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.