It was my brother’s birthday and he thought we should try the Spaghetti House in Boundary Street, West End. It opened earlier in the year and was always full, he said, and the place is so popular they recently expanded into a next door shop. Getting a booking is an energetic exercise. There is an online booking system where a number of time slots is listed. Apparently you can’t come at a time of your convenience, but of theirs. And this comes with a warning that the bookings are for 90 minutes and then they turn over the tables. How relaxing and welcoming. And they like to confirm that booking. As well as an email confirmation, I had a call from the restaurant the day of the booking and then another one as I was driving over to ensure we were still coming. It all seemed a bit excessive for a booking for three.
When you are there, the front of house staff are achingly desperate for you to like the place. The menu is long, and as expected, dominated by pasta dishes with 28 listed. They cover the usual pastas such as carbonara, primavera, pesto, lasagna and ravioli. As well, there is bruschetta and antipasto to start and a much smaller selection of secondi which includes scallopine, chicken and a couple of fish dishes. Then it gets weird again. The waiter dissuaded us from ordering a pasta as a primi and a main as being ‘too much’ despite the availability of piccolo servings of pasta.
So we quickly re-calibrated and for entree we shared fried whitebait with caper aioli ($12.90) and a caprese salad ($12.90). The servings of whitebait were huge and not helped by being cooked in not-quite-fresh oil. The caprese salad was let down by inferior tomatoes and as the basis of the dish is simple and quality ingredients, this was a disappointment. Most of the entree ended back in the kitchen.
The mains were not much better. Being the Spaghetti House, I was keen to indulge, but the spaghetti pesto ($17.90) was tasteless and the pasta overcooked. My brother’s Saltimbocca with gnocchi ($22.90) was tough and over salted. As he has a heavy hand with the salt shaker, it must have been really over salted. The third main, a filled gnocchi with scallops, was filling but not particularly subtle.
To finish off my brother ordered the semi freddo($9.90) but they forgot the semi and it was fully freddo littered with frozen strawberries and raspberries.
The popularity of the Spaghetti House is mystifying. There is nothing subtle or engaging about any of the flavours presented, even for quite simple dishes which only required quality, fresh produce. The wait staff are engaging but they quickly need to redirect the energy from the front of house to the kitchen to bring the food into line with their aspirations.
The Spaghetti House
Shop B, 120 Boundary Street, West End
(07) 3844 4844
Open Tues to Sunday for lunch and dinner