Filled to the brim with lively drinkers and diners, 10 William Street seems more like a brand new opening than an eight-year-old establishment.
Since 2011, the Italian eatery and wine bar has been a launching pad for some of the country's best chefs, with an honour roll that includes Dan Pepperell (who you'll now find at Restaurant Hubert and Alberto's Lounge) to Garagistes founder Luke Burgess, Pinbone's Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman (now at Totti's and Lankan Filling Station, respectively) and the recently departed Enrico Tomelleri, who's about to launch his own venture. The latest inductee to the hall of fame is head chef Trisha Greentree from Brae in Victoria, who has just lifted the lid on her very first menu.
The good looking Italian venue, an old converted shopfront just a few strides down from Oxford Street, has aged gracefully, from the walnut leather banquettes to its green laminate bar rimmed with golden rails. Don't fit downstairs? Don't be surprised, the front room is about as big as a hallway but there's a whole other level of dining upstairs.
If you come to 10 William Street, it's pretty safe to assume you're drinking. The wine list is chalked up on the blackboard, but if you don't know your palomino from your passerina, just ask the wait staff for a recommendation — we're all friends here. Look around and you'll see most people have gone for an apricot drop, a muscat and chenin blanc blend ($15) packed with lemon sherbet and fuzzy melon, or the hay-coloured Venetian Soave ($15) imbued with green apples and gooseberries.
A short menu of small plates could easily be mistaken for wine snacks, but really they deserve a lot more credit than that. Start with the crostino ($7 each), a fried pastry square heaped with creamy goat's curd and salty bursts of Yarra Valley trout roe, then follow up with a slab of fried mortadella ($16) draped with pickled green watermelon, cut close to the rind so it's bright and crisp.
A glass of sangiovese ($15) demands to be accompanied with pasta and we're happy to comply. Choose from a strozzapretti ($29) — dressed in green pistachio pesto topped with a rubble of pangrattato — or the maltagliati ($29), tasty trapezoids in a pork and veal ragu with wilted radicchio and puddles of milk curd. You'll finish with a saucy grin and a stain on your shirt to remind you of good times.
From the two desserts on offer, a simple flan ($9) shows up its snobby French cousin, the crème caramel, with a rich silken texture and a dark vermouth caramel, as bitter as the patrons who couldn't nab a table. It is addictively good, and we're glad they don't know what they're missing.
10 William Street might have the energy of a newcomer, but flair and finesse like this is something that only comes with age.
Images: Kitti Gould.