Seen at Justin Lane on Friday night: woman scraping left over Witches Chase goats cheese and balsamic off her plate and into her mouth with a fork… OK, so that was me. We met a friend for dinner at Justin Lane, a recently new arrival to Burleigh, having already heard lots of good things about it, and we weren’t disappointed. I had already checked it out on the net, and the concept and menu seemed similar to some of our favourite pizza haunts in Melbourne (like +39 – Best Pizzeria of the Year 2010, L’Uccellino, and I Carusi). Speaking of great pizza, I have also been lucky to enjoy a pizza from Da Michele in Naples (for anyone who has read Eat Pray Love, it’s supposed to be the best pizza in the world and it was pretty spectacular).
Justin Lane’s has a limited menu, but as far as I’m concerned this is a good thing – do less, but do it better. The restaurant has a walk in policy unless you have a group of over 7, so we arrived early as I’d heard this place already gets very busy (at about 6:00pm). By this time, all seats were full at the bar, and within 45 minutes of us arriving the place was already full. Actually – one of our friends arrived at around 7:30pm last week and was told there was an hour wait for a table, so best to get in early.
The interior design is lovely and warm but modern, and reminiscent of a wine bar in Italy with lots of dark wood featured throughout. The restaurant spills out into the arcade and another retail space opposite.
We ordered a carafe of the house wine (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy, 500mL $17) whilst we were checking out the menu, as the three of us were hungry and thirsty (it was Friday afternoon – wine o’clock!). The wine arrived quickly, and was poured into stylish stemless wine glasses, which are also designed to be functional – the heat of your hand warms the wine. I wanted to try the Montepulciano as I went to this region when I was in Italy a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t disappointed. I could immediately taste (wine wanker alert!) tobacco and chocolate, and the wine matched our meals well. My friend also loved it – we ended up ordering another carafe.
So on to the food – for entree we had Goats Cheese & Balsamic ($12) and Rocket, Pear and Pecorino Salad ($9). The goats cheese (Witches Chase, Mt Tamborine) was smooth and piquant, and delicious spread on the sourdough provided. We actually would’ve liked more bread as there was cheese left over (hence, eating goats cheese with a fork… Sime was actually spreading the leftover on to his pizza slices – yum!). The salad was lovely and light, and a good rendition of a classic.
Our pizza arrived soon after. I have to say that because we owned a pizza restaurant in the past (and been spoilt in Melbourne), we have high expectations. We ordered the Margherita ($19 – a classic tomato, basil, buffalo mozzarella combo) and the special of the day which was a Spicy Salami, Mushroom and Provolone ($19). The Margherita was delicious, so much so that I had a ‘close your eyes’ moment when eating it. A thin, crispy, salty base with sweet tomato, fresh basil and soft creamy balls of Buffalo Mozzarella. I think the Margherita pizza might be underrated because it’s such a simple combination of flavours, but this version is a must try.
The second pizza was also delicious. The waitress offered us chilli oil which was great as the spicy salami wasn’t that spicy (although we can tolerate pretty spicy food). The mushrooms had a nice strong flavour, and again the crispy salty base was perfect. Throughout the meal I kept smelling truffles – I asked and the waitress told us that truffle oil is on the mushroom pizza (but not mentioned on the menu?). Mmm mushrooms and truffles… next time!
For dessert, Sime and our friend selected a scoop of ice cream each, until our waitress suggested we share the 3 scoops of ice cream (I think it was $12?). The 3 flavours were lemongrass & ginger, chocolate and vanilla bean. The standout was the lemongrass and ginger – amazing fresh punchy Asian flavours contrasting with a decadent creamy texture. Our second favourite was the rich creamy chocolate, followed by the vanilla bean. We asked if the ice cream was house made – it’s actually made by Lick who prepares the lemongrass and ginger flavour for Justin Lane.
Our waitress was warm, friendly, efficient and had a good knowledge of the menu and the wine list. We ended up with the Goats Cheese because of her recommendation, and also changed our dessert choice. We all loved the ambience, warm and intimate, and were very impressed by the food. My friend wants to go back again soon and take her hubby, I’m heading back for the mushroom pizza with truffle oil, and Sime wants to go back and get that Lemongrass & Ginger ice cream. It’s so good to have another choice locally that’s up to par!
And finally the Loo review – I’d give it a 4 out of 10. One of the cool things about Justin Lane is that it’s in an old arcade in Burleigh… which means that the toilets are also pretty old and a bit gross. The loos are unisex, with a handwash inside the cubicle, but hand towels outside (which may lead to wet door handles… ewwww).