The Lula Inn, Taste by the buck­et­ful

A great start didn’t have a happy end­ing

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight

This is not a re­view of the ap­ple crum­ble. I don’t know what the ap­ple crum­ble tasted like. When I left The Lula Inn, it was just leav­ing the kitchen — about 50 min­utes af­ter it had been or­dered. The maitre d’ apol­o­gised. They’d been deal­ing with a ta­ble of 20, she ex­plained. Imagine that. In a res­tau­rant.

Quite a bit of me­dia fan­fare went into the open­ing of The Lula Inn, in the old Crew Club site at the Viaduct. The press re­lease said it would be a “South Pa­cific-in­spired eatery and drinkery” with “re­laxed colo­nial charm”.

Let’s pause and con­sider some pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions of “colo­nial charm”. Once, New Zealand sent the Span­ish Flu to Samoa and wiped out 20 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion. One prob­a­bly shouldn’t mix one’s G&T with pol­i­tics, but se­ri­ously — “colo­nial” — in 2017?

Thank­fully, the “c” word is ab­sent from the ac­tual menu, which is South Pa­cific in the sense that there is a duck con­fit pizza, a pump­kin and farro risotto with honey soy mushrooms, and bar­be­cue sausages with mus­tard and white bread. I don’t know, I didn’t write the menu.

We or­dered a pizza (pork sausage, fontina cheese and shi­itake mush­room, $26) and it was great. Charred and bub­bly in all the right places. In fact, de­spite early mis­giv­ings, The Lula Inn put some quite de­li­cious things on our plates.

For me, the ab­so­lute high point was the but­tery-soft cubes of con­fit tuna on cos lettuce, sploshed with of-the-sea-from-the-sea kina-in­fused mayo ($16.50). The kokoda ($19.90) was el­e­gantly flavoured with a light citrus cure, creamy co­conut and a ge­nius crunch via toasted rice. It was one of the best-bal­anced raw fish dishes I’ve eaten in a res­tau­rant. We paired all of this with a cheap and cheer­ful bot­tle of pros­ecco ($45) and if we’d stopped there, this would have been a very dif­fer­ent re­view.

The prob­lem is The Lula Inn is try­ing to be some­thing for ev­ery­one. At 7pm on a Fri­day, for ex­am­ple, the mu­sic was in­sanely loud and clubby. Old and grumpy? I think the nine(ish)-year-old child at the next ta­ble who was try­ing to watch the rugby on the gi­ant screen be­hind the bar would have agreed.

The wait­staff (we were vis­ited by at least five), ran the gamut from im­pec­ca­ble, to the woman who said she didn’t like open­ing wine at the ta­ble. She man­aged, but ap­par­ently didn’t like pour­ing it, ei­ther.

Some more good­ness from the “to share” list. If you’re plan­ning to do more drink­ing than eat­ing, con­sider the cauliflower cheese balls ($13.50) a so­phis­ti­cated al­ter­na­tive to hot chips.

We were ab­so­lutely there to eat. The web­site ad­vised that Thurs­day-Satur­day, evenings got “louder, live­lier and much dancier” and so I’d phoned to check that our din­ner book­ing was not a to­tally stupid idea. Nope, they said, the live band wouldn’t start un­til 9.30pm.

Our mains were the world’s most gar­licky scampi and prawn spaghetti ($33.90), a pork chop ($31.50) that passed the ex­tremely tricky cooked-but-not-dry test, and a coal-roasted lamb shoul­der ($37.90) that needed a bit longer on the coals to ren­der the fat and re­duce the chew fac­tor. If there is a more ridicu­lously hip­ster menu de­scrip­tor than “10-hour em­ber roasted car­rots” ($9.50) I’m yet to read it, but get the car­rots — they’re yum.

The band started some time af­ter we’d or­dered dessert. It was ex­cel­lent. “Sex with in­stru­ments,” said the birth­day girl, chan­nelling the gen­eral Viaduct vibe. Her older, grumpier com­pan­ion pushed aside a lemon creme brulee that tasted too much like un­cooked egg. She just wanted her ap­ple crum­ble.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.