Hot off the heels of opening a second restaurant in Wembley, the team behind RoyAl’s Chicken & Burgers has turned its attention back to south-of-the-river. But instead of celebrating the pleasures of American diner eating, brothers Alasdair and Ken Craigie have looked a little closer to home for their third venue.
Introducing inasal, a marinated and grilled chicken dish popularised in the Filipino city of Bacolod, which has since spread in popularity throughout the archipelago. A fixture at any Filipino barbeque, the inasal was also a special occasion treat for the Craigie boys growing up. Today, the dish is the focal point of their newest venture, Lola’s Grilled Chicken in Thornlie.
“A lot of Filipino restaurants try to do everything,” says Alasdair. “We’re taking a similar approach to RoyAl’s and just doing a few things but doing them well.”
The inasal served at the Craigie household was traditionally basted with a mixture of lemongrass, ginger, garlic, calamansi lime and achuete, an oil made from peppery annatto seeds. Reflecting both the Philippines’ Spanish and Chinese settlement, this classic version is one of three marinade options available at Lola’s. The Lola’s Special tips the flavour balance to the sweeter spectrum, while a spicier chipotle-enhanced version is also available. Chicken is sold in quarter, half and whole birds, or as tenderloins and wings.
Typically in the Philippines, inasal is served with a garlicky fried rice, not unlike fragrant chicken rice (read: it’s insanely delicious). Lola’s gives guests an opportunity to try the combination for themselves (and you should), but regular rice and chips are also offered.
The menu also includes a small selection of Filipino classics like the islands’ famous chicken adobo: chicken braised in soy sauce and vinegar. A beef kaldereta – basically a Spanish tomato and capsicum stew – is another dish straight out of the Philippines soul food playbook, ditto sweet potato leaves smothered in a thick coconut cream and chilli sauce. Plans are afoot to introduce a weekend brunch featuring longsilog, a Filipino-style breakfast consisting of garlic rice, a fried egg and meat.
While the Craigie brothers are overseeing Lola’s, its day-to-day operation falls on the shoulders of their mother Estrella, the Lola in question (fun fact: Lola, in Filipino, is slang for grandmother) and a sounding board for many of the dishes on the menu.
Regular eaters at Thornlie’s beloved Spencer Village Food Court might recognise the Lola’s site as the former home of Mama Chedeng, one of Perth’s few Filipino dining options. Gone is the buffet and low-lighting, in their place: natural light, naked Edison bulbs and a bright wall mural. The strong condiment game is another RoyAl’s family trademark. Bottles of achuete oil are on every table, right next to a house vinegar spiced with chilli and onions. You won’t regret adding either to your rice.