Allegra Dining is a restaurant doing a standout Sunday brunch, rather than a café, so don’t come here expecting your usual corn fritters. This modern, minimalist and (I suspect at full occupancy) noisy space can be found on the edge of a lovely internal courtyard running between Danks Street and Phillip Street.
It’s on the Phillip Street side, but if you enter that way, you'll miss out on the pretty aquamarine water feature.
Being a restaurant, in the evenings Allegra Dining is modeled on a four-course dinner. They’ve translated this into a two-course Sunday brunch offering.
Cheaper items, like the ridiculously good Spanner Crab and Smoked Mozzarella Jaffle ($16), are designed as starters. Many of the surrounding tables create their two-course brunch by throwing in sweeties like a Mango ‘Pancake’ ($12). The scare quotes should clue you in that this dish isn't going to be a pancake as you normally understand it.
Being more inclined towards savoury dishes we arrive after 11.30am to take full advantage of the menu; and so we can hit up breakfast cocktails without feeling judged. The Breakfast Martini ($15) is all subtlety and marmalade, while the Watermelon Margarita ($13) shouts Sydney summer in all her sweet, sticky, smoky glory.
The martini is a better companion to the crab jaffle, which has a subtle, sweet crab flavour, and a lightness that will leave you wanting more.
An exercise in texture, the Fried Fish Katsu Sandwich (9.50) is everything McDonald's wanted their Filet’o’Fish to be – just without the hockey-puck fish patty, sad lettuce, terrible tartare and over-sweet bun. Allegra Dining's milk bun is pillowy soft; the white fish is yielding inside a crunchy exterior; the yoghurt tartare piquant against subtle cheese and long strands of crisp iceberg lettuce.
Smoked Mussel Hash ($22) with kipfler potato, juicy leeks, mussel cream and a 63 degree egg is one good-tasting plate of food. Gentling smoked mussels into something breakfast appropriate is a stroke of genius.
It doesn't even clash with a well-made, smooth Flat White ($4).
It’s the Charcoal Pappardelle ($25) with sausage, chilli and egg yolk that will drag me back here for dinner. I’m excited by the bold use of chilli, and the lean, tasty sausage, but the highlight of this dish is the house-made crinkly black pappardelle. It reminds me of the amazing Gooda wood ear mushrooms I tried in Murrumbateman recently, in terms of both silky texture and appearance.
Over the last ten years I've eaten a lot of pasta, with none surpassing the pappardelle cooked by Ruben Martinez at the now-defunct La Sala. Allegra Dining's dish has set me a new benchmark.
8/18 Danks Street, Waterloo
Ph: (02) 9698 1699