The classically beautiful dining room of the Lion Hotel Restaurant has always raised the bar for the traditional ‘pub’ dining room. There is the reassuring transparency of the exposed kitchen off set by glamourous lighting and crisp linens. For those of us who are consumed by watching the theatre of the kitchen some tables make the most of this view or tables at the front that are bright and airy and there are nooks for cosy and intimate dates. Something for everyone and every occasion.
The acclaimed restaurant has been a favourite of mine for many years. The menu divided into 5 parts – snacks, shared plates (which come in small or large) rotisserie, mains and sides. The choice is a little overwhelming especially when it all sounds so amazing. Even with our ability (need) to order more than 2 people can eat, choosing from this appetising menu was difficult. Here’s how we went.
Fried Chicken Ribs with Pickled Cucumber and Thai Basil. Individually segmented ribs are coated in a sticky chilli and soy dressing topped with sesame and Thai basil. The heat from the chilli is subtle and surpassed by the sweetness in the sauce. Underneath the crispy coating, the meat is succulent – much juicier than a wing cut. Pickled cucumber gives a nice acidic component for relief from the sweetness.
Master Stock Duck San Choy Bao with Chilli Tamarind and Mustard Leaf sauce. I removed one of the lettuce cups to enjoy a better ratio of filling. Complementing the bites of slow cooked duck are egg noodles, tamarind relish and coconut tofu. Very refreshing and crunchy and crisp as required.
Zucchini Blooms with Charred Prawns, Buttermilk, Horseradish and Salsa Verde. Instead of the usual filling of ricotta we love the stuffing of charred prawns. It has a similar texture to a dumpling filling but contained in a tempura battered zucchini flower that is sophisticated and more delicate. A thick and coarse Salsa Verde draws in an acidic quality and a buttermilk dressing has a smooth tang. The freshly grated horseradish was lost on me, although I didn’t feel it was needed.
Fried Cauliflower, Goat’s Curd, Green chillies, Fig Tapanade and Curry Dressing was for me the stand out of all the starters. Bite sized florets have been fried past golden to an earthy brown making them nice and crisp. They are tossed in a curry dressing that has a perfect chilli punch that combined with slices of green chilies that take it up a notch. Luckily its offset by a cooling mint and coriander salad and creamy goats curd that cuts the richness of the fried cauliflower.
Kingfish Ceviche with Coconut, Jalapeno, Avocado Quinoa and Finger Lime. Lots of ingredients mentioned here but presented with 2 main components. An avocado smash, combining the jalepeno, quinoa and finger lime – think of a textured guacamole that resonates the intriguing citrus of finger lime. The smash is adorned with cubed king fish, doused in a coconut cream that exudes summer on a tropical island. It gives the delicate fish a creamy, velvety mouth feel which is contrasted by flakes of toasted coconut.
Linguine with Chilli Crab, Riesling, Ginger, Capers, Citrus Leeks and Baby Spinach. Very different from your typical crab linguini, this fusion mix is a little challenging but that adds to its charm. First up the heat; there is a reason chilli is included in the name. A consistent heat is felt across the whole mouth. It’s not over the top but definitely makes its presents felt. After the initial focus on heat the creamy and sweet sauce engulfs the palate. Ginger gives a steady Asian influence but the capers and linguini bring back the Mediterranean. The culture clash is quite addictive. I think this is why it’s been a menu staple for nearly a decade.
Roasted Hay Valley Lamb Leg (shared, for 2 people) with Freekah Pea, Sumac and buffalo Fetta Salad, Spinach and Yoghurt Flatbreads. Not mentioned in the description is a beetroot and coffee relish, satisfyingly sticky and sweet but balancing well with the lamb, perfectly executed to not over power it. The candy flavour goes so well with the lamb but to avoid it being heavy a delightful salad of freekah, pea sumac and buffalo fetta plays ever so beautifully with the lamb.
Rotisserie Roasted Murray Valley Pork Rack with Black Vinegar, Coconut Yoghurt, Sambal Belacan and Kimchi Cabbage. Generous doesn’t even begin to cover this extravagant helping of glazed pork loin on the bone. A little taken aback by how to eat it but my steak knife cut through it like butter. House made Sambal Belacan draws in a Malaysian influence and a rather tame version of kimchi that is less sour and spicy to please everyone. The real draw card of this dish, aside from the exceptional pork is a quenelle of aerated coconut yoghurt. A slight sweetness that would not see it out of place on a dessert menu but paired with the pork it melds with the sambal and kim chi encouraging tastes of a cream curry without going there.
Almond and Malt Dacquiose with Lemon Yogurt Cream, Orange Croquant and Blackberry Sorbet was the only dessert I could fit in. The dacquoise meringues are placed around dollops of tangy lemon yogurt cream. A big scoop of blackberry sorbet won me over – think of a frozen Ribena, just not quite as sweet. If only I had room for more!
With an Asian finesse shining through most of the dishes, the Lion Restaurant is serving up exquisite meals. A fine dining fusion, with a surprise around corner.
Words by Kate Wilkinson
WHERE: 161 Melbourne St, North Adelaide