Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Alio, Baptist St, Surry Hills

Alio, Baptist St, Surry Hills
Tuesday 27 June, 2006

Alio is located in a part of Surry Hills I have never visited before. Picture this.... you are driving down Crown St away from the city, cross Cleveland St and it becomes Baptist St. Did you know this? Alio is situated in a building directly opposite Coles. Despite the frantic pace of Cleveland St and the hustle & bustle of Crown St, Alio is quiet & refined. It has an elegant feel about it.

As you enter you are greeted by a fabulous floral display, a dramatic red wall and a long bar. The actual restaurant is not as dramatic - it has white walls and dim lighting with a long lounge running the length of the far wall. On arrival we were asked if we wanted a drink at the bar first or were happy to go the table. Table thanks...I don't trust myself going the bar first (maybe on Fri/ Sat night but not during the week).

I recently discovered that Alio offer a 5 course degustation menu for $55 per person (excluding drinks) and the chef, Ashley Hughes, alters the menu daily. What a fantastic deal! Our waiter delivered the menus to the table but made no mention of the special degustation menu. We ordered drinks and then quietly enquired about the degustation menu. Yes, they have it but not sure of the dishes - be back shortly. Within moments our waiter returned to talk us through the degustation menu. It was not printed up as it changes daily. A minor gripe but I would have preferred it to be typed up and offered as separate menu.

Each of the degustation items were also listed as part of the a la carte menu offering and included:

- Complimentary smoked cod soup served in a miniature tea cup
- Complimentary foccacia with olive oil
- Crab salad wrapped in cucumber with toasted Alio brioche
- Squid ink linguini with a cuttlefish, chilli and ginger sauce
- Herb crusted barramundi with roasted fennel & rosemary and achovey dressing
- King Island sirloin with cavolo nero
- Pineapple sorbet
- Tiramisu

Each dish was beautifully presented but our waiter could have done a more effective job of sharing the intricacies of each dish instead of just stating the basics e.g. crab salad, linguini, barramundi, sirloin, sorbet and tiramisu.

I thought the food was wonderful, very simple, not rich in any way and the degustation portions were ideal. However, by the tiramisu I was getting full and of all the dishes this was the let down. It was like sponge cake with cream.

The absolute highlights for me were the squid ink linguini and the herb crusted barramundi. The linguini paired with ginger and chilli was spectacular - the ginger added a real zing and the barramundi was light and fell apart but it was the herb crust that was incredibly more-ish.

I will be returning.

Alio - 5 Baptist St, Surry Hills - (02) 8394-9368



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