
The food was quite quick to arrive and the kids spent the next five minutes blowing madly on their very hot spaghetti, while I tucked into my zucca pizza (pumpkin, goats cheese, cherry tomatoes, cashew nuts and rocket $19). There are 24 varieties on offer including 11 with red sauce, 5 with white sauce, and a separate section for 'local favourites' such as the Hawaiian and Shanghai roast duck, as though real Italians need to point out they are far from traditional. Which they are, I suppose. All pizzas cost between $17 and $25.
But the menu is not just limited to pizza, there is also a huge variety of options including burgers and wraps, assorted meat and seafood mains and a large contingent of pasta and risotto. There is a lot of choice.
I didn't think I would be able to finish my pizza, but I gave it a red hot try. The crust was well flavoured and nicely chewy. The white base was tasty, the pumpkin soft and sweet, the pine nuts crunchy and the rocket leaves fresh. I would have liked a bit more generosity with the toppings: the goats cheese was light on and I would have liked pine nuts in every mouthful, not every second mouthful. Still, it was an enjoyable pizza.
A gelato and topping finishes the kids meal perfectly
We were in and out in less than an hour, perfect for my kids who were no longer hungry nor tired. I had to grab someone to let them know we wanted to pay the bill, but once I had his attention he was friendly and efficient.
All in all, I would be happy to return to Macchiato again with kids. They were treated like actual people, and not small creatures that must be tolerated, the staff were quick to make a joke with the girls and try and drag a smile out of them. We were even sent home with a Chinese noodle box of Italian leftovers, a nice multicultural touch in a fabulous multicultural city.