One of our regular groups, the Architect's Daughter (and her new beau, the Gingham Surprise), Tom-a-hawk, Divine Brown, Madam Rabbit and I, visit Circa in Mount Lawley for a Friday evening dinner. We all went in not knowing anything about the place, but keen to be wowed.
The Architect's Daughter was excited to see that the menu encourage diners to ask the staff about the gluten free options available. When she asked, though, there wasn't any gluten free pasta and the gluten free dishes on offer were kind of the same as what's available at other restaurants. We all agreed that Circa was a bit of a tease in that regard.
- I went with the scallop entree to begin and was a little bit disappointed. The scallops seemed undercooked (the texture wasn't tight, but rather squishy, almost watery). The salad that came with the dish was better than the protein, which isn't a good sign. The sweet potato chips (British people would probably call them 'crisps', weirdos) were great - but certainly not enough to save the underwhelming scallops.
- Madam Rabbit was happy with the price of the arancini balls - they were described as a snack but they were a good size and worked out at $3 each. Good value for an entree. Neither Madam Rabbit nor Divine Brown were as impressed with the taste though. They came out with some sort of pesto paste, which wasn't liquid enough to use as a sauce, and some wilted greens. The dish was a little bland.
- Arancini balls are always a good starter, by the way, because throughout the rest of the meal you can make jokes about 'try XYZ's balls' and 'oh my they are some big balls we had' and that sort of thing.
- Tom-a-hawk loved his prawn dish. The prawns were cooked well, along with a fresh salad. Scored points on taste. The dish cost $22 though, and was essentially 5 prawns and assorted greens? I'm not up to date with the market price of seafood but that doesn't seem ok?
- The Architect's Daughter loved the duck liver parfait, with onion jam and gluten free bread. She quickly forgot about Circa's lack of gluten free pasta and, I must admit, I was a little jealous of her dish while slurping down on my watery scallops.
- Let's get two things out of the way straight up. Firstly, the mains were excellent. Even now when I think back to our night at Circa, I know that the entrees were a little disappointing, but I remember the kitchen as having done a great job. The mains were terrific. Secondly, there was one dish that looked suspiciously like female anatomy. I will leave you to pick which one. Surely the kitchen is aware of this? Is it deliberate? You decide. .
- I went with the pork ravioli special and absolutely loved it. It was one of the best dishes I've eaten in the past year - perhaps forever. Little caramelized apple circles were a surprise among the salty pork pasta parcels. Loved it.
- The Architect's Daughter went with a prawn risotto and said it was perfectly cooked and had great flavour. No complaints.
- The Gingham Surprise went with the pappardelle special and, a thousand apologies, but I can't remember what it had in it. Possibly a type of fish? I will update the post if I can work it out. Again - everyone agreed it was a treat.
- Madam Rabbit's beetroot ravioli didn't receive any rave reviews, but we are starting to suspect vegetarian food never will. Madam Rabbit always ends up going with the ravioli as the one vegetarian option on the menu, and our night at Circa was no different. Consensus seemed to be good but not great.
- Tom-a-hawk however was probably the biggest champion of Circa's food, having chosen the roast pork special. I tried some of the crackling and I agree - it seemed like a winner.
- After the delirium of the mains, we were let down again by the next course. Overall we all agreed the desserts didn't really work.
- The best of the lot was the chocolate plate, which was essentially different forms of chocolate on a plate. Not super creative. It was ok. It wasn't great.
- The venetian fried custard was actually quite bad. Too rich in a flavour that wasn't that great to begin with.
- The peach meringue was deconstructed, but boring. Kind of like taking apart a ham sandwich and then being surprised at the boring components. The jelly was watery. The peach a bit pathetic. Disappointing.
Gin and tonic, ciders, two bottles of soave. We drank them and remained hydrated.
The service was good and bad in parts. We waited without wine for a while, perhaps 30 mins or so. We probably would have ended up finishing up three bottles over the course of the meal had the waitress noticed we were out. But then, at other times we had two maybe three waiters attending to us making sure we were being taken care of.
Circa is a real nice place. It's a little narrow, but that has become quite common at these trendy little joints spread around the purple circle and other expensive suburbs, and the owners are so clever now they're choosing layouts that make the best of the space so that it's really not an issue at all. We were a group of six put up against the wall. If there was another group of 6+ that wanted to dine I think there might have been problems though, I'm not sure where they could have put us all.
There are toilets out the back, and to get there you end up walking outside along some cables, ugly metal beams and rough red bricks - it kind of ruins the illusion inside of the place.
Overall it was a nice atmosphere though.
We had a really nice time at Circa. The food was about a break even, which is a shame because the mains were -so- good, it's hard not to think they could have done much better if the entree and desserts weren't a bit of a let down. Not everyone's entree was a disappointment, but the desserts were universally poor.
The service was hot and cold. At times we felt like the most important people in the restaurant but then at other times we were invisible.
The six of us originally weren't sure where to visit, and I only suggested Circa as my blog-crush Chomp Chomp had reviewed it just before I made the booking. We would go back - the mains were just too good to give up on - but Circa could have blown us away and they fell well short.
7 deconstructed ham sandwiches out of 10