At last a ‘proper’ restaurant! And a good one! I am all aquiver.
It has only taken 70 something outings to find a place that aspires to high standards and also achieves them. I knew it had to happen eventually, simply based on the law of averages if nothing else. There have been times when I have doubted King Street’s ability to cough up anything other than lashings of ethno-identified cuisines, but not any more. No sirree-bob. This here is aspirational-Australian cuisine, served by staff who know what they are about.
We are gathered tonight to celebrate the passing of the doldrums, and are joined by the Stropolina and her good mate Jess. I arrived a bit early as I had sworn off beer (very) temporarily due to some goutiness, and I lack the imagination required to waste time in an urban environment, without going to a pub. I must find out what people who don’t drink do instead. Anyway, having decided that any more window shopping would only result in me being booked for loitering, I entered the sparsely populated calm of Linda’s. The understated decor is a pleasant relief compared to the glitz and macrame of some of the new joints, but it annoyed the Stropolina who thought it looked a bit cheap.
The menu was enticing and plenty of specials were on offer, so many, that the waitress had to be recalled to remind us of all our options. Fear Of Missing Out was prevalent. Everything sounded good, so there was quite a lot of delay before we ordered. As is often the case with our family, tactical ordering and negotiation was the go. “If I order the fish pie will you give me some of your mushrooms? Are you really going to order the soufflé, because I was going to have that, and we both can’t. Can we?” To make matters more confusing the menu does not distinguish between starters and mains, the dishes are simply sorted by increasing price. You just have to make a judgement call. In the end we made some hard choices and the waitress duly took note. Then we get on with the Catching Up.
The spider-phobic Stropolina told the tale of her funnel web-wrangling exploits and consequent nervous breakdown after the beast had been safely jam-jarred. Jess told us all about her new dream job and her recent Gibb River Road holiday-of-a-lifetime adventures in the outback. Strop countered by rolling out one of our family’s standbys, the search for the Holy Relics of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, at Watarrka (Kings Canyon). For years afterwards we had little bits of tinsel, and feather-boa feathers, smudged with red-centre dust, that we kept in a little glass vial and showed off to guests, who were either amazed or bemused. It was often hard to tell.
Then the food arrived. My seafood chowder was excellent, but Strop thought the prawn special a bit underwhelming and the accompanying chutney a bit too sweet, although Stropolina and Jess seemed to enjoy theirs. Then it was on to the mains. I had ordered the steak, partly because the menu told me which district it came from, a pleasant reminder of my primary school geography lessons, when we had to be able to name all the agricultural districts in the state, and partly because it would be my first King Street steak (I know, how weird is that?). The steak was good, a real credit to the mighty Riverina District. Strop’s double cooked, goat cheese soufflé was double hot as well as doubly yummy, and the Stropolina’s fish pie was excellent as well. Jess had sautéed mushrooms on brioche, which she enjoyed, but I found a bit too garlicky. By the time that lot had disappeared we were quite full and had to call time out before we considered the dessert menu.
This time channel-billed cuckoos made an appearance in the wildlife discussion, and the Stropolina’s imminent departure for the New World dominated the travel topics. All this chit-chat was making me hungry again. That and a nagging, irrational fear that if we waited too long, the kitchen would run out of desserts. The menu did not disappoint. As Strop pointed out, all the fave flavours were there, quince, rhubarb, mandarin, passionfruit and pomegranate. Jess wimped out, but the rest of us got stuck in. I went for the lemon pudding with quince, Strop had the poached rhubarb and mandarin granita and the Stropolina had the ginger cake. All the yumms, in fact probably a few to many, Strop thought the rhubarb dish had a bit too much going on, and some of the flavours were masking each other. But then better to have too much flavour than too little.
Linda’s has been operating in Newtown for a long time and it is easy to see why.