Whenever Chris Lucas opens a restaurant on Flinders Lane, things tend to go pretty well. There was Chin Chin, which caused a tectonic shift – for a good few years at least – in the way that Melbourne restaurants looked and behaved. Then came the ambitious Kisumé, a bold multi-concept Japanese diner that’s been perennially busy since day dot. And now, there’s Grill Americano, which opened last week.
As the name suggests, the stars of the kitchens are a Josper charcoal grill and a custom-made woodfire oven imported from Naples, which are used across the majority of the broad menu’s line-up of dishes. Grill Americano is inspired by Northern Italy’s renowned steakhouses and namely Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the signature Tuscan dish of a thickly cut t-bone steak, traditionally cooked over hot coals. Alongside a host of other steaks (on and off the bone), you’ll also find woodfired pork belly, grilled swordfish and roasted scampi.
There’s a robust roster of hand-made pastas, too – including wagyu pappardelle, saffron taglioni with scampi, and garganelli with pesto. The rest of the menu – from cicchetti, to sides and salads – is made up of classics from around Italy. Italian favourites also keep coming on the desserts menu: tiramisu, biscotti, gelato and vanilla meringata are all present and accounted for.
Drinks from the Italian cocktail canon dominate the drinks list. The eponymous Americano is a looker – it’s served with a chocolate dipped mandarin. The addition of vermouth to the Bellini – the Mimosa’s Italian cousin – is a nice tweak on the famous drink, and the Smoked Negroni is another highlight. Celebrated somm and Lucas Restaurants beverage director Loic Avril has designed a wine list with over 2000 bottles, and there are plenty of by-the-glass and Coravin pour choices to get stuck into.
It’s all set within a sleek, restrained space designed by long-time Lucas collaborator Samantha Eades. A curved white marble bar frames the bar and parts of the kitchen; royal blue booths and high-back chairs take up the rest of the room, moodily offset by the dark terrazzo floors and brushed gunmetal gray walls. It’s a completely different beast to Richmond’s Baby, the original Italian restaurant in the Lucas Restaurants stable.
Since opening last week, Grill Americano has been packed to the gills. Chris Lucas and Flinders Lane have one of the great Melbourne love affairs. It’s good to see they’re still going strong.