Jac took me out recently for a pub dinner at the Carlisle Hotel (174 Rutland Avenue, Carlisle).
We began with a serve of garlic bread (AU$5.00). It was typical cafe-style garlic bread – pressed flat and toasted till golden and crisp on the outside, more buttery than garlicky in flavour, yet satisfyingly savoury. There was one fatal flaw to the Carlisle’s garlic bread, however. It was served on a ceramic dish. The steam trapped between the hot bread and the cold dish created condensation which resulted in garlic bread that was soggy (actually, the word that came to mind first was “sweaty” – eww!) and all floppy on one side. It’s not merely coincidence that the common vessel of choice for garlic bread is a paper serviette-lined basket. For me, practical considerations that affect texture and flavour should win over so-called elegance every time.
Jac rather liked the sound of the 300g broiled rump steak (AU$24.00), which came with buttered spinach and your choice of chips or mashed potato and your choice of sauce: mushroom, pepper or gravy. She chose chips and also ordered a side garden salad (AU$3.50). When the steak arrived, however, there was no buttered spinach. I think they must’ve assumed that she wanted a garden salad instead of the buttered spinach – even though when she ordered, she very clearly asked for a garden salad on the side as well. I was quite disappointed, as I had been looking forward to trying the Carlisle’s version of buttered spinach. The steak was cooked to medium-rare as ordered, and although it was large and tasted deliciously of marinade and the char grill, the meat itself was a little sinewy and chewy. The chips could’ve been cooked for longer – they were unacceptably cold, and pale yellow rather than as gloriously golden as we know chips can be. All in all, the dish was disappointing. The garden salad had a balsamic vinegar dressing and was, thankfully, quite nice.
I chose the main-sized creamy garlic prawns “with aromatic rice” (AU$14.00 entree, $20.00 main). The steamed rice wasn’t particularly aromatic, but it was cooked well and and was great for soaking up that rich, creamy sauce. Jac enjoyed dipped her steak in it.
There were fourteen prawns, cooked to perfect burstiness, sitting in a pool of lusciously drinkable garlic cream sauce. My only complaint was that the prawns were served with the tails on. I sucked every last morsel of meat out of each tail, but I would’ve enjoyed eating the dish even more if the tails had already been removed, so each juicy prawn was a completely edible, perfect mouthful. Just roll it in the creamy sauce and eat. Despite my prawn tail gripe, I really did enjoy the creamy garlic prawns and would eat this dish again.
It was quite pleasant in the restaurant. The dining room was only about half-full, but there were plenty of happy noises coming from the sports bar next door. I appreciated the table cloth and cloth napkins – I like a real cloth napkin I can lay across my lap. A nice clean table cloth means no mysterious sticky patches on the table top (“Is someone coming to wipe down this table?”). The service was efficient and friendly, and our meals came out promptly. The prawn tails I could live with, but it was a shame the garlic bread and the steak dish were such let-downs.
After dinner, we drove into Victoria Park so Jac could get ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Jac chose two scoops of ice cream in a cup (AU$5.50). The top scoop, which you can see in this photo, was pralines ‘n cream, which is vanilla ice cream with praline-coated pecan pieces and caramel ribbon running through the ice cream. The caramel was wonderful – thick and butterscotchy. The second scoop, which is mostly obscured by the pralines ‘n cream, is strawberry cheesecake. Now this was fantastic – the ice cream had actual pieces of cheesecake in it, complete with bits of biscuit base, and strawberries. Having consumed all that luscious creamy garlic sauce at dinner I had well and truly hit my quota for dairy and was struggling with glugginess (that creamy sauce was so worth it though!). I had a spoonful of each kind of ice cream, just to taste, and that was all.