Tucked down a little corridor in the Yarralumla shops, from the outside, Lamshed's is as unassuming as they come. A simple glass door opens up into a room with lofty ceilings; minimalist white walls and polished concrete floors make the restaurant feel like a converted warehouse, but in a sophisticated Yarralumla kind of way. It's dark and moody, yet warm and cosy - an easy place to wander into for a casual dinner, but also somewhere you'd want to linger with friends over a glass of wine and some small plates.
The one page menu has lots to offer whether you're here for dinner or drinks, so much so we're having trouble deciding what to order. There are no headings to help gauge how big each dish is, and it's a little difficult to imagine how a dish might come together from its short five-word descriptions. Four plates is the recommendation for two people, our waiter tells us.
The wine list has plenty by the bottle and a short by-the-glass list, with a well-stocked bar firmly ensconced in the corner. I ask for wine recommendations and the host tells me that he always like to put something interesting on the by-the-glass list. Sounds great to me! I settle on a Jonc Blanc simply called "fruit" from Bergerac, France ($17). It's a cab sav, malbec, merlot blend, funky with plenty of fruit and a subtle fizz, and is certainly interesting as promised.
Slices of warm bread, charred on a grill, are a good start to the meal. The smoky, warm bread with whipped butter and flakes of charcoal salt is simple but effective.
There are three chefs in the kitchen tonight, and food arrives as the kitchen plates it - one dish at a time, not all at once in that communal eating style that I'd expected. Nothing wrong with that, just that you're committed to eating what's on the plate at the time - there's not really an option to pick at bits of different plates.
A simple dish of duck croquettes is brightened with an earthy rhubarb ketchup ($16). It's familiar but new, a classic re-imagined.
The kingfish crudo ($24) has an unusual twist too. Mushrooms are an uncommon pairing with raw fish, but here the combination of kingfish and briny-sweet pickled mushrooms makes perfect sense. Piped mounds of celeriac puree add freshness, pulling all the elements together.
The beetroot, smoked feta, lentil, pistachio ($24) is a fine, if a little less remarkable, dish. Both the lentils and beetroot have an earthiness to them, which doesn't do much without other elements to contrast. There isn't much smokiness in the feta or that many pieces of pistachio, so it lacks the imagination and execution of the previous courses.
The oxtail, pumpkin, oxtail jus ($28) looks almost deceptively like a sticky date pudding. The richness of the meat pairs well with the sweetness from the cubes of pumpkin. It's texturally very similar to the croquettes - slow-cooked meat, pulled apart and pan-fried to add a different texture to the exterior.
I'm still a little hungry, which is often the problem with these share-plate kind of venues. The dishes so far feel a little bit pre-prepped, a bit too assemble and plate, in a way, so I'm excited for the spatchcock, tzatziki, zucchini, aleppo ($39). It's the largest of the dishes tonight, which is a good thing, the others have been fine to share between two, but might be on the smaller side for tables any larger. The spatchcock is excellent, well-cooked with salty crisp skin. Chargrilled and pickled zucchini add freshness, while tzatziki brings a welcome creaminess. If there's aleppo pepper in here, I must've missed it because I don't see any red or taste any heat, but the flavours work well as they are.
Chocolate pave, berries, pistachio ($18) is a rather delightful end to the meal. A dark chocolate mousse on a pistachio base, with fresh berries and a berry coulis, a classic combination, with each element done well. It's simple but well-executed; the mousse is smooth and creamy with a hint of bitterness, and berries lighten up the otherwise decadent dessert.
Lamshed's has mastered the art of casual service. You know the kind where wait staff are happy to have a chat but don't linger, and glasses are topped up without you noticing.
It's a very enjoyable night at Lamshed's, with well-executed food. It's honest, down-to-earth sort of food with a sophisticated touch, but still homey, in a way - casual and unfussy. Each dish relies on a handful of good ingredients, with interesting flavour combinations and solid execution. The parts that are good are very good indeed, and while some dishes are a little unmemorable, they're still delicious.
Address: Unit 2/27 Bentham St, Yarralumla
Hours: Hours: lunch, noon til 2.30pm, Wednesday to Sunday; dinner, 5pm til late, Tuesday to Saturday
Owners: Mathew Aspland and Jeffrey Lamshed
Chef: Jeffrey Lamshed
Vegetarian: A few options
Noise: No issue tonight, but may be loud on busy nights
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