Went to Talula's Garden last night. There were definitely some great high points, punctuated by frustrating low points. The place has great potential, I think even 4-bell potential, but there needs to be a few improvements.
The ambiance: a little kitschy with all the garden knick-knacks and planter boxes and stuff, but cute.
Service: knowledgeable and friendly, but inattentive at times. Especially towards the beginning of the meal, our waiter was nowhere to be found for like a half hour. Once we placed our orders, it did get a bit better. The service needs to improve for this place to be a contender.
Food: In summary, some dishes were astoundingly great. Others, painfully mediocre.
We ordered two cheese plates to start: Four Rare & Ridiculous and Bring On The Funk. This was a great start to the meal, and one of the highlights of the night. Not surprising considering Oxley is known for obsessing over cheese. The cheeses were all delicious, and beautifully presented on slate and accompanied with honey, nuts, and dried fruit. However, I can only give the restaurant so much credit for cheese because they don't make it.
Appetizers: I had the rosemary pappardelle with veal, my companions had the beef tortelloni in consomme and the foie gras. We all very much enjoyed our appetizers. The rosemary pappardelle with veal was one of the tastiest pasta courses I've had -anywhere-, including the Vetri places. It was evident that a lot of care went into making the pasta. It was very delicate and light, rolled out quite thin, and flecked with rosemary.
Entrees: This is where the kitchen fumbled. I had the leg of lamb with braised kale, my friends had the lobster pie and the chicken. We all agreed that the entrees were just OK, and the weakest part of the meal. With regards to my entree: The leg of lamb came out very nicely presented, pre-sliced and medium-rare (slightly leaning towards medium), served over the kale. However, it was served at room temperature. The lag between appetizers and entrees didn't seem unusually long, but the dishes must have been sitting for a while because they were cold. Flavor-wise, the entire dish was pretty flat and bland. Perhaps it was under-seasoned. The lamb itself was slightly chewy and not particularly flavorful. All in all, very mediocre.
Sides: Smashed potatoes + Kennett Square mushrooms. Both served in rather large bowls, these sides were definitely big enough to share between 3, possibly even 4 people. The smashed potatoes were very good and the mushrooms were outstanding.
Desserts: Steamed Date Pudding with Goat Cheese Ice Cream and Chocolate Pudding Tart. The desserts were a nice finish. All were satisfied with the desserts. I had the steamed date pudding. This very rich pudding/cake-type dessert was served in a small glass jar alongside a quenelle of goat cheese ice cream, which the server suggested that we eat together with the pudding to cut some of the richness. It turned out to be a very good tip. The pudding + ice cream combo was delicious, although the ice cream didn't really seem to have the tanginess associated with goat cheese.
We did not order alcohol, but the meal was on the pricey side - in the neighborhood of $90-100 per person, all in. However, we did order a lot of food. I would go back, but I would probably order two appetizers next time (as opposed to an entree). The portion sizes are generous.
My report card:
Overall Grade: B
Would I go back: Yes, but skip the entrees.
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