To start, populism and Twitter advice should have no place in the decision-making process for restaurant-goers because I’ve been led astray… again. Probably appeased by the pinkness of the Blowfish Hotel and the merry expats swimming downstairs in the background, people have labelled La Veranda as “one of the best Italian restaurants in Lagos” or “authentic Italian”, but my question to them is, what is the benchmark?
Also, after reading the original review on La Veranda from 2014, I was somewhat excited to visit Lagos-Italy but to my surprise, the mighty have fallen.
Anyway, on to my experience. Alex and I’s evening at La Veranda kicked off with some Bruschetta Rustica and red wine - a decent start to an underwhelming dinner.
For those that don’t know, ‘bruschetta’ actually refers to the crusty bread slice (ciabatta or baguette) and not the entire crusty bread topped with chopped tomatoes and basil, so don’t be surprised when you order bruschetta and what you’re served looks different. The Bruschetta Rustica was olive tapenade on a toasted baguette slice, and it was just… okay.
Besides the bread answering it’s father’s name and coming as it should have, the olive tapenade lacked personality, with no seeming uniqueness to the La Veranda chef - almost like it was just olive puree out of a tin, spread on bread, the same way a rookie would make it.
Trying to not be dampened by the starter, we went on to order our mains, Penne Al Pesto and the Tagliatelle All'Aragosta - the “Chef’s Special”. Before I go on, I’d like to mention that the whole point of visiting casual-fine dining restaurants and opposing the rice-at-home movement is for quality food, ambience and service; and by ‘quality food’, I mean both the presentation and taste of the food.
The chef might have gone a little overboard with the presentation on this because the pesto pasta dish looked Nigerian flag green… hulk green… like the pesto OD’d during photosynthesis green or something.
Just imagine the La Veranda chef as Professor when he was making Powerpuff Girls and then excess Chemical X (pesto in this case) pouring into the pot. But really, it was green green and food colouring was most likely used, which is an overkill since pesto is already green. There were some positives however; the pasta selection, Penne, and pasta texture were satisfactory… and that’s it with the positives.
All four prawns (which I had to order additionally, by the way, because the pasta doesn’t come with proteins) tasted bland, like they hadn’t been spiced or seasoned before being tossed in the pesto.
Unfortunately, the chef may have lost steam as he was preparing his special, the Tagliatelle All'Aragosta. ‘Aragosta’ simply means lobster, so, what was ordered was a lobster pasta, with the chef’s twist being a tomato base with garlic and mushrooms, topped with parmesan cheese. The photo speaks for itself and addresses all comments on presentation - the dish looked like some faux-Italian concoction I’d whip up at home.
Still on presentation, there’s a trend I’ve noticed with restaurants that serve ornamental lobster claws, heads or tails with their seafood pasta dishes - the dishes are ALWAYS underwhelming. Moving on to how it tasted, the salt was quite overbearing to all other spices but the garlic helped a bit.
Mmm, I love garlic.
Overall, the special was in fact, not special.
I really shouldn’t be feeling like I can go head-to-head with a whole restaurant’s chef after I order his “Special”, because there really is a kitchen at home with pasta and rice and everything (almost) I need to make these dishes.
Bruschetta Rustica - N3500
Penne Al Pesto - N6000 (+N3900 for prawns)
Tagliatelle All’Aragosta - N13500
12 cars inside and a whole not-so-busy street to park on outside