Address: 5 Pt Chevalier Rd
Phone: (09) 815 9595
Cuisine: Mediterranean - tapas and full menu
The French word "ragout" is one of my favourites. It conjures up warm, wintry stews that give comfort with every spoonful.
A restaurant bearing the phonetic spelling "Ragu" has just opened on Pt Chevalier Rd and I figure that the owners must know a thing or two about marketing by giving it such a name.
Sure enough, research reveals that the owners are seasoned hospo types and hail from the successful La Zeppa in Freeman's Bay (until they sold it last year) and another, Mandy Lusk, from Vivace in High St.
Ragu has opened in the somewhat awkward location behind the library in a spot that has had a few different incarnations over the years.
Those who've frequented any of the previous will notice that the new owners haven't gone for a major re-fit and the space remains largely as it was.
What has changed is that it feels more upbeat than I've experienced before. Open for just over a week when we visited we noticed a nice buzz in the place.
There are two menus to choose from - small plates and the full menu (there's also a child's menu available). We settled ourselves in the bar area and ordered from the small plates menu.
First thing to note is the great selection - more than 15 to choose from with at least another four or five featured on the "daily specials selection". Second is the reasonable pricing - all were between $9.50 and $13, which proved to be great value for money.
The baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) was smooth and smoky and served with a generous amount of warm chargrilled bread ensuring that my pet hate of serving dips with insufficient bread was not realised. The risotto balls were huge and could have verged on being stodgy but were saved by the large pieces of mushroom and crisp outer layer.
The bruschetta was marvellous with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, tomato, that was surprisingly tasty for this time of year, and pungent basil to top off one of the best trio of tastes I know of. So these three dishes were all a highlight.
The next three were not as well executed. The chilli prawns whilst plentiful, firm and expertly cooked hadn't even sniffed the chilli. The baked saganaki looked fabulous when it arrived, in one of those cute little cast iron pans, but it had been overcooked so that any of the wonderful sharpness had long since left the cheese, leaving only an oily trail behind.
The sticky lamb ribs were indeed tasty and sticky but needed a better trim as they were a tad fatty. I did like the change from a beef or pork rib though. Thankfully we finished our savoury plates on a high with one final dish from the list of specials - the beef and pork Vietnamese meatballs. These were served with a nuoc cham dipping sauce that had just the right balance of chilli, garlic and fish sauce.
Whilst some of the food may have faltered, the staff never did, keeping us well looked-after with a confident and genuinely friendly level of service.
One of them even pointed out to us that the fireside couches had become available if we wanted to relocate and eat our dessert there. What better way to enjoy a tarte tatin than nestled into the big dimpled comfort of a Chesterfield leather couch.
Ragu feels more like a familiar friend than a new kid on the block. If it can get every dish to taste as good as it sounds it'll rival some of the neighbouring tapas bars this winter.
From the menu: Small plates: Baba ghanoush, Vietnamese beef and pork balls, sticky lamb ribs, mushroom and risotto arancini, baked saganaki with slow-roasted tomatoes, chilli prawns, tomato bruschetta, tarte tatin, $9.50 to $13 per plate.
Drinks: Fully licensed.