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Birthdays arrive with alarming regularity these days. There are a handful that I recall very well whilst others are lost in the mists of time. On my 8th I received my first watch, on my 13th I received Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ and on my 40th, I had an ‘Out of Africa’ fancy dress party. Last year is also memorable, as I was sick. And I mean sick! Laid low with a terrible cold, I spent a week in bed. On my birthday I awoke to a rash which the doctor told me was ‘just an allergic reaction to being sick’. Twelve months on I was determined to improve upon last year’s lacklustre celebrations so when I was invited* to try out the Italian diner Locanda Osteria & Bar, I chose my birthday.
Locanda is located in M&A Lane in the Valley. It’s not actually a lane. More like an arcade but ‘arcade’ is so 70’s so ‘lane’ it is. We sat outside on a warm March evening but I suspect the lane could be a bit of a wind tunnel when it’s cooler so you may want to book inside in Autumn or Winter. An Osteria was once a tavern that served simple ‘rustic’ food such as pasta and grilled meats. Locanda’s menu is bang on with antipasti and salads and the mains split between pasta and spit roasted meats known as ‘spiedo’ in the northern Italian dialect.
Some warm Rosemary Focaccia and a shared serve of Calamari Fritti ($18.50) to start, met with divided opinions. The calamari was tender and the coating so incredibly crisp that it almost shattered when you took a bite. Too crunchy for Anthony and he detected an odd, almost porky flavour. Perhaps the oil it was fried in wasn’t clean? I couldn’t detect the back flavour but I did find the squid quite salty. So, it was a bit hit and miss.
I had read a review about the meatfest that is Spiedo Misti ($66 for 2/$125 for 4), a massive selection of roast meats but was wary of such a big meal on a school night. No one likes to still be digesting their dinner at 4am the next morning. ‘It’s do-able’ said the maitre d’, ‘Not too big.’ Common sense prevailed though and we went for Gnocchi con Guanciale ($25) and Spiedo di Porchetta ($32). After all, how big could a plate of pasta be….? I’m sure you already know the answer. Enormous! Only a few weeks back I talked about the best gnocchi I have ever had at Voyager Estate in WA. This gnocchi was also impressive and a heck of a lot closer to visit. It came in a burnt butter sauce with cured pork cheek and was a meal and a half. I really didn’t need that second piece of bread did I? I imagined the porchetta would have been a large shoulder or loin from which pieces had been carved but instead, it was an individual portion of spit roasted pork belly rolled with the traditional herbs and served with an agrodolce sauce. Agrodolce is a sweet (dolce) and sour (agro) sauce. It is often served with fish or in this case, with roasted meat as a way to cut through the fat. This is no red sickly sweet concoction but a sauce with depth, made from vinegar, sugar sometimes fruit or sultanas, onions etc Our version had been refined to a dressing. Seen in the picture below it may be mistaken for mayonnaise but is in fact clear. The wedge of polenta was cooked to perfection, crisp on the outside and still creamy on the inside. It was hard to stop eating it but there was no way we could finish either dish. So, we were right to go with individual mains and I can only imagine how big the shared platter would have been. ‘Do-able’ suggested the maitre d’. Do-able perhaps if you hadn’t eaten for a week! If you do go the Spiedo Misti, make sure you take a group and make sure they’re carnivores.
My main quibble of the evening was the seasoning on the squid, which was too salty. I have read others talk about over seasoned salads and meat. No such concerns for us but perhaps there is something in it and the chef needs to use a lighter hand or have someone else tasting the dishes. There’s plenty to like at Locanda. Nice atmosphere, great wait staff who know their menu, generous serves and good pricing. This birthday celebration was pleasant, relaxed and certainly a lot more enjoyable than last year!
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*TIFFIN celebrated her birthday in style at Locanda Osteria & Bar as a media guest of Liquidity Marketing
Locanda Osteria & Bar
100 MacLachlan St
Fortitude Valley Qld 4006
Visited: Thursday March 13th 2014 – Dinner Service