Last week we were invited to try the delicious restaurant menu at the iconic Lion Hotel, and this week we returned to check out what the bar menu has to offer. The menu is extensive, with representation of the pub classics; schnitzels, salt and pepper squid and of course the famous Lion burger. There are also tasty snacks, fresh and vibrant salads and sumptuous mains that raise the bar for pub dining.
We know from our visit to the restaurant last week that the Lion kitchen knows their cauliflower. After the epic fried cauliflower the restaurant served us, I was very excited for the bar menu’s Moroccan Cauliflower Salad with fried chickpeas, carrots, currants, toasted almonds and saffron yoghurt. It did not disappoint and this time it’s much friendlier to the waistline. First off – the fried chick peas are sensational. They have a nutty characteristic that’s so good they almost overtake the blanched cauliflower as the star of the dish. Loads of fresh dill, flat leaf parsley and mint adorn the salad making it taste incredibly fresh. The saffron yoghurt does a beautiful job of combining everything with a sweet zing. Another cauliflower hit.
Black Truffle and Pecorino Arancini Balls with wild mushroom and tomato sugo possess the requisite truffle pungency tantalizes even before being bitten. The golf ball sized spheres pop with their golden colour on the dark plate, with dollops of rich and rustic tomato sugo, perfect for dipping.
An ideal winter dish the Terrarossa Beef Sirloin with roasted field mushrooms, black cabbage and tomato chipotle chutney is will keep you warm and full. On first glance you notice the large fried kale leaves, the leaf is crisp and earthy. A nice steak, cooked to your liking carries char marks from the grill and has a charcoal taste. Large swiss brown mushrooms are grilled whole, their flavor bold and texture meaty and luscious. A drizzle of jus surrounds the plate but a chunky tomato chutney with a nice acidity adds moisture to the meal.
This year the Lion has brought in a shredded Chicken Laksa as the winter warmer special. Sometimes when presented with a laksa it’s in such a big bowl with so much soup I wonder if I am to eat it or swim in it. Instead we have a shallow bowl with a mound of noodles, shredded chicken and bean sprouts emerging from the centre, surrounded by a moat of curry sauce. The sauce is bold and balanced, spicy with a hint of sweetness. Normally, when eating a laksa, I will avoid the bits of tofu as I find they don’t add to the experience and I’m not a fan of the texture. Here we have fried cubes of tofu that I felt obliged to try. I’m glad I did – slight crispiness on the outside and a soft, almost fluffy inside. Nothing like the sponge texture I actively avoid. They carried the curry flavour well and I found myself going back for quite a few more.
Another surprise was the Coconut Poached Barramundi with sambal and lemongrass brown rice, roasted cashew mix, Chinese cabbage and sesame omelette. Again we see Asian inspiration hitting the mark- the poached barramundi receiving some attention from the grill giving it a nice finish. The fillet is flaky and meaty taking on the sweetness of coconut. I love the choice to serve the fish with brown rice instead of white, the nutty character of the rice has a sweet aromatic flavour due to its additions of sambal and lemongrass. A velvety, mild curry sauce, mopped up by rice and fish is flavoursome and delicious.
A staple in Adelaide’s pub scene The Lion has so much to offer. Over decades I’ve seen so many changes, facelifts and renovations but The Lion remains consistently popular for its live music, events and of course its food. This ‘courageous’ menu extends beyond the trusted and familiar to a globally inspired, well executed feast.
Words by Kate Wilkinson
WHERE: 161 Melbourne St, North Adelaide