One south–east city dining old favourite made way for another a few months ago when Louca’s Seafood Grill made the short move from Hutt Street to Pulteney Street to occupy the space that for more than 30 years was used by business lunch destination, Alphutte. But how are the new digs treating the team from Louca’s?
After the longstanding owners of Alphutte headed for the hills last year, it was time for a sea-change for this stalwart of Adelaide’s food scene. Enter the Louca family, with plans to keep faithful customers content while offering something different. The venue is updated, but still feels the same – why change a concept and layout that has worked for the last 30 years? New furnishings, a lick of paint, a shiny new kitchen. It’s refined, yet familiar.
A predominately seafood menu is drawing the crowds. It’s Tuesday night and the dining room is buzzing. We’re sitting at the end of a long table that can be partitioned off with glass walls for power-lunches and private functions. It feels communal yet intimate, a challenge in such a large open space.
A young service crew is a noticeable change, but it’s all hands on deck as these trained professionals glide effortlessly between tables. In the galley, chefs must be working at the double, as food arrives only minutes after we order. Taramosalata is slightly difficult to pronounce, but not to devour. This is a bright pink dip of cod roe, olive oil and lemon with a slight grittiness from added breadcrumbs, and a sharp salted flavour courtesy of the roe. Pile this on warm pitta and we’re off to a good start.
Oysters are fresh from Coffin Bay, shucked and served with a dash of red wine vinegar that ever-so-slightly challenges the clean ocean taste of the prized morsels inside their gleaming shells.
House specialities feature plenty of seafood options, of course, but the cooked over charcoal menu displays some of their land-dwelling counterparts including a pork fillet ‘porterhouse’ with roast fennel and pear and lamb fillet with Mediterranean trimmings. Wanting to try as many dishes as possible we opt for a selection of mezze and before we know it, a fishy feast of princely proportion lands on the table.
Louca’s looks to local seas first and Spencer Gulf king prawns pay some homage to the original menu, faithfully served in a creamy garlic and white wine sauce. This house speciality is traditional but not dated, proving that a true classic never goes out of style. The velvety sauce seeps into a bed of jasmine rice, creating a risotto of sorts when we polish off the prawns. Southern calamari in Panko crumb looks a little take-away served with a simple side salad, but recovers with a sensational crunch and tender interior.
Scallops are fished a little further away, off the shores of Hervey Bay in Queensland. A skewer of eight is nicely seasoned and caramelised on one side, sliced to reveal plump fleshy centres. Grilled haloumi is the only let down of the main fare, with a slightly rubbery texture and without the anticipated cheesy squeak.
Of course a seafood feast is only bettered by good wine, and Coriole’s award-winning Fiano is the perfect pairing. It also teams nicely with desserts, taken from traditional family recipes revived by the family matriarch, Loula. A firm panna cotta is surrounded by a paste of salted burnt honey and a cluster of crumbled pistachio and sticky house-made honeycomb. Salt in the burnt honey offsets sweetness from the rest of the dish and, with a subtle vanilla flavour, Loula’s panna cotta is an unadulterated classic version of this dessert. Loula’s kataifi features a base of shredded filo pastry soaked in rosewater, topped with fresh creamy custard top and a scattering of crushed almonds and walnuts. Both of these have my recommendation, with my only regret being unable to squeeze in a divine-sounding warm olive oil chocolate cake with coffee ice cream and toffee mocha soil. Next time, I guess.
In a city intent on pushing trends and boundaries in the realm of food and wine, Louca’s Seafood Grill has a traditional style with a contemporary edge. Simple, yet reinvigorated and set to maintain its course on the family’s culinary voyage. All aboard.
Louca’s Seafood Grill
242 Pulteney Street
Hours: Monday to Friday, 12pm-3pm and 6pm-9pm, Saturday, 6pm-10pm