"When you're twenty three and you go to the bank and get a loan, you don't move to Circular Quay," quips owner/Chef Ashley Hughes. He’s neatly accounted for the location of his spacious stalwart on the 'wrong side' of the Surry Hills; but not it's longevity. Ten years is outstanding in the restaurant trade – heck in any trade. It speaks to consistency, value for money, and making most of what diners eat - from the crisp Grissini, to the light, fluffy Focaccia, to the tart Blood Orange Sorbet - in house.
Dine throughout June on a well-priced, celebratory ten-course Greatest Hits Degustation ($80/person, $110/with wines). The menu presents a dish from each year of operation, sans tricks - well, unless you count the truffled green peaches cut to look like olives on the standout Bresaola as tricky.
Ashley’s Barra in a Bag is nicely cooked and popular for a reason.
I was more excited by the excellent cooking of the Hawkesbury River Calamari with Chilli and Lemon, refreshingly plated up to look just like a squid.
Okay, he probably could have done something a little nicer with the plating of the Red Wine, Pancetta and Radicchio Risotto - but it was stick-to-the-ribs type comfort slopped onto a plate.
He probably made up for it with the Char Grilled Eggplant Baked with Buffalo Mozzarella artfully garnished with twenty five year old balsamic vinegar.
I would have preferred a shade less chew in the Cape Grim Beef. It's good cow, but I'm not convinced it really needed to be served still mooing. I did love the accompanying potato al forno.
The dinner ends with the same dessert I tried last time I dined HERE, the Panna Cotta with Fruit Salad and Mint. I am going to the say pretty much the same thing: texture's really important.
Spring for the matching wines; sister and co-owner Tracey Hughes goes the extra mile to find interesting yet easy drinking wines including a fragrant Italian Pecorino.
5 Baptist St, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8394-9368 www.alio.com.au