The Red Hen, West End - closed

Smack in the middle of a street strip known for its variety of Asian cuisines is The Red Hen, a classic Italian themed restaurant which was established in 2009.

Shut your eyes, drink in the kitchen aromas, and you could be in Italy I thought as our Italian-accented waiter deftly pronounced all the dishes on the menu.

I was with a group of foodies invited to try the restaurant and spread the word about their cuisine.  I remarked that they seemed to be doing a good trade that night and was told lunches are the slow time.  Checking out their lunch specials and with the hope of easier parking, I'd say lunch would be a good deal.

Here's what we ate

Garlic and chilli marinated tomato, cheese and basil on toasted ciabatta

Oven baked eggplant parcels filled with ricotta and fresh herbs.
Calamari fritti

House made potato dumplings with gorgonzola, cream and spinach

veal meatballs in tomato sugo

Penne with spicy Italian pork sausage

Linguine with fresh crab meat, tomato and white wine baked in a paper parcel

Budino con caramello - sticky prune pudding with spiced caramel sauce.
We loved the tomato cibatta and veal meatballs, eggplant parcels and calamari fritti.  They were all just the way they should be, flavoursome and very moreish.

My gorgonzola gnocchi was very tender and swimming in a sauce full of salty, cheesy goodness. The risotto was a little less successful but the penne with Italian sausage was declared a hit all around the table.

Rather than a thick and heavy pudding type cake, the budino was quite light which was good after a full meal, and the caramel sauce satistifying with a quirky spice note.

Like many restaurants full of hard surfaces, our table was surrounded by noise which made it a little difficult to hear but not impossible.

Parking around here can be a nightmare so best to get there early for dinner, 6ish, or be prepared to stalk for a park or wear walking shoes.  There is parking under the restaurant via the side street but it does fill quickly in this popular area.

The Coffee is Blue Sky.

Bottom line
Generous serves and all meals under $30.

Best tip
When you are searching in vain for restaurant where you can take your own bottle of wine - think of The Red Hen. Corkage is $5 a bottle.

Disclaimer: E,d+ bK was a guest of The Red Hen