63 Hardgrave Rd, West End
I spotted this restaurant in the Entertainment Book and was always curious to try it out. I know some people are of the mindset that Italian food out is a waste of $ because you can make it better at home... but I HAVE HAD good pasta/pizza experiences out of home and I'm open to finding more (even at the risk of getting duds).
After an 'adventurous' drive through West End (wherein I discovered we were travelling the opposite direction to what I wanted on the GPS and then the boys criticized me once again for failed navigational skill), we finally came to The Red Hen nestled amongst many Vietnamese restaurants. The strip seemed popular and I want to go back to try more.
We were greeted by friendly staff and seated at a table within the small restaurant. I thought the environment felt casual and comfortable without being over-styled or contrived. It's the kind of place you'd be happy making 'regular' because it's not a crazy, unique experience that you'd get sick of.
Because I'd already eaten (unfortunate occurrence due to lack of prior communication), we only ordered a plate of bread and 2 pastas to share.
Toasted foaccacia with balsamic vinegar and olives
The toasted foccacia came out after a moderate wait. My first impression was 'oh that's so small' but promptly forgot my complaints because the pieces were toasted perfectly.
The winner for me there was actually the olive oil. We had a little drizzle bottle at the table and it just had a beautiful flavor that was great on its own over the bread or with a bit of balsamic.
Fettucine puttanesca - olives, capers, garlic, anchovies and chili in a napoletana sauce
Hien chose the fettucine. The boys tasted it before I did and I was informed it was 'very anchovy' in flavor. I actually thought it was pretty good. Not too salty and the dominant flavor for me was black olive. It was also rich and tomatoey.
Rigatoni with pork sausage, sage, chili and tomato ragu
The pasta that Byron and I chose was the pork sausage rigatoni. I thought the sauce itself wasn't too exciting because it was basically tomato with a flash of chili (mmm... maybe a bit nicer than that) but the bursts of pork sausage packed a punch. They were succulent and FULL of taste.
The serving sizes were decent. A bit too much for me but possibly not enough for someone like Byron (I'm sured he'd be quick to agree there).
We were going to get dessert but nothing stood out to me so I might go back another time.
What stood out to me about Red Hen was the service and dining environment. It was just so nice, casual and relaxed. The food wasn't outstanding/astonishing but it was good pasta, reasonable servings, at a relatively low price. I wish I tried something with a white sauce because that's normally more impressive on pasta but I'm happy to go back and give some others a go.