Searching for somewhere quiet, spacious and with excellent food? New South Melbourne arrival Lucia ticks all the boxes.

Good Food hat15.5/20


Do you remember fine dining? Not the degustation, book months-in-advance, spend half your rent money fine dining of today, but the version that was like regular dining, only better. The service was better. The room was quieter, more spacious, less raucous. And the cooking was considered, careful, beautiful. It was also more expensive than the casual neighbourhood bistro, of course. But it was worth it.

These days, this type of restaurant is not so easy to find. It may just be a question of fashion – many of the more ambitious and expensive restaurants are loud places where you’re still encouraged to share your plates, where the scene is as important as any culinary technique.

So it was almost a jolt to walk into Lucia, the restaurant opened in February by Frank Ciorciari and Anthony Silvestre, who also own Riserva in Malvern East, Sandringham’s Baia Di Vino and San Lorenzo in Scoresby.

The interior at South Melbourne restaurant, Lucia.
The interior at South Melbourne restaurant, Lucia. Chris Hopkins

Sited at the bottom of a new office building in South Melbourne, there’s a definite business-chic vibe, but it’s also spacious and luxurious and anything but rowdy. Much of the seating is in large plush semi-circular booths, the windows are cloaked in gauzy drapes, and while it looks a little like the foyer of an upscale corporate hotel, it also feels soigné – about two steps above the fracas of modern dining.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given the talent Ciorciari and Silvestre have pulled in to run Lucia’s kitchen. The chef, French-born Jordan Clavaron, has worked at Cutler & Co. and Society in Melbourne, but also under Joël Robuchon in Paris. His background and training are evident in almost everything that comes out of this kitchen.

There are lovely plump prawns ($15 each) with basil, wrapped in an impossibly thin and shattery brik pastry, the crunch contrasting with the soft seafood inside. A generous fistful of lobster meat dressed in lemongrass and tequila is served as a “taco” ($15 each), the taco shell here being a paper-like round of the Central American root vegetable jicama, the whole thing fresh and sweet and delicious.

Lobster is swaddled in a thin sheet of jicamo, taco style.
Lobster is swaddled in a thin sheet of jicamo, taco style.Chris Hopkins

There was a touch too much tomato sugo in an otherwise impressive spaghettoni with Moreton Bay bug ($45), hiding the bisque component of the sauce – I’d have loved to get more of that intense seafood flavour shining through. But it was the only complaint I had about the food here, and it was a small one at that.

I adored the pork rib ($46), an elevated take on a schnitzel, crumbed and served with grapes, fennel agrodolce, and a side of creme fraiche.

But perhaps the most remarkable dish of the night was a dessert, listed on the menu as chocolate, bourbon and coffee ($20). Part semifreddo, part affogato, the mousse-like chocolate component comes topped with a crown of soft and elegant meringue expertly piped into a tight spiral. The server pours a bourbon coffee mixture onto its point, and the liquid swirls down in a mesmerising flow to pool at the bottom of the bowl. It’s beautiful, and tastes wonderful, but also, this texture, shape and presentation are wildly difficult to achieve.

Lucia’s coffee, bourbon and chocolate dessert is finished at the table with a drizzle of sauce.
Lucia’s coffee, bourbon and chocolate dessert is finished at the table with a drizzle of sauce.Chris Hopkins

Is Lucia expensive? Sure … but no more so than many new restaurants that aren’t nearly as impressive. You can decide to go with the $130 caviar or the $170 dry-aged rib-eye for two, but in a world where entrees are easily surpassing the $30 mark and $50 mains are almost standard (insert crying emoji here), Lucia stays under that mark for the most part.


If I have an issue with cost, it has to do more with the way it’s handled by Lucia’s otherwise excellent servers. There’s an unmistakable upselling culture at play, which in my case relied on misunderstandings that could (and should) easily have been clarified.

When we ordered the two-sip martini ($19), which comes with a fresh oyster, our server suggested adding prosecco. We weren’t sure why – perhaps the oyster was in the drink itself (it’s not), and a prosecco float was part of the fun? Instead, we got two glasses of prosecco ahead of our cocktails – it’s the first time I’ve ever been upsold a drink when I was trying to order another drink, and it was baffling.

Many of the small plates are one-bite situations, and priced by the piece. So of course, we ordered two of the prawns, two of the lobster tacos (both $15 apiece). But we were also delivered two full servings of lamb tartare ($28), despite the dish being easily shareable, and not having requested double.

Lamb tartare with gribiche sauce, dukka and beetroot lavosh.
Lamb tartare with gribiche sauce, dukka and beetroot lavosh.Chris Hopkins

In every other way, the servers were charming, warm and obviously well-trained. The guy who mainly acted as a busser, bringing water and bread and clearing plates, was able to breezily talk me through the armagnac offerings. A waiter from another section who had greeted us made sure we were happy throughout the night. If they dropped the upselling, this would be some of the better service in town.


To say that Lucia is a pleasant surprise is a bit of an understatement. It isn’t a place to see and be seen, to feel like you’re in the heart of it all, or to discover boundary-pushing cuisine. But if you’re looking for serious, technique-based cooking, or to rediscover an endangered and utterly charming brand of fine dining, you’re in for a treat.

The low-down

Vibe: Soft corporate luxury.   

Go-to dish: Chocolate, bourbon and coffee dessert, $20.

Drinks: Large array of amari and an interesting wine list with a focus on France, Burgundy in particular

Cost: About $180 for two, plus drinks

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Default avatarBesha Rodell is the anonymous chief restaurant critic for The Age and Good Weekend.

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