Sequels: The Lawns II: Acacia Avenue
First of all, no. The Lawns does not now go by The Lawns Part 2. They have simply moved from their inaugural location on Impala Road, Kololo to a larger space on Acacia Avenue. Like every good sequel (of which there are few), the new address comes with exciting twists and changes, while still retaining some of the magic that made its predecessor a hit in the first place.
We take a look at what’s new, what’s not and of course a sample of what’s hot on the menu.
As you descend the first flight of stairs from the car park, you find a two-pronged fork leading you into either one of The Lawns’ wings, the restaurant or the tapas bar. To your left is a granite walkway that leads you over a wooden bridge running over a stream, from a fountain cascading over a lattice rock face, into the restaurant. Where the previous restaurant had been a large mvule gazebo with a high ceiling, the new restaurant has retained the vast spaciousness with dark mahogany and iron beams for a more modern aesthetic.
Wooden steps take you upstairs to the mezzanine, a smaller, more secluded section overlooking the lush golf course next door, and yet another flight of steps further takes you to the picturesque rooftop available for functions of up to 450 people sitting and 650 people with a cocktail arrangement. From up here one is overlooking the large wooden deck that sticks out of the restaurant for those who prefer their meal in a more outdoorsy ambience and leads into the lawns.
The stream from the fountain meanders underneath the deck and flows out into a channel somewhere in the lawns that begin on a terrace below. The entire establishment is made up of terraces from the restaurant deck to the tapas bar, to the pristine lawns below. The Lawns themselves are scattered with garden furniture underneath the shade of overhanging foliage from large trees. What’s a good sequel without recurring characters? Scampering amongst the tables and chairs are the fluffy white bunnies that had made the original Lawns that much more homey. But let’s go back to that thing we keep mentioning but never elaborating on: the tapas bar.
The tapas bar was installed to complement the gardens as a place to relax and have a light nibble with a drink to pass the time and enjoy good company without committing to an entire meal.
Just in case you were wondering what tapas are but were too shy to ask, they are savoury snacks or appetisers prepared in small portions that can be mixed, matched and made into larger platters.
The Lawns’ tapas bar provides a wide and ever-changing variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian tapas as well as cocktails to accompany them. One may try the vegetarian Arancini Sticks which are grilled rice-based finger lollipops served with a cheese dip to pick up their subtle flavour. The chicken cubes, a non-vegetarian option are tender, buttery and delicious; a little like chicken tikka masala without the tikka masala. The Tigania Pork, pan-fried cubes coated in a thick, spicy tomato paste is literally finger-licking and finally, the prawns, with a generous sprinkling of paprika are grilled to a smokey finish and served with garlic sauce.
The “bar” part isn’t completely redundant, either, as side-by-side with the open kitchen is a fully stocked bar for a beer, glass of wine, cocktail, or other non-alcoholic beverage to wash down those delicious tapas.
Of course, you may be in the mood for a more substantial meal, in which case at a table at the restaurant is where you should be. The Lawns’ restaurant has two menus, both of which are available at different parts of the day;
a Lunch menu from 11am-4pm and a Fine Dining Menu from 6pm to 12am.
The Lunch menu is made up of light meals that are quick to whip up for working diners with limited time such as salads, sandwiches and breakfast meals. That is correct: you can get breakfast until 4pm at The Lawns. We are told that the fine dining menu retained about 30% of the items from the old menu but has gone ahead to introduce inventive new dishes and focus on gourmet three-course meals. What does gourmet really mean? You know it when you see it.
Every plate is a painting at The Lawns with a whole new serving style using disproportionately large, white, square plates to make striking compositions of the dishes served. Take for example, the Watermelon & Feta Salad, which does not come in a bowl as one would instinctively imagine, but on a plate of whiteness with islands of colour and flavour arranged symmetrically. You have an inch-high circular slab of feta (that looks like marble) in the centre and an inch high square slab of watermelon; all garnished with a leaf of deep-fried spinach and chocolate sauce with caramelised gooseberries. Does it taste as good as it looks? The slight sweetness and crunch of watermelon is delicately balanced with the slight saltiness and thick texture of feta, so that even the chocolate and gooseberry flavours don’t tip the dish into the sweet realm of dessert.
For the main course, we take a look at one of The Lawns’ most iconic dishes: The Serengeti Platter. Whereas this restaurant has always been known for a fusion of Intercontinental, Asian and Coastal cuisines, one of their most distinguishing features has always been the wild game on their menu. The Serengeti Platter includes medium-well-done cuts of Kudu, Springbok, Ostrich and Crocodile; all with labels attached to little wooden picks sticking out of them to indicate which is which. It is served with red wine juice and peppercorn sauce for gravy. Though the kudu and springbok taste like beef with some alterations to its DNA, the definite outlier in the bunch is the crocodile whose texture and flavour are in a league of their own. The grilled brown exterior is almost crunchy and gives way to a spongy interior with a slight smokiness that combines harmoniously with the red wine juice (despite being white meat). At this point, one begins to realise why portions of gourmet dishes seem so small; with multiple courses, it all adds up.
To wrap up the meal is a dessert called The Dulce Trilogy; a trio of desserts (mostly of the chocolatey variety) that is constantly changing. Yes, The Dulce Trilogy is always a delicious surprise. When we were there, it consisted of a chocolate brownie, mango cheesecake and churros. The chocolate brownie is the richer, darker variety with a texture that’s closer to doughy than crumbly; it is heavy in the mouth and leaves a delightful presence on the roof of your mouth after it’s gone. The mango cheesecake is assembled in a shot glass with a layer of cream cheese on top, a layer of mango puree beneath that, another layer of cream cheese beneath that, and finally some crushed coconut biscuit at the bottom for a firm buttery base to round off the cheesecake sensation. Finally, the churros. The fingers of sweet dough are deep fried to dark brown perfection and dusted with sugar. On their own, they are amazing. With a side of dark chocolate sauce, they taste like the meaning of life.
A truly great sequel takes the winning formula from its predecessor and expands upon it for an even greater experience. The Lawns has held onto the essence of service, food and ambience that made them great and expanded them to cater to more diverse diner needs while continuing to work to improve their standards. An ever-evolving menu (even by the week) shows versatility and a sense of adventure so that even their most loyal customers are always in for a surprise. The true test of a great sequel, however, is its ability to stand alone and be enjoyed even without the nostalgia for previous instalments and one need not have visited The Lawns at its old address to relish the new experience.