With the office Christmas party looming, many a social club director will be looking for the perfect place to please everyone, within the constraints of budget. If you’re the one struggling, Alio is an accessible, middle-of-the-road Italian restaurant conveniently located for both parking and public transport. I’d take the latter and leave the wine in the capable hands of owner Tracey Hughes. She’s a star on the floor with genuine warmth and her seductive description of the 2007 Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc ($45) involved toasting the insides of the wooden barrels to produce the yummy caramel notes the wine displayed so readily.
The dishes of her brother, Head Chef Ashley Hughes, celebrate simplicity with the hand-made Focaccia and Grissini ($2) being a great example.
The best way to sample his menu is in the extremely well-priced 6-Course Degustation ($65/head), which includes dishes like the tasty Char-Grilled Black Angus Fillet with Fresh Baby Peas ($35).
The zingy Fettuccine with King Prawns, Tomatoes and Nduja Salami ($22/$30) was a bit dominated by chilli, losing the flavour of the prawns unless you were actively eating one. I did enjoy the wine match though, a 2008 Tenuta Sant' Antonio Soave ($40) from Vineto, Italy.
It also included the approachable entree of Prosciutto, Rocket, Walnut, and Pear with Gorgonzola Dressing ($22), I actually didn't know it contained Gorgonzola until I looked back at the menu, so it's quite accessible for those not into big blue cheeses. It was nicely matched by the 2009 Kilikanoon Riesling ($8/glass, $35/bottle) from Watervale, Victoria.
À la carte diners have the ability to add a refreshing Blood Orange Sorbet ($3) between entrees and mains – an unusual, unpretentious & egalitarian twist!
This is the Pan Fried Barramundi Fillets with Globe Artichoke, Fresh Peas and Boston Bay Mussels ($33) which I liked until I had Barramundi again the next day at Sure, which was much better. This one was a bit floury, but luckily it was saved by being with the wine of the night, the aforementioned Pinot Blanc.
Our dessert was served up with a 2006 Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon from Riverina, NSW ($10/glass, $45/bottle). Texture was an issue, I am a stickler for panna cottas having a silky smooth texture, and I feel that if you add something to it for flavour, you can't lose the texture of the dessert.
Best of all was the company for this meal. My lovely, entertaining dining companion summed it up: "If I had to put this in a category, I'd say work lunch." I'd have to agree.
5 Baptist St, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8394-9368