After passing my three month probation period of my new job, I was declared official – which is a good thing too since my manager was jet setting off on his hols. In true fashion, a celebratory meal was on the cards as a treat from my fiancé, so we decided to check out Giraffe in Lakeside. Having only been to a Giraffe restaurant once (at Spitafields), I was long overdue a return visit as I couldn’t remember much about their menu. Specialising in an abundance of global foods to whet the appetite of any taste palette, I was looking forward to seeing if Giraffe was all it was cracked up to be.
The Lakeside branch is situated within the popular shopping centre as part of The Broadwalk stretch of restaurants that line the picturesque riverside, scattered with swan pedal boats. I didn’t even step foot inside the restaurant – it was a such a beautiful summer evening, Dan and I decided to eat outside on their decking area, a waitress who was already serving outside tables directed us neatly to a rectangular table of four with metal hard dining chairs and matching table, situated next to bright bands of orange that framed Giraffe’s turf. Fluorescent orange awning style umbrellas were either flung wide blocking rays of the setting sun, or the fabric folds were slumbering against the white poles, evenly spaced between the tables to provide an even protection. Gentle buzzes of cheerful Mexican style music permeated the background noise, and paired with the pink and blue streaky sunset, delightfully warm weather and my hubby-to-be, I felt completely relaxed – and very much looking forward to seeing the menu.
Considering I had no idea what I fancied before I arrived at the glass fronted Giraffe, as soon as I opened the menu, by eyes seemed to hone in on particular items, in almost a tractor beam fashion. Firstly, with my drink. I promptly discarded the normal drinks menu, requesting a cocktail menu instead. After a quick glance the pina colda deluxe seemed to sing from the pages, boasting of its boozy filling. Rum, Malibu and banana liqueur were blitzed with fresh banana and pineapple juice to create this instantly refreshing and creamy tasting concoction. The texture was grainy and icy, almost like a frappuccino, a large segment of firm pineapple grasping on to the edge of triangular glass. It looked and tasted fab, although the banana tones were rather unique for a pina colada, I still enjoyed them. I even chose Dan’s mocktail (designated driver of course) for him, instantly spotting one that was right up his street called a Wavebreaker – pure pineapple and coconut juice that had his favourite tropical flavours rolled into one, served in a cool jar with a handle and decorated with mint. He was impressed with it and the slurp I stole confirmed that it too was very refreshing and light to drink.
Originally I was going to skip starters, but then I saw the Orange BBQ Duck Tostada. Granted, my notion of what a tostada was slightly skewed, but I adore duck and it’s a meat I don’t really indulge in at home, so there was nothing for it but to order it. The crisp yellow corn tortilla formed a lazy open V on the plate, a generous scattering of sticky BBQ duck pieces hidden beneath a mound of shredded lettuce, peppered with intriguingly unusual salad components, such as radishes and slices of red chilli which had me spluttering and Dan cracking up in amusement. It was quite tricky to eat the tortilla with the other parts of the meal, since it crunchy like crisps but it provided a really nice mix of textures, since the duck was gooey, in small cubes and very tender, the salad was a fresh bite of raw, whilst the tortilla provided a salty crunch. On the whole a delicious starter which I really enjoyed. Dan opted for the carb overload with the decadent focaccia garlic sticks, which I must say did look rather impressive. The cuboid sticks of garlicky bread were moist and oily and totally wonderful, with a grilled crisp crunch on the outside and springy doughy inside. It was served with a marinara dipping sauce in a small green dipping dish which appeared to be a grainy tomato relish of some sort. The vibrant red and sweetness of the tomato really cut through the slight garlic stodge so as a combination, that worked really well together.
With the old appetite nicely whetted, it was time for our main course. We had both opted for burgers (does Dan order anything else?!?) although we had gone for completely different options. Continuing the continental theme from my starters, I went for the Mexican Chicken Burger, with a thick grilled chipotle chicken breast balancing large rounds of spicy chorizo slices on top, a decadent oozing of manchego cheese encasing the concoction. It wouldn’t be Mexican without a slathering of vibrant green guacamole, with a slight slimy paste texture, a handful of fresh lettuce and a really yummy sweetcorn and tomato relish that had a hint of musky heat to it which I liked. All held together precariously by a large white bap, gently floured. Wowsers. It was delicious. I loved the flavour combinations, the grilled chicken taking on a smoky, BBQ flavour which really enhanced the depth of the chorizo which I love. The relish added some extra sauce as did the guacamole and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful. Paired with my burger, I chose the sweet potato fries since I adore sweet potato but don’t get it very much at home. They came up like skinny fries, so not my ideal chip size, but they were fantastic nonetheless. Really crispy on the outside and light as a feather on the inside they had a distinctive moreish quality which was dangerous. Since I was super hungry, I also ordered some herby boiled rice which I really liked too. Not usually a herb fan, I loved the fact that the rice was a pale green colour from the herbs, and the flavour was more a gentle undercurrent and hum of greenery rather than overpowering, so it worked really well as a side, especially with the punchy flavours paired with my chicken. On the whole, I was very happy with my main course.
Dan went for a more traditional burger – the classic Giraffe Burger that used Irish reared beef, smoky bacon, mature cheddar, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, mayo and a smoky tomato relish. Also wrapped up in a white bun, Dan went for the skin on fries so we could try both kinds of chips. Despite being labelled as fries, his came up much chunkier than mine, with the attractive speckled skin framing one of the cut edges on the rustic rectangular chips.
No meal is complete without dessert and I must confess to being torn between the options available. In the mood for ice cream, yet I never opt for just the boring old scoops, I settled on the Tiramisu Sundae and oh my goodness this was much better than even I was expecting. Served in a small sundae glass with a frilly top edge, two small scoops of intense double chocolate ice cream sat on top of a layer of espresso drenched biscuit sponge like pieces, scoops of vanilla flavoured mascarpone also snuggled in next to the dark chocolate scoops. Speared with a chocolate flake and dusted all over with cocoa powder, it was simply divine. The ice cream was chilled with such an intense, dark chocolate taste, which was the perfect accompaniment next to the whipped and light mascarpone, beautifully creamy and thick in consistency, yet not too heavy to eat. The espresso hits were also ideal, punchy and flavourful without being overwhelming, the liquid coffee soaked nicely into the biscuit pieces which added an extra crunch to some of the gooey components. And who doesn’t love a flake?
Not usually a dessert man, Dan decided to have the Banana Waffle Split, which was a large, thick Belgian style waffle, topped with a whole roasted banana, a slightly honeyed appearance making it look even tastier. Next to the banana was perched a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, the plate decoratively criss crossed with both butterscotch and chocolate sauces. A sample spoonful revealed this was also a very yummy dessert – I do have a penchant for bananas.
On the whole, I had a lovely evening at Giraffe. I really enjoyed being able to sit outside and watch the sun set, and the service was also really good – we never had to wait long for our food and both the waitresses we had were polite and chatty, so no problems there. Three courses for two people, including my cocktail and Dan’s mocktail came to about £50 so not too unreasonable. They have a deal on with their burgers on a Tuesday, and since we happened to visit on a Tuesday, we were able to make the most of this too. The menu isn’t that extensive, so some people may be more restricted in what they actually want to eat, as Dan was. All together though, it was a delicious meal, well prepared and executed with some really interesting and thriving flavours.