650 Brunswick St, New Farm
It's been a while since uni has started now. Since we've all settled into the work routine, my uni girlfriends and I decided to spruce up the weekend with a meal out in town. It makes a world of difference to your weekday when there is something to look forward to. For me, it's also the first time I've been to a proper restaurant with friends in what feels like a lifetime.
My foodie buddy chose Cafe Portofino based on a photo of their dessert cabinet she saw on Facebook. I was shown that photo and become promptly convinced that it was somewhere I wanted to check out. There is something about shelves full of sweet pastry that makes me weak at the knees. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
With the acquisition of her new ride (sexy gray Mazda 3), my friend was able to drive us down to New Farm (as opposed to fumbling around with the valley buses which is something I'm admittedly crap at).
The cafe is quite small and the first thing you see upon entering is the aforementioned dessert cabinet. After ooing and ahhing at the goods on display, we took up a table against the way.
Cafe Portofino is quite dark but clean in its furnishings. The walls are decorated with small canvas pieces. The bar slash cashier dominates on the other side of the room.
The menu contains a selection of pizza, pasta and Italian mains. We chose a pizza and a pasta to share, with the intention of leaving room for dessert.
The pork sausage and sage pizza was pretty good. I liked the base because it tasted very much homemade, as opposed to frozen cardboard stuff that you get at lazy pizza stores. The topping had nice flavors but we would have preferred more of it.
The crab linguine looked impressive when served. It's the first time I've tasted squid-ink pasta... the texture is quite chewy and firm. I thought there was a huge lack in actual crab but it's because the crab meat settled at the bottom of the dish.
The main problem for me is that the pasta wasn't saucy at all - it was basically pasta and crab meat tossed with chili oil. In theory, that sounds alright but on the plate, I thought this dish really NEEDED some sauciness to a) provide flavor and b) adhere the crab meat to the pasta. Unfortunately, I found this dish disappointing.
We got to the part we were most excited about: choosing desserts. Being the curious/greedy/dessert-loving females that we are, we opted for a selection of sweet things to try and share.
My friend had heard good things about the tiramisu. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have picked it myself because it looked less visually appealing than the pastries. Good thing it wasn't up to me then because the tiramisu ended up being my favorite item.
I've had many tiramisu of different forms. This one is more like a trifle than a cake or mousse. There are moist sponge pieces coated with creamy mascarpone. The coffee flavor was present but not overwhelming and there was a slight hint of alcohol.
I chose the pistachio shortbread based on the fact that I dig anything pistachio. Oh, and shortbread is just another one of those things that just do it for me.
It had a pistachio nut cream filling, biscuity exterior and a coat of roasted pistachios. I quite liked this and it would've been all the better accompanied by a cup of coffee.
The other items we chose were a selection of cookies/pastries. I didn't get down the actual names but there were so many there with variations in fillings, textures and so on. I liked the limoncino cookie which had a gorgeous melt-in-mouth texture and light, tarty lemon flavor.
There was a pastry roll that was filled with something reminiscent of Nutella. The other item (no idea what it's called - possibly 'almond something') was my least favorite because it had an oddly spongy texture, unexpected in a cookie-shaped thing.
Our opinion is that Cafe Portofino is better for coffee and pastry than actual food. The pizza was 'good' but I've had better and considering the price, I'd choose better. The pasta was just meh. It was a nice environment though and the staff were absolutely lovely to us throughout.