A few months ago Jeremy and I took my mum out for a dining experience at a restaurant I won’t name. It was one of my greats but sadly with new management and kitchen staff it was a less than stellar event. With mum’s birthday rolling around recently I was keen to make up for the not so good dinner and brainstormed long and hard over what venue we would take her to.
It’s hard to figure out what sort of restaurants to take my mum to. She’s an amazing cook and has travelled all over which means she’s experienced some pretty top notch places. I know she really enjoys different, modern style (but not tiny sized) foods, so in the end I decided Lalla Rookh would be the one to go to.
Arriving at 6.00pm on a Friday night I’m nervous that we’ll be hard pressed to get a table. The restaurant’s bar is jam packed for Friday night drinks and we weren’t able to book as they only take bookings for larger tables.
To my surprise our wait is only about five minutes before we’re shown to a table. It’s a little awkward since it’s right near a bar so drinkers are standing all around us talking over our heads – but thankfully about halfway through our meal a table in the actual restaurant section becomes available and we’re moved without asking. I love that kind of consideration! And in the mean time it’s not so bad – after all, we managed to get seated so quick on a very busy night.
I’ve only eaten at Lalla Rookh once before an event which means I didn’t get to try out the menu as much as I’d of liked. After seeing a couple of other bloggers enjoy the il capo menu ($55 per head for six share courses for the table) I knew that was what I wanted to do. Luckily the birthday girl had the exact same thing in mind and Jeremy was happy to come along for the ride.
We place our orders and sit back to relax while the kitchen does all the hard work. We have no idea what the dinner will be made of – just that there’s three entree dishes, one pasta, one meat and one dessert. Sounds good to me!
As we’re toasting a happy birthday with our drinks (red wine for me, beer for my boy and gin & tonic for my mum), a serving of house baked focaccia bread comes to the table. With olive oil and salt on our table already I go to town devouring the crisp outer and ridiculously light inside. It’s so, so good! I know bread always impresses me since I only eat it at restaurants, but this is definitely up there with the best.
Once we’ve finished our bread, the first official course of our il capo menu comes out to the table. Hiramasa kingfish marinato with blood orange segments, fennel and sweetened capers. It sits atop a salt block which is a really clever way to inject seasoning while plating the dish up. We’re instructed to take our fish quickly off the block as it can get salty very quickly – I quickly fire off a couple shots on my camera and we follow our instructions.
This is one of the best dishes of the night for all of us. Sweet, delicate and fresh fish is complemented by the crunch of the fennel and the citrus zing from the orange. I love the sweetened capers, they’re a really great addition that adds another depth of flavour. Very yummy, very memorable. I could have easily polished off another serving – and happily too!
Equally as impressive as the kingfish is the next course which is a salad of peas, organic jersey milk ricotta, grilled bread, mint & lemon. I so want to try to recreate this (somehow) at home. That creamy pea puree at the bottom acts like a sauce, binding together the fresh peas and mint.
I’m so loving jersey milk cheeses lately (just bought some feta from the Leederville farmers markets on the weekend) and this is light, fluffy and the perfect accompaniment to the vegetables. I really enjoy the toasted croutons which are crunchy, buttery and offer some substance to the light salad. This is a memorable dish for sure!
Our third course in the il capo dinner that night is wood-grilled sardines with parsley and caper berry salsa. This is my boy’s second favourite dish and I have to admit, it is a real treat. They’re extremely fresh, almost a little smokey from the grilling process. The meat inside is salty but a little sweet at the same time, heightened by the salsa and lemon accompanying.
Mum and Jeremy like to suck on the heads whereas I’m more interested in the body meat. I’m sometimes too lazy to bother dealing with bones but sardines have such frail ones I don’t mind.
We pause for a small break after our three entree dishes before moving on to the pasta course. We are a pasta loving family. Jeremy and I love eating it, making it and just generally dreaming about it. And my mum is never happier than when she’s munching away on a simple pasta dish with oil, garlic and chilli. We’re really excited for the pasta dish that Lalla Rookh will be giving us on this evening.
When it comes to the table my mouth literally waters. Gnocchi! It’s like they knew of my obsession with these little heavenly pillows. But I know that my mum isn’t the biggest fan so this will be a taste test.
The ricotta gnocchi are so extremely light. Sometimes gnocchi can be overly starchy or heavy, but these are almost weightless. They’re in a rich ragu that has just the right amount of oiliness and depth of flavour that has you coming back for more and more. This is the dish of the night for all of us – even mum! If they have this on the menu when you visit Lalla Rookh I highly recommend that you order it. It’s sure to impress!
By the time we finish our pasta I’m feeling pretty full, though the boy and mum still have room to keep eating. I want dessert so I only have a small part of the meat course which is Italian sausage, sauerkraut and apples with fresh horseradish and pancetta. There’s also a couple caramelised shallots for added sweetness.
As far as dishes go it’s nice but doesn’t have the same wow factor that the others do. I think it’s because we’re not a family that eats sausages much or would ever order them. But in saying that the meat is well seasoned and moist, the sauerkraut a nice addition of German cuisine with more traditional Italian ingredients. I like it, but after the gnocchi I don’t fall in love.
The dessert is a menu item that I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about – Lalla Rookh’s signature bomboloni. It’s an Italian doughnut cut in half to sandwich a semifreddo with dark chocolate and toasted almonds.
Talk about a perfect ending. The doughnuts have just the right texture to them – so crisp on the outside and soft inside. The semifreddo is sweet and creamy, a perfect juxtaposition to the crunch and savouriness of the nuts, and the bitterness of the chocolate. No wonder these are the talk of the town!
Mum and Jeremy finish off with a coffee each while I try to digest. I’m feeling very, very full!
So how was our dinner at Lalla Rookh? Wonderful. It’s too loud if you like your intimate dining settings but if that doesn’t bother you then strap in for a great meal! And if you’re in the mood for something different I definitely recommend the il capo menu – you don’t know what you’ll get until the dishes are brought out to you, but it means you get to leave the choice up to the talented chefs in the kitchen, plus you’ll try some dishes you probably wouldn’t normally order.
It was a great night, and I’m so happy to say that mum loved it. Hooray!