Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published May 11th 2016
You'll Want To Sample Everything
Superb pannacotta with mixed berries, vanilla and saffron flow
Have you ever wished that you were born into a different family? No offence to my beautiful eclectic mob but I can imagine Nancy (the matriarch of Small Plates) as my mum pinching the chubby cheeks of my children and offering us more fresh cheese filled Filo pastries followed by a smooth Panacotta sprinkled with vanilla beans. That's enough of my fantasy!
The story behind the small plates cafe is almost as interesting as the incredible food. Nancy and Quinton, parents of Fluti, Florie and Nuri, have come together as a family to create the most inviting tapas cafe that you may ever visit. In many ways this is a pretty amazing local family who have a vast experience in running successful food outlets. When I asked Nancy what made her want to start again and go into yet another cafe she said that all of the children wanted to do something together. All of her children are now in food industry. Now that's closeness.
The styling is perfect
The owners and operators of the cafe have started a lot of other successful businesses and their experience shows in many ways. Locals will know the family as the previous owners of the deli and chicken shop in Bolton Street and the award-winning Burger Lounge in Eltham.
In just a few weeks of opening they already have some of their loyal customers frequenting the cafe. Fluti was telling us that in the first two weeks one of the customers had been in during the day with her friends, she had come back that night with her partner and then on another date with her parents. As she was telling us this, the same customer came in the door on her fourth visit in three weeks.
I have eagerly been awaiting the final fit out of this classy venue. The large overhead pendants are stunning and the copper trimmings right up my alley. The cafe seats about 50 inside and 50 outside with heaters for the colder months. Flutie told me that dog walkers also enjoy the outdoor space.
Beautiful indoors and out
I was impressed that all food is made on the premises with Nancy helping out with a few of the specialties. The cafe is all ready very busy on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays with their favourites including the squid, prawns, slow cooked lamb and chevaps. Three of the waiting staff I talked to underlined that the share food is very, very big.
We were served by a gorgeous young waitress named Jaz. The owners wanted their staff to know all about each of the menu items so she had been lucky enough to try everything on the menu before the cafe opened. Having not had the fortune of birthright, I wish I'd had enough foresight to have applied for the job myself. Her recommendations included the Lamb platter, which she knew had been cooked for 10 hours. One of her favourites was also the Corn fritters and the Frangipani, quince tart.
Not one of the family but you'd think so. I think she loves it as much as they do
Having now tried a few of the dishes I would agree with Jazz about the Corn fritters with irresistible lime cream friache. I'm going to go out on the limb here and say that I think they were the best corn fritters I have ever tasted… and being a vegetarian that's quite a lot! My dining partner said she could eat a whole plate of them. Like the Spinach and silver beet arancini, they were really crispy on the outside and melt in the mouth in the middle.
You can see the delicious sticky cheese binding the rice together
Whether you're into desserts or not there are two that I highly recommend. One is the Cheese filled filo pastry with pomegranate and pistachio. This is made freshly by Nancy herself and presented with loving care. You have never tasted anything like it. I may have understated this pastry that's in a class of its own - it is out of this world.
Do not miss Nancy's filo pastry
If I had chosen from the list I may not have selected the Pannacotta, which would've been a crying shame. It's almost too beautiful to eat. Decorated with edible flowers, topped with saffron floss and sprinkled with vanilla beans it is an edible art piece. This is a top quality dessert so smooth that I don't know how it stays together. I believe it's a chef secret recipe (Jamie Oliver eat your heart out) but I think it may have King Island cream, although it's not too rich. If you have to stop, then this is a great way to finish off your meal, so save a little space.
These corn fritters are to die for
I noticed that most of the items are gluten-free which Nancy said is essential in this day and age. There are also a huge range of vegetarian options and some unique dishes. Tapas start at only $8 a plate.
At one stage I overheard a lady on a nearby table telling the waiter 'This squid is absolutely delightful.' When we left we told the waitress that 'We would have to waddle out' and her reply was 'Just as long as you enjoyed it.' I think that says a lot about the experience at Small Plates.
Aranchini lovers rejoice
There is really no question about it. You do not want to be the only person in Melbourne who has not delighted in the Small Plates Tapas. You must visit and try as many different dishes as you can possibly eat. Do not eat first and do not pass go. This is my pick of the year and I plan to be a frequent visitor. Say hello to the family - you're sure to get a smiling welcome.