Il Lido – Cottesloe – Monday 24 November 2014 – Dinner

Tagliatelle with pork and veal ragu

Tagliatelle with pork and veal ragu

I know I am old(er) because I can remember Tropicana. The novelty of being accepted into a café while your shorts are still soaking wet and you are barefooted didn’t get tired at all. The roof top above entirely belonged to my uni mate’s share apartment. Once I got to a new year’s eve party late and it was so packed my mate had long gone to seek a quieter less stressful entry into the new year elsewhere!

Before I left Perth, I was already one of Il Lido’s biggest fans. Ever since, I have continued to come back again and again for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has a feeling left over from Tropicana days, a style and vibe that was learned by the owners at Balthazar and Duende (amongst other great venues), and serves authentic Italian food in a casual communal environment.

Every time I come back it is an incremental addition to my opinion of the restaurant and I am biased by the previous occasions where food, wine, company, atmosphere and service have combined to account for an excellent experience. This time is not different – I have many times been here by myself for a quickish dinner – but something feels different.

It is interesting to think how the ambience at a restaurant can be so impacted by its exact location and therefore its predecessors. There are many examples I can think of that you almost know the next place is going to fail (or succeed). It’s unfortunate, but as restaurant goers we are a fickle bunch, and if you keep the same fitout it is likely we’ll find it hard to forget. On the other hand, with a little bit of effort, and something to differentiate, it is possible for the “bad corner” or “awkward part of the street” to break out of its location. From day one, Il Lido benefited from the good vibes of its predecessor and now it benefits from many years of significant patronage.

There are a lot of kids serving, from the quasi maître’d through to the bar staff. However, unlike many restaurants in Perth, where uni students dominate, the training here must be good. Not only are they full of energy and enthusiasm, they know what they are doing, and serve well. Personally, the only issue I find in even the best service by less experienced staff is the fact they themselves may not have been out to restaurants often, and rarely know how to assist with aspects such as the drinks list. The make-up and strength of the wine list becomes very important, and Il Lido’s is pretty good, and pretty reasonably priced too.

I am here alone, looking for a quick, good quality meal and I know what I want. I order the tagliatelle with pork and veal ragu. It doesn’t look great in the photo with the unusually dark and intimate low lighting juxtaposed with the communal dining element, but it tastes delicious. It has been similar for years with excellent depth of flavour from the slow cooking and beautifully formed pasta. The glass of 2009 Zanato Valpolicella combined nicely too. Instant happiness.

While it is a quick meal, I need to try the chocolate tart with hazelnut ice cream. It is a huge serving and would have been better to share. The tart is rich like you expect, and the pastry is well executed, but it misses a little on flavour for some reason. It could be the cacao which is very thick on the surface, providing a little too much bitterness and a furry mouthfeel. The hazelnut ice cream is nice, but again is not towards the top of the best hazelnut ice creams I’ve tried recently, which is a classic Italian flavour.

Something I would not have noted, but it became abundantly clear during dessert, was the lack of thought in cutlery choices. For the pasta I got a knife and fork when I really needed a fork, and could have used a spoon. For the tart and ice cream I only got a spoon, but the pastry was firm and difficult to sever with the spoon, and the tart didn’t easily scoop with the spoon and ice cream. This is a small critique but if I was with others I would have felt a bit weird constantly needing to use my left hand with the dessert which was served on a plate (not a bowl – so no help at all). It is worth thinking about the comfort of the diner in these situations. Maybe it is another flag of inexperienced waitstaff too.

I’ll never stop going back to Il Lido during all times of the day and with a broad group of people. It is a terrifically put together restaurant with many positives and only a few flaws. Bread In Common is educated by its older sibling and shows many of the benefits, but the original is still better in my opinion.

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Bread In Common – Fremantle – Monday 18 August 2014 – Dinner

cumin roasted carrots, almond, ginger, carrot tofu

cumin roasted carrots, almond, ginger, carrot tofu

Most times you go out for dinner the biggest ingredient, and one of the only ones you can control once you’ve sat down, is your company at the table. This should not be taken too literally as I know you have no choice when dining communal style!

Breaking bread. It is a warm concept. Sharing a meal with friends and/or family is one of the greatest pastimes of all civilisations. So I love the name Bread In Common for a restaurant. As you might now expect it is filled with communal tables and bread is a theme (for $2 per person which is a little strange in a way – I’ll get on to that later).

mushrooms, chickpeas, rocket, hummus, sorrel

mushrooms, chickpeas, rocket, hummus, sorrel

It is well documented that the team of owners who have BIC have many other restaurants in Perth. The one that BIC is most closely based is Il Lido in Cottesloe which is one of my favourite places to eat in Perth so no surprise the formula works for me and I’m in awe of the extensive warehouse stripped back fitout. It is popular on a Monday night so it’s not just me either.

One of my best mates rates this as their favourite with packs of energy and enthusiasm, and we have been planning to catch up here for ages. We have a good group for a catch up and before you know it we are digging in to several share dishes.

That is the thing to do here – share lots of reasonably priced dishes (think around $15 for veg and around $24 for meat and seafood dishes). The portions are not overly generous but there is, literally, a bite or two each of most between the seven of us. I am a numbers man so let’s say about $2 a bite for the more expensive dishes! Each dish sounds great. The menu is well written and when ordering the service is helpful.

beef rump, wood roasted pumpkin, capers, pepitas, fennel, hay ash

beef rump, wood roasted pumpkin, capers, pepitas, fennel, hay ash

Out of what we tried, the hits are the chargrilled chicken, the carrots, the duck fat roasted potatoes and the pork shoulder. The mushrooms are dominated by polenta (which is not mentioned on the menu?) but are okay and the rump is a miss as it is far too chewy. The cuttlefish was just okay but missed for most of us, especially given it had been talked up by our waitperson. They didn’t bring the beetroot and for some reason made an executive decision on the second chicken dish even though we would have gobbled it up.

cuttlefish, tonatto, beans, pickled apple

cuttlefish, tonatto, beans, pickled apple

The corn accompanying the chicken is divine. It is one of the best combinations I’ve tried recently. The duck fat potatoes live up to the promise and are indulgently served with roasted garlic, rosemary and ketchup (aka tomato sauce). The carrots are beautifully roasted and come with carrot tofu (aka surprise pumpkin) that is soft and tasty. The cuttlefish was strong but not with a rich decadent flavour so it was a little off-putting and strong smelling. The beef is just simply using the wrong cut for what they are trying.

We had been here for ages chatting and catching up and it is a great space to do just that over some nice food. The dessert was right for the concept – beautiful bread and butter pudding with a modern touch of burnt toast ice cream that was more playful than anything else. It did have a hint which is all you would want of burnt toast! The pudding was denser than my favourites but was delicious all the same.

The collection of owners in these restaurants are making a killing and they deserve to. Their places are always great spaces, well thought out, and normally not taking themselves too seriously.

I do need to touch on the $2 bread and $0.50 butter, $0.50 olive oil and $3.50 dukkah. Is there really a need to do this? We each had one piece of bread and I was just confused. They didn’t come back once over a 3.5 hour dinner and offer more so I’m guessing that’s it. It is just tacky for such a great place. Breaking bread doesn’t have a price on it!

BIC is a terrific venture, and honours the vibe of Fremantle and it’s local architecture. The feel and effort that are present mean it is going to be part of the dining scene for a long time to come but there are improvements to be made.

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