Lalla Rookh located downstairs at 77 St Georges Terrace also has a great little wine store/bar attached to it – this can be entered off Sherwood Court or through the dining area in the main restaurant. The food from the menu in the restaurant is also served in the Wine Store – there are three or four tables and a bench looking out to the streetscape of Sherwood Court, and that is where we perched.
The wine store, as its name suggests, has wall cabinets filled with wine, more boxes of the magnificent grape juice on the floor, and a little bar from which drinks are served and food ordered. It is a great little space based on the enoteche of Italy, where often smaller, regional producers can show off their wares. Wine can be purchased for takeaway or for a corkage fee consumed on the premises – and is also available by the glass.
The wine list, as you would expect, is expansive and a delight to behold, covering Australian and international wines, with a focus on regional and varietal expression.
The food produced in the kitchen is simply outstanding. The menu divided into neat little sections – salumi, cheese, pizza, pasta, seasonal dishes, chef’s selection, meat and fish, and dessert- is an evocative journey through Italian cuisine.
This is a place that demands re-visiting to sample as much of this wonderful food as possible. However, on our day we ordered four dishes to share – about right for two, I think. From the seasonal, Spring, selection we chose a salad of slow roasted beets, pickled beets & roasted Manjimup hazelnuts and a dish of house-made Jersey milk lemon ricotta with a salad of peas, grilled bread, mint & lemon; from the Chef’s recommendations Nonna’s meatballs served with soft polenta and parmigiano; and from the meat and fish listing, seppie neri – described as Venetian style black cuttlefish served with white polenta and lemon.
Both of the salads were wonderful – the roasted golden beets, beautifully tender with an earthy sweetness contrasted with the slight sharpness of the pickle, and complemented by the sweet savouriness of the roasted hazelnuts; the ricotta with its gentle lemon infusion perfectly matched to a salad of crunchy fresh green peas, sprinkled through with little toasted croutons, doughy and delicious, and notes of mint and lemon. Quite stunning dishes – light, refreshing and perfectly suited to a warm Spring or Summer’s day.
The four golf ball sized pork meatballs were rich, delicious, beautifully textured and served on a lovely soft polenta base, enhanced by the melted parmigiano. A dish for all seasons the meat was juicy, tender, perhaps unctuous being the best description. Outstanding.
And what can I say about the cuttlefish – words almost fail me! Braised in the sepia (ink) and served on a square of grilled white polenta it had everything you could wish for from such a dish – it was rich, infused with flavours of the sea, the tender tentacles scattered through the delicious black sauce, beautifully seasoned, it was stunning and I was only held back from licking the plate by Lady FWO’s stern gaze. This would have to be one of the best Italian dishes I have ever had.
With our food we (of course) sampled a couple of glasses of wine – for Lady FWO sparkling rosé from La Violetta in the Great Southern and for me Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling also from the Great Southern. The rosé was produced in the petillant style – with just mild, slow effervescence and had lifted strawberry aromas on the nose, and raspberry and strawberry elements on the palate, finishing with refreshing acid; while the riesling had a spicy bouquet with lime notes, and a soft and delicate palate, also with a long finish, enhanced by fine acid. Both complemented the food choices well.
In summary, the Wine Store – and by extension Lalla Rookh itself – is one of the best Italian trattoria/enoteca going around – the food is outstanding, the wine list broad, beautifully constructed and ever changing, and the service excellent and knowledgeable. Unhesitatingly recommended.