It is perhaps worth remembering that this column’s aim is not to rubbish the reputations of any particular eateries, but to seek out and flag real quality. Nothing gives us greater pleasure than finding a restaurant which we can wholeheartedly praise – without the rider “…for Harare…” after comments such as ‘tasty menu’, ‘not bad’, and ‘quite good’.
So a couple of weeks ago we were invited to Lulu’s, a restaurant of which I had not heard, but whose address sounded familiar – 19 Fernleigh Road, Pomona. As we drove in I must confess my heart sank as this was where we had had two fairly dire experiences in recent times when the same venue went under the name of Bel Cantos. My humour was not enhanced by the fact that there were workmen fixing the dining area roof. I was not about to enjoy my lunch to the merry sound of drilling. However as we momentarily paused, deciding whether to go or stay, the drilling was stopped, we were welcomed with an apology about the renovations (to insulate the ceiling) and shown to our table.
The menu is encouragingly small – 9 main dishes with a couple of specials on the board and a separate children’s menu. There is a full bar serving wines, beers and spirits, but also a really attractive cold-pressed juice list with great optional extras of wheatgrass, ginger and lemon. There are also cocktails of pressed fruit and vegetables. We went for the fruit juice option and were not disappointed. A huge portion – served in a jam-jar (why?) – was thoroughly appreciated. We decided that there were too many things we wanted to taste on the menu, so although there are no starters as such, we ordered a portion of Seared Beef Sashimi to be shared. It was absolutely delicious – succulent beef fillet sliced thin and served on a generous salad of bean sprouts and red cabbage with a delicately balanced ginger dressing. How often have we complained about the lack of imaginative salads and vegetables? This dish managed to tick my culinary delight personal preference boxes admirably!
We felt like fish, and so ordered one of the advertised specials of fish pie (at $8 and $10 for a larger portion) and fish and chips. The last time I had fish pie in a restaurant was in Heston Blumenthal’s pub in England. If I remember correctly, that one boasted oysters, smoked salmon, Atlantic cod, a champagne-based sauce and a monster prawn trying to escape out of the top. Lulu’s fish pie had no such fancy trimmings – but was bursting with good chunks of hake in a delicately spiced sauce and topped with creamy mashed potato. It came with a hearty leafy side salad. Again, how many times have we bemoaned the absence of the simple things that make a meal special, like a simple salad, the ingredients of which are available in splendid abundance in our country? This service made me feel like I had finally arrived home!
Fish and chips is a dish that is thoroughly abused and misrepresented across the globe. Tired, soggy batter encasing a scrap of dry tasteless fish wilting next to flaccid greasy chips, is sadly what passes for this supposed jewel in the English culinary crown. Lulu’s fish and chips are good. Moist hake fillets in a crispy batter the like of which is a rare treat, with piping hot chips and, again, a fresh leafy salad. It is served with a delicious black olive tartar sauce. Good food!
I am looking forward to returning to Lulu’s to taste the rest of the menu. They do a Sunday lunch special – and this is an ideal spot for families as there is a well equipped play area for children. There is also a trial period of Friday night $10 specials – but I would advise to ring first. They are open for breakfast and that menu too looks well worth investigating with plenty of mouth watering options of croissant, waffles, benedict, florentine – as well as the usual Full English.
If this review seems to indicate I might have a business interest in Lulu’s, let me assure you I do not! Trying to find something to criticise – I did not like the juice jam-jar and the pumping gym music was not, for me, an aid to the digestion of a leisurely lunch. And it was changed immediately I mentioned it. It is simply a great pleasure to find a new restaurant of such an excellent standard and I highly recommend it to all.