If there’s anyone who enjoys a history lesson, it’s me. I discovered my love of all things past while at university. Too bad I was studying psychology…
It’s commonly believed that Australian history can be a little on the dull side. And while I too subscribe to this train of thought, it can’t be said that we don’t have our interesting characters. Scoundrels, thieves and general wrong-doers litter the history books and tv screens (thanks Underbelly), and add a little spice to our chequered past.
Named after a Kalgoorlie showgirl, and populated by ex-jailbird labour,Lalla Rookh was a mine site north west of Marble Bar in the early 1900’s. There was little positive about the town, except its mess hall. What better place to name a bar offering respite from the drudgery of the CDB and working day?
Lalla Rookh, at the base of Allendale Square (the ANZ Building) is part of the CBD’s burgeoning revival. Taking place along side Sentinel, The Heritage, The Trustee and the soon to open Print Hall, it’s probably the more casual of these venues, but certainly not the least impressive.
Following head chef Joel Valvasori on Twitter and Instagram had piqued my interest in the venue. The process of sourcing and tasting produce and wines; building and installing the kitchen had given a fascination insight as to how someone goes about creating a restaurant, and I was chomping at the bit to get in and experience it all for myself.
I convinced Wade to abandon his dinner plans, and dragged him out into a rainy Monday night. We went a little early, and were told we could sit anywhere – the restaurant was empty at this stage, so we opted to sit amongst the crowd in the lounge. Menus were produced, we quickly decided on a couple of glasses of red wine which wasted no time making their way to us.
The style of food is dubbed ‘La Cucina Westraliana’. When broken down to it’s bare bones, the menu is essentially ‘pub’ food. Schnitzel, steak, fish and chips and pizza, a little bit of pasta; kicked up a notch by Chef Valvosori’s traditional cooking techniques and the gorgeous local and seasonal produce. The venue is fancy enough to be a little bit ‘special’, but fussier eaters aren’t going to be intimidated by a complicated menu. In short – everybody wins!
Entrees were out in a heartbeat. The large juicy prawns were served with pickled cauliflower and thyme mayonnaise, which is fast becoming my favourite condiment. Who knew thyme and mayo made such a tasty combination?
The Farmers Board provided some wins – the Dellendale Cremeries churchill from Denmark was a highlight; and while I’m not the biggest cheese fan, I’d quite happily nibble away until I gave myself kidney stones.
The waiter who cleared our entrees strangely assumed that we hadn’t ordered anything else and so didn’t call for our mains, leaving us wondering if they were making the pizza dough to order.
However, once the error was realised, he explained what had happened and apologised profusely. Personally, I completely understand that mistakes happen, and so long as the staff is up front about it, I don’t mind. No harm, no foul.
Patrick, who heads up the front of house, patiently answered all of my annoying questions on how their first week of service had gone, and swap hospitality war stories with Wade.
Round two of red wines were ordered, and were again great choices.
Wade had settled on a steak sandwich, and I couldn’t resist the mushroom pizza. The steak was medium rare and tender, and the bread was sturdy soaked up all the juices beautifully.
But the stand-out for the night was without a doubt the pizza. The dough is perfection. Thin, crisp but not too much, and has a gorgeous flavour all of it’s own thanks to being cooked in a proper oven. The mushrooms were perfectly silky, with a good amount of cheese. Between mouthfuls, Wade admitted that it was better than most of the pizza he’d had on his recent trip to Rome, a compliment if I’ve ever heard one!
Patrick appeared again to take our dessert orders. The olive oil, manjimup walnut & orange cake and lemon scented fried custard were quickly delivered, and being a hardcore dessert fiend, I wasted no time getting stuck in.
Let me tell you this now. That fried custard? Hands down the most awesome dessert I’ve had in some time. Silky custard encased in a crunchy coating was stellar. Topped with tart blood oranges (and you know how much I love blood oranges), and served with sherbet hidden (surprise!) under a dollop of ice cream.
The custard is so good, that the cake barely got a look in. Poor cake. Though the bitter chocolate icecream served along side was also worthy of a mention, a great counterpoint to the cake.
If you head into Lalla Rookh (and I suggest you do), wear eating pants. You can thank me later.