Sagra ticks a number of boxes in the somewhat surprising location of Malvern. Opening on Glenferrie Road last year, the restaurant boasts four huge levels to seemingly suit any time of day. Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Not a worry — the ground level, with a central open kitchen, seats over 100 people. Thirstin' for a cocktail? There's a rooftop bar for that. Then, if you're hankering for some cultural dessert, there's a gallery space which is, of course, all totally okay because this is Melbourne we're talking about and we're into it.
We're also very into Italian food of late. But there's something overwhelming about many Italian menus. Starters, entrees, pasta and risotto, mains, salads, sides and dessert all come with a generous selection of dishes listed underneath. The salumi or formaggi misti ($20) are safe bets — there's little room to go wrong with a salty selection of cured meats or hunks of cheese complemented with truffled honey. If you're looking for a more substantial entree, go for the slow-cooked pork belly ($16), beef carpaccio with rocket, parmesan, white balsamic and white truffle oil ($18.50) and a caprese with generous blobs of creamy burrata ($18).
The main meal portions are liberal, too. Good luck choosing between the spanner crab linguine ($37) and the lamb cooked two ways with sautéed artichokes, kipfler potatoes, confit tomatoes and basil dressing ($39). The marinated chicken, which has been done on the Josper grill with some baby cos and juicy corn kernels (and served with an anchovy shallot parmesan aioli) is well worth ordering as well ($35).
If you've room, keep your cheese game strong with the baked goats' cheese cheesecake accompanied with honey ice cream, lemon curd, honeycomb and walnuts ($17.50). If you don't...well, we can't help you with that one.
Even on a weeknight, Sagra packs out — chatter carries and it definitely feels busy. The service teeters towards overbearing; this is not a place for wasted food. Any sign of an unfinished starter will be deftly heaped onto your plate before it's cleared — kind of like if you were at your grandma's place. If she lived in an airy, spacious four-storey building in the southeast. Well, you know what they say: waste not, want not.
Images: Simon Shiff.