111 King William Street, May 2017
Another Italian restaurant in Adelaide? Give us a break! But Spaghetti Western is an attempt at something different, positioning itself neatly between the haute Mediterranean cuisine of, say, an Il Bacaro in Melbourne, and the ho-hum, red-and-white-checked pasta houses that line the streets like weeds. It is also cleverly situated, being near the various laneway bars and watering-holes popping-up on Waymouth Street, just around the corner.
Modelled on a fusion of the mock 19thC horse operas such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (where, incidentally, the best grub the gunslingers usually get is a smear of stinking beans) and Hollywood saloons, this establishment has been fitted out and decorated with real wit. For example, Canaletto prints (see below) and bucolic Italian scenes are pocked with (we assume, fake) bullet holes. Someone has done a Driller Jet Armstrong and daubed a Venetian gondolier onto the dusty Australian street of Russell Drysdale’s “Sofala” – and it works! Sheer genius.
The Varnished Culture dined in the top room where we had good, and enthusiastic service – to our jaundiced world-view, almost a little too enthusiastic (but then the place is still in the first fresh flush of its opening on the 16th May). The menu ranges from retro classics to funky new offerings, which we washed down with some tasty wines, served (appropriately Godfather style), in glass tumblers.
We started with some lovely large pork and veal meatballs, in a rich herbed dressing, and a generous helping of zucchini fries, which were crispy on the outside and moist within but not slimy, nicely accompanied by a tomato-based sauce, As a bonus we enjoyed fried and puffed ravioli with a hint of zesty cheese (P could graze on these for hours), and truth be told, we had had an elegant sufficiency by then. The top room is perfect for functions and we were further sated by the sight of colourful, sumptuous plates whizzing by to a large group on the other side of the room.
But the wintry conditions outside convinced us to forge ahead, and main courses did not disappoint: a superb, herb-and-parmesan-crusted chicken piccata, golden and perched on aromatically-dressed spaghetti of lovely texture, and L liked her slim but rich vegetarian lasagne. We couldn’t finish but just had to ferry away a divine, creamy slice of Tiramisu, spooned out by the wait staff as though they were tempting the devil himself.
After dinner (and having gone up and down various stairs to spy-out the interesting nooks and crannys, including a cramped but new, clean, state-of-the-art kitchen), The Varnished Culture, adopting more food/wine wobble than John Wayne swagger, sauntered down to the saloon for a ‘phlegm-cutter.’
P had a delicious, flowery, boutique beer brewed at a micro-brewery linked to the restaurant, and L savoured a fine, dry white. We only had three small quibbles: 1) there’s a mini shooting-gallery featuring ducks in a line (our trigger fingers itched, but it was not in operation); 2) we hoped for a dry champagne on offer at bar as an apt drink Après le dîner, and 3) the bar was chilly as a commercial freezer – they need some heat, maybe a friendly-looking fire, down there.
But these are minor matters and will doubtless be addressed in due course. In any case, we will be back for more, next time we’re in the heart of town. It’s trendy and different, and has good food and service – as Clint Eastwood might say: “You dig?”