Disclosure: My meal was courtesy of Food Pampering and Universal Restaurant.
Recently I was invited to a lunch at Universal Restaurant by Ashley of Food Pampering, along with a small group of other food bloggers. Located on Lygon Street, Universal Restaurant was established in 1969 – I’m sure that Lygon Street has changed a lot in that time! Alfie, the executive chef and manager, introduced himself and told us a bit about his restaurant, which was started up by his father. Alfie took over several years ago, and it’s still a family business – I’m pretty sure he told us that his brother also works there.
Before lunch, Alfie took us upstairs to the renovated function room. It was nicely decorated, and Alfie told us that eventually the downstairs would be updated to match. Upstairs has its own bar and kitchen – it’d be great for a party or function. When we were there, staff were setting up the table for someone’s 50th party that evening.
We all wandered back downstairs, and not long afterwards the food started arriving. And arriving. And arriving. There was A LOT of food – it felt like we sampled most of the menu!
We started with a cheese and garlic pizza ($7.50). It smelt amazing, and was heavy on the cheese.
Followed by a bruschetta pizza, with homemade pesto, fresh tomatoes and feta cooked on a pizza base ($8.50).
The buffalo wings ($8.50) were popular with most of us, having being grilled in a sticky marinade.
Some oysters came out, which split the table into two camps – those who love oysters, and those meh on oysters. Being firmly in the love oysters camp, I am always overjoyed when others don’t like them – more for me! The oysters kilpatrick ($2.70 each) had been baked with bacon and Worchestershire sauce. I’m more of a fresh, plain oyster person, however these were actually quite nice.
The fresh oysters ($2.60 each) with just a squeeze of lemon juice were more my style.
We then sampled a couple of the gourmet pizzas. I loved the way they were presented on the dark wooden board. This was the I Am Angus pizza ($14.90) with tomato, cheese, grilled beef strips, roasted red capscium, onions, jalapenos, and a drizzle of garlic mayo. Does it seem weird to have grilled beef on a pizza? Maybe a bit – but it was tasty and the beef was tender.
The chicken avocado pizza ($15.90) was also interesting, with tomato, cheese, mushrooms, grilled chicken and fresh avocado.
One of my favourite dishes was the slow roasted pork ribs ($19.90). The tender ribs had been marinated and cooked in a sweetish, sticky sauce.
The ribs came with pumpkin, potatoes, corn and a gigantic wedge of butter!
The food kept coming! This was the Porterhouse ($18.90) served with a bit of salad and a stack of fantastic, crunchy and fluffy chips. The chips were SO GOOD.
I thought the steak was fine, though it didn’t knock my socks off.
The Tuscan chicken ($15.50) came with a large marinated grilled chicken breast fillet and was served with a rather good wild mushroom risotto.
The salmon fillet ($19.90) was a generous piece of fish. Simply grilled, there was vegetable ratatouille and roasted garlic aoli on the side.
The Risotto Poseidon ($18.50) was another of my favourite dishes. The risotto had prawns, mussels, spinach and roasted capsicum and a touch of spicy olio and napolitana sauce. It was VERY moreish.
As if we weren’t going to be rolling out of the restaurant already, one of each dessert was then brought out for us to share. The chocolate brownie cheesecake ($9) was pretty rich – a New York style cheesecake with chocolate brownie chunks on a chocolate biscuit crust.
The gelato tasting plate ($8) came with several flavours – mango, blood orange, coconut, nougat and chocolate. Unfortunately the mango and blood orange flavours tasted quite a bit like cordial, though the other flavours fared better. Alfie told us later that they intend to make their own gelato onsite later in the future.
The tiramisu ($8.50) looked fantastic – a glass of coffee and liqueur soaked savoiardi biscuits, smothered in mascarpone cream and chocolate shavings. I’m not particularly excited by tiramisu, but I thought it was fine.
The chocolate mud pudding ($9) was a rich chocolate pudding with sticky chocolate fudge and ice cream. I only had a small spoon of it – I was rather full by this stage!
And finally, there was a panna cotta ($8.50), a white chocolate version with blueberry puree, Persian fairy floss and a toffee shard. Points go to the panna cotta for being the prettiest dessert of the day! It tasted pretty good too – very creamy, and the blueberry puree helped cut through some of the creamy richness.
Phew. That’s it. Yes, there was rather a lot of food!
If I’m honest, I had preconceptions of what the food would be like before I even walked into Universal Restaurant. I mean… it’s an Italian style restaurant… on Lygon Street… yes, I wasn’t expecting much. But I have to give credit where it’s due – the food was good. Universal Restaurant isn’t a fancy, hip joint with tricked up food that’s plated up like a work of art (and you know that I love those places too!). It’s just a place that serves food that’s tasty and fairly inexpensive. Sometimes that’s all that you need.
Read the other blogger accounts of our meal:
[googleMap name="Universal Restaurant" width="600" height="300" directions_to="false"]139-141 Lygon Street, Carlton, VIC 3053, Australia[/googleMap]
139-141 Lygon Street
Phone: 03 9347 4393
Web: universalrestaurant.com.au (Music warning!)