Food and Drink


The Other Sister

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Comparisons are always being drawn between siblings, which is why when the much anticipated Ilona Staller rose from the depths of Red Rooster’s old headquarters in Balaclava, we couldn’t help but compare.

Aesthetically, Ilona is a more alternative version of her older sister Cicciolina in St Kilda. She is young, bright and edgy – ideal company both day and night.

My guest and I were flattered by the humble and attentive service. The staff was not only careful and eager; they were also extremely knowledgeable, elevating our lunchtime experience with their strong recommendations.

Our culinary journey began with a bang as we indulged in a Bee Sting, a delicately fried Jalapeño chilli stuffed with feta, lime and pine nuts ($3.50 a piece.)

The Small Bits and Entrée offerings on the menu all seemed just as delicious so on recommendation we settled for the prawn and white anchovy soufflé with prosecco veloute ($19.50.) Anchovies are always an acquired taste but melted down into a soufflé the strong flavour softened, while the prosecco veloute enhanced it’s delicate taste.

An incredibly hot day, we were in the mood for something light but filling so we stuck to more meals from the sea.

The Spag ‘Mazza’ with mussels, pippies, calamari, fish, king prawns sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chili and wine was incredible. A very generous serving packed with simple but explosive flavour in every bite.

Now I must preface this by saying that I am not a risotto fan but it was the ingredients which sold me: blue swimmer crab, zucchini flower, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil. And there was nothing to regret, there was an abundant balance of all the ingredients and every bite seemed to increase with flavour.

One must always leave room for dessert, so after a well deserved break we consumed what we could of the Coeur al la crème with fresh berries  ($16.50) accompanied by some fine coffees, as one can only expect in Balaclava (Wall 280 and Batch.)

We completed our meals and sat for a moment contemplating. We were full and happy and pleasantly surprised. It was then that it dawned on us that you don’t realise two sisters could be related, until you get below the surface and appreciate some things run in the family.

Note: Upstairs area to open later this year. Gift vouchers available.

Ilona Staller
282-284 Carlisle St, Balaclava
Mon-Sat 12 midday to 1am
Sunday 12 midday to 11pm
9534 0488
Lunch bookings only.

For a list of recommended dishes from Ilona Staller staff, email

Follow Jen Curcio’s culinary quests at or Decisive Cravings on Facebook.

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