Some years back, Christian McCabe left behind successful restaurant Matterhorn, in Wellington, to try his luck across the Tasman. That first venture was the celebrated, though now closed, Town Mouse in Drummond Street, Carlton. Along with Town Mouse chef and co-owner Dave Verheul (a Matterhorn alumnus), McCabe branched out further, and more boldly, in 2016….
Overlooking the pristine white sand and sparkling blue waters of Cottesloe beach, Il Lido is perched on Marine Parade in a former 1930s cabaret hall. The Art Deco exterior evokes the spirit of pre-war beach culture (be it Cottesloe or Bondi) in its functional white-washed form, but once past the threshold, Art Deco embellishment can be seen throughout, with detailed cornices and filigreed vents, among other flourishes. What is Il Lido, sits neatly wrapped in this piece of history, with a steel-framed bar, polished hardwood tables and blackened timber chairs – the two eras nestling together neatly.
Il Lido operates as an espresso bar – with Mano-A-Mano coffee dispensed via a pair of gleaming Synesso machines – a bar and a restaurant, or Italian Canteen, as they call it. The cuisine is proudly cucina povera, or the food of the poor, peasant food – and it is no secret that Italy’s food of necessity is some of the finest in the world. The menu follows a classic course, with antipasti/primi followed by risotto and house-made pasta, mains and sides, and finishes with “Italian farm house cheeses and Italian inspired desserts with a LIDO twist.” Perhaps long-time chef Roberto Zampogna’s signature is his traditional lasagne, made for two, which is only available on Sundays.
Sommelier James Tuxworth’s list stretches to nearly 500 bins, with up to 45 available by the glass, depending on the season, with premium pours accessed via Coravin. All by-the-glass wines are also available in 250 ml flask. The list has a global reach, with excellent vintage depth, including some interesting verticals, such as a complete listing of Cullen’s ‘Diana Madeline’, starting in 2001. But it is the wines from the 20 heterogenous regions of Italy that take centrestage, with an expansive selection of classics as well as less-familiar bottlings, peppered with helpful notes that back up the highly informed wine team.