We were tired from travelling all morning and didn't want to go far. Noticing how full the courtyard part of the restaurant was, we decided it could not be as bad as some reviews claimed and tentatively entered from the street into a large space taking up most of the ground floor of the downtown Garden Court Hotel. There is some outside seating in front, overlooking the road, and, past the open kitchen taking up part of the large space, another room and a large covered courtyard at the back which was full over the weekend, at both lunch and dinner.
Learning there was a wood fired oven, we ordered a Margherita pizza $15 which unfortunately was rather basic, lacking the better quality ingredients essential if you are going to offer this most demanding and traditional of pizzas - and the base was missing the necessary crispness. Our other entree was lasagne, one of the house specials, was rich and creamy. The complimentary bread was warm and good but the olive oil and balsamic vinegar with it were not good quality. Portions are on the generous side.
As we were staying in the hotel, we decided the place showed enough promise and returned the next day before departing for our flight home. We explained our hurry, ordered one entree each, and were out in under 45 minutes. We had the delicious lasagne again, and again it was one of the best we've had anywhere, with a superb umami flavor imparted by the portobello mushrooms in the sauce.
We also had the Capellini al Pomodoro $15: angel hair pasta, chopped tomatoes, garlic, marinara sauce and fresh basil. Although not mentioned on the menu, the waiter asked if we would like to add prawns or chicken which were an extra $5. So, 5 medium large prawns came with the Pomodoro, which was fresh tasting, with a good tomato sauce and good chopped fresh tomatoes on top.
Large tables are not under pressure to order even if some of their group are very late, because the restaurant is never full to bursting. However, a brunch table of 10 had their food delivered in partial stages of about 2 dishes at a time over a 5 minute period, quite a long time to wait with your meal cooling in front of you, as some had to do. The group waited in strained silence although they dug in once everyone had been served, chatting happily.
Service is good, the courtyard is very pleasant, and it's clearly very popular locally. We pre-booked both times as we wanted to sit in the courtyard. If you're happy to sit inside, booking does not seem necessary.
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