Monday, 2 September 2013

The Spaghetti House - not what I was hoping for

Where do I begin?  I had heard many great things about the Spaghetti House over at West End and was really excited about getting over and checking it out.  We had witnessed the development of the Spaghetti House late last year and thought it was just what was needed in the area, something a little different from the cool cafes in West End.  I also thought that another great Italian restaurant wouldn't go astray either, you can never have too much great Italian on offer.  Boy, was I wrong...  
It was not quite a last minute decision to head over to the Spaghetti House, we decided earlier this morning that it was time to check it out after having breakfast just down the street from Lock n Load. So I called up the reservations number to make the booking and was completely surprised when I was advised that the restaurant operated under a two booking system.  I could either have the early session from 5pm to 6pm and out by 7:45, or we could have the 8pm session.  I was a bit blown away, the Spaghetti House couldn't be that popular, could it?

I had locked us in for 6pm thinking that we would easily be out by 8pm, busy or not, it doesn't take us two hours to eat at a fine dining restaurant, surely we would get through a pasta dinner in this time?  I had dropped SC off at the front door while I looked for a park in busy West End, and by the time I made my way back to the restaurant, I had revised my estimates of how long it might take.  The restaurant was completely packed.  

It's a little bit weird, the Spaghetti House is quite spread out, it takes up two shops on either side of a little jewelry store, with al fresco tables set outside along all three shops.  There were people everywhere, most of the outside tables were packed and inside both dining areas there was not a free table to be seen.  SC had already been seated in a high table near the kitchen, so I made my way in to join her and was hit by the noise and the vibe of the place, which was bustling bordering on frantic. The menus were already on the table, as was some glasses of water and some complimentary bread sticks and olives.

We had studied the menus online and had a pretty good idea about what we were going to order, but wondered if there were any specials that were not noted on the menu.  We weren't advised of any by the wait staff, so assumed that there were none on offer (which turned out to be an incorrect assumption).  I find that serving sizes can be quite large at Italian restaurants, so I had devised a plan to only order entree sized dishes so I could have a couple to try out.  Ordinarily this would be a sound strategy, but as it turned out, it was another incorrect assumption.

I really love risotto, so had my eye on the risotto ai frutti di mare - carnaroli rice, squid ink, prawns, calamari and mussels.  The few times I have had a squid ink risotto I have really enjoyed it and thought that I couldn't go wrong ordering the small size serving.  Small ended up being a relative term, the risotto coming in a deep bowl filled with great looking seafood, but there was a mountain of risotto.  I had to take all of the seafood out of the risotto because apart from the calamari and a piece of fish, everything was in its shell.  I will say that the generous amount of fresh seafood was appreciated, but the fact that I had to take the seafood out of the bowl to eat defeated the purpose.  If you've ever had squid ink risotto, you also know that the squid ink can get everywhere.  The risotto was OK with pretty nice flavours and the seafood was fresh and plentiful, but it was a bit mushy and I felt so wasteful leaving most of the risotto in the bowl.

SC had the same idea as me but executed much better by ordering the Capesante alla Griglia con Salsa Verde - sea scallops in the half shell grilled with salsa verde.  This was a much more reasonable size, although still very generous with six scallops in their half shell.  The scallops were cooked well, but there was something wrong with the salsa verde, it was really grainy and gritty with the texture of sand. It really didn't taste very nice, and overpowered the scallops, so detracted a fair bit from the sweet scallop flesh.

For some strange reason, SC had over compensated the smaller entree order by ordering a large Cicale di Mare - moreton bay bugs with fresh cherry tomatoes, chilli and basil.  The plate that was delivered was huge, I mean really big and it was completely filled with bugs in their shell and a mountain of pasta. The dish actually looked quite lovely and fresh but was made very difficult to eat by needing to pull the bug meat out of the shell.  Moreton Bay bugs can be very easily over cooked, which was the case here.  It also became a very messy process to pull the bug meat out and then mix it in with the pasta.  There was a decent hit of chilli with the dish, but that was the only real flavour and after a few mouthfuls became a bit boring.  SC could not even make a dent in the pasta and it seemed like such a waste.

Continuing with the seafood theme of the night, I ordered the Zafferano Linguine con Scampi - saffron linguine with scampi, seafood bisque and cream and again the plate was presented with the scampi in their shell.  Even though I ordered the small bowl, there was a very large amount of pasta in the bowl and by the time I had finished picking the meat out of the scampi shells and putting them back into my pasta, it had gone a bit gluggy.  This was one of those dishes that the first mouthful is the best and it gets progressively worse each mouthful.  I initially thought that there were some great flavours from the seafood bisque that combined nicely with the flesh from the scampi.  After my next mouthful, my palate went into meltdown and all I could taste was a creamy flavour and by the third and fourth mouthfuls, all I could taste was the overpowering saffron linguine.  I had to stop after about five or so mouthfuls as I was starting to feel sick.

It should have finished there, we should have taken our leave and escaped but ever the glutton for punishment, I ordered a dessert.  The Panna Cotta with heavy cream, vanilla bean and berry coulis sounded pretty nice and I love a great panna cotta.  The panna cotta was delivered in the chats fashion, in a tall martini glass and was covered in a way too runny berry coulis.  The coulis was quite overpowering and destroyed the flavour of the panna cotta.  There was so much runny coulis that each spoonful allowed the coulis to follow gravity's pull and soak the rest of the dessert.  What was worse was the ash like substance at the very bottom of the glass that was inedible and unidentifiable.  Gross!

I didn't like the food at the Spaghetti House very much at all, sure there was a lot of food on the plate but surely quantity should not be prevalent at the expense of quality?  Perhaps we went wrong with our orders, we pretty much ordered everything with seafood, but apart from the risotto, everything was pretty gluggy or bland.  Was was even worse was the panna cotta dessert and the ash like substance at the bottom of the glass that could have been anything.

The staff were friendly enough on the night and seemed to be enjoying themselves very much.  At times they were high fiving and hugging each other, right in the middle of the floor.  It's good to see the staff enjoying themselves so much, but when there was a wait of over an hour between our entrees and mains, I would think they had better things to be doing, like observing our very negative body language and trying to rectify the situation.  What made matters worse is that I got elbowed in the back about five times by staff taking food orders out and not once did anyone apologise.

Its a real shame, we had such high expectations about the Spaghetti House.  We love good pasta and when we find a place that hits the right notes, we tend to go there a lot.  There is no doubt that the Spaghetti House is popular, it was completely packed and were preparing for a second sitting on a Sunday night.  That's pretty good going, but I don't think the buzz of a new place will last forever and surely run the risk of running out of repeat customers.  Especially if others have the same experience we had.  Unfortunately, I won't be back.


The view from our seat shows a packed restaurant
The fresh parmesan cheese was stored in this cool cheese like bowl
There was a stated twenty minute wait for the risotto, so we ordered some bread to start.  We were starving, but unfortunately the bread came at the same time as the entrees.
There was our little seat, right in the path of the wait staff to the rest of the restaurant.  I think I have some bruised ribs!
The place cleared out pretty quickly at 7:45 ready for the next seating.  We were still waiting for our dessert
The second dining area is on the other side of Hall's jewelry and was small and compact.  I think they would like Hall's to move!
Quite a few diners outside and stretching between dining areas

Spaghetti House on UrbanspoonThe Spaghettihouse Trattoria


  1. Hmm you seem to have had a terrible night there, I must say that squid ink risotto looks really awful, but I hate squid ink.
    We really liked our pastas when we went, but agree about the serving size - too large! entree sized would have been plenty for us.
    I had the pannacotta too - did the stuff in the bottom taste like ash? or was it just black specks (vanilla bean?)
    All I can say is that whenever I had pannacotta in Italy it came out with an immense coating of berry coulis as well... it must be a thing.

    1. After reading your post about the place I was looking forward to going even more!! After I went, I went back and looked at some of the diners reviews and there are really mixed reports about it. I thought they could have been vanilla pods initially, but the texture was all wrong and it would be unusual to have so many concentrated at the bottom of the glass.

      Yeah, must be a thing, but not a thing I like so much.... Oh well, can't love everywhere I go!

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  3. Shame you didn't enjoy your experience there! I had the three cheese gnocchi and whilst my friend complained that it was too rich, I enjoyed it. The feedback about the meals being extremely generous have been echoed everywhere, haha. I've heard that there is a pasta place on Hardgrave Road which is supposed to be good. I'm looking forward to trying that one next. :)

    1. Right, what's it called? Yeah, just didn't like it. There are a lot of great Italian places around now, but my favourite is still Beccofino :)

  4. I always wanna try The Spaghetti House too... Where else in Brisbane would you recommend for the BEST Italian pasta?

    1. There are a couple of places that do a good pasta, Tartufo is pretty nice and 1889 Enotecca does a great very simple traditional pasta (simple flavours with not many ingredients) and I hear Il Locale at Rosalie is doing good pasta. My absolute favourite pasta dish around Brisbane is the Duck Ragout at Beccafino at Tenerife though :)

  5. Ooh - the unshelled seafood is a rookie mistake and that would definitely have ruined it for me!


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