I feel like I’ve been on quite the Italian food bender of late….. Ginos, Christina’s and most recently I organised a catch up with an old uni pal of mine, we’ll call him Skip, at Lalla Rookh. Lalla Rookh is a new Italian addition to the CBD restaurant scene. Now I’ll admit that I was perhaps a little confused about the location and initially found myself wandering aimlessly around Brookfield Place before a quick search (thank goodness for the iPhone) instructed me to quick march down the Terrace to Allendale Square where the restaurant actually was
So I walked down the Terrace and then headed to the basement where Lalla Rookh was located. From the entrance I chose it was perhaps a little tricky to figure out whether or not I was walking into the right place, but when I left later than night I discovered there was another entrance down a set of stairs that was far more obvious.
I was ushered through the bar and into the restaurant. So great to see Skip! Hugs all round! He’s been living overseas for many years and is making the move back to Oz – very exciting. He’s one of those people that you can catch up with after ages and it seems like it’s been no time at all. It’s nice to have friends like that. It wasn’t overly busy when we arrived, but we had made a pretty early booking. We perused the wine list and decided to share a bottle of white. I chose Single File Estate, because I’d been to a fab wine dinner where they had starred earlier in the year. Unfortunately it was one of only two bottles that they didn’t have in stock. Devastating. So I went with a New Zealand white instead, Huia Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($55), they tend to be pretty enjoyable and this one was a decent quaffer.
Now the thing about Skip is that he’s somewhat of a challenging dining companion, having issues with gluten, lactose and nuts (the latter being one I wasn’t aware of until this catch up). So it does somewhat limit the menu for him and highlights how having (g) next to dishes that are suitable for him is a helpful guide. Unfortunately Lalla Rookh has yet to include notation in their menu for the gluten intolerant, but thankfully the waitress was able to provide some guidance and did let Skip know that they were able to make some pizzas with a gluten free base. It was like all his Christmases had come at once when the waitress confirmed that he could get the pizza ‘napoletana’ – tomato sugo, olives, anchovies, fior di latte ($18) done gluten free! Happy days.
Across the table, I knew all the pasta was made in house by Head Chef Joel Valvasori and given it’s my favourite I couldn’t go past the pappardelle, pork ragu ($24). We also decided on perhaps an unconventional, but entirely delicious and Skip-suitable entrée of roast potatoes, white wine, rosemary, garlic ($8).
The spuds didn’t take long to arrive and it was quite a decent serve, all cubed up and wonderfully crispy and salty. They definitely showed off the delicious potential of the humble spud when dished up like this.
Before too long it was time for mains. Now I can’t say I found Skip’s pizza that enticing, maybe because it had anchovies on it and as much as I am pro-fish now, I’m not quite on board with this salty fellow as yet. It definitely looked like a more traditional style pizza, with quite sparse ingredients and the focus on the quality of the base and the tomato sauce. Skip was quite pleased with it, perhaps had wanted a little more cheese (yes, choosing to ignore that lactose was one of his forbidden food groups) but generally seemed pretty happy they were able to offer a gluten free base. I did sample a small bite and the tomato sugo was quite tasty.
Now I’ve been a long time pappardelle fan, with my bench mark dish the lamb ragu pappardelle that they serve at the Subiaco Hotel. As soon as my plate was presented I suspected that this dish was not going to knock the Subi’s pasta off its perch. In my mind I had thought that the pork ragu would be like morsels of slow cooked meat in a rich, gravy sauce, ladled generously over the silky ribbons of pasta. Now the pasta itself was lovely, definitely homemade and just melt in your mouth beautiful, but the pork was more like minced pork and while it was still tasty, it wasn’t quite what I was after. The serving I found to be quite generous and I didn’t actually make my way through it all, but that could have been the potatotes fault. Couldn’t stop eating them!
Thankfully though, after taking some time to chat more over the remaining vino, some room for dessert magically appeared. I’d heard quite a few reports about the lemon scented fried custard, poached rhubarb, rhubarb ice cream ($14) so I ordered this to satisfy my curiosity. Rhubarb has been one of those ingredients that I only discovered the awesomeness of this year. Yes I’m behind the times I know. As desserts go it was pleasant. I’m not a massive custard fan so I’m probably not the right person to wax lyrical about this dessert, but I did like it. Particularly the flavoursome rhubarb ice-cream and poached rhubarb pieces. I suspected that someone with stronger feelings for custard would really love this.
Across the table, caution was thrown to the wind and Skip ordered the Dellendale creameries triple cream brie, honeycomb ($15). It got bonus points for the beautiful fresh honeycomb, which from all accounts was lovely. Given that he couldn’t eat the bread included with this dish I suspect a slightly larger serving of cheese would have been preferred and also for the cheese to be closer to room temp. Apparently it was a touch too cold. Nice cheese though.
Company had been stellar, service had been friendly and I quite like the fit out they have going, all very modern. On the food front I think I had hoped to be wowed a little more with my pasta dish is all – wasn’t quite what I had expected, but the freshness of the pasta was divine. Perhaps it was that I had a different expectations for the ragu was all. I should have noted that the focus of Lalla Rookh is on ‘La Cucina Westraliana’ – modern Italian cooking. I am keen to head back though, with GG in tow and work our way through some of the tasty options they have under the small shared section.