Diners looking for a more upmarket Greek restaurant need not look further than Alpha restaurant in the heart of Sydney city. The new Alpha restaurant is a reopening of the establishment that was open in Sydney in the 1950's.
Inside of the 1993 Rabbit and Black Olive Pie
Burnished wall with ancient Greek alphabet
When I arrived at Alpha on a Friday evening, I was pleasantly surprised by the chic décor and stylish air of the place. One wall of the restaurant was covered in letters of the Greek alphabet, and was burnished to give the wall a historic appearance.
Modern and simple decor
The beautiful lights in Alpha
The lights throughout the restaurant were covered with weaves resembling fish-nets, adding a touch of refinement to the aesthetics of the restaurant.
Exterior of Alpha
After our friend had arrived, the three of us looked over our menu and quickly decided on our courses with some help from the waitress. She advised us that it would be best to order one meze plate for an entree, followed by three main courses.
Soft tones used to create a modern and elegant ambience
We took her advice and ordered exactly that. For an entree we ordered the Tirokafteri ($10) - a dip of sheep's milk feta cheese, chilli and red pepper that came with pre-cut pieces of lightly grilled pita bread. The strongest flavour in the Tirokafteri meze was the feta. Although the menu stated that there was chilli and red pepper in the meze also, it was hard to detect amongst the heavy taste of feta cheese. Apart from this, there were no complaints about our first course, and my friends and I agreed that the quality of the pita bread was flawless. It was served warm, with the hint of a herb aroma, and was not too heavy on our stomachs, nor too filling.
The Tirokafteri Meze
The Tirokafteri dip
The next dish to arrive was a vintage dish that had been kept on the menu since the time of the original Alpha restaurant. The 1993 Rabbit and Black Olive Pie ($32) was a dish that did not disappoint.
Exterior of the 1993 Rabbit and Black Olive Pie
It was served on a plate in the centre of a red wine sauce. When my friend cut in to the pie, we noticed that the rabbit meat was a rather stringy texture, and was light pink in colour. I thought that the look of it somewhat resembled canned tuna. When we tasted the pie though, it had the proper taste of meat; a little like chicken but also different. The flavour of the rabbit was accentuated with the red wine sauce, and the slightly salty flavour of the olives. The pie crust was thin, crisp and flaky; making for a dish that wasn't too heavy.
The Mastic Spiced Quail
The Mastic Spiced Quail ($26) was less appetising than the previous dish. The meat was lightly spiced, and I found it difficult to cut. Being a small bird, there wasn't much meat on the bones, and I thought the quality of it was average. The side salad of feta and watermelon that came with the quail was delicious though. I enjoyed the creamy and juicy contrast of the watermelon and cheese. It was quite original, and I would have liked to tried more of it.
A delicious lamb dish with refreshing tzatziki sauce
Our last main is the Greek Spiced Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder ($52) accompanied with roast potatoes and tzatziki sauce. The lamb shoulder was also probably one of the standout dishes of the evening. When cutting into the lamb shoulder, it was so soft that it fell apart. It was extremely tender, and was garnished with a wedge of lemon and a tangy tzatziki sauce. The tzatziki sauce was cool and refreshing, although I thought it was a little heavy because of the amount of olive oil that had been added.
We also had a side dish, the Horiatiki Salad ($18) - the Greek name for the salad more commonly known as 'Greek salad.' It came out with an entire uncut block of feta cheese on top, which we were left to mix ourselves. The Horiatiki Salad had all the traditional ingredients of cucumbers, red onions, olives, feta cheese, tomatoes and red peppers. There were no surprises in this department. My friends and I all enjoyed the simplicity of this dish.
The Horiatiki Salad, also known as the simple Greek salad.
When my friends and I had finished our mains, I noticed that the staff took a particularly long time to clear our plates. It would have been understandable if we had left food on our plates, but we had completely finished everything, so there could have been no misunderstanding about whether we were finished eating. In addition to this, I also noticed that the waitresses serving us appeared surly and unfriendly.
When our plates had finally been cleared and we were presented with the dessert menus, we chose our desserts quickly and placed the order with the waitress. The two desserts we'd ordered came out soon after ordering.
The Loukoumades - a dessert that was almost sickly sweetening.
The Loukoumades ($12) was a dish of doughnut balls, spiced honey syrup, and candied walnut ice cream. When the waitress brought it to our table, we could already smell the warm scent of freshly made cinnamon doughnuts. It was a delight to our senses, and a precursor of what's to come. I enjoyed the contrast between the warmth of the doughnuts and the coolness of the ice cream, but found that the syrup made it a little too sweet. The flavour of the ice cream was a marked departure from traditional ice cream, and I both appreciated and enjoyed the flavour.
The Loukoumi Delight Ice Cream Slice ($13) looked quite plain. Judging from its appearance, I didn't expect much, but in actuality I liked it better than the Loukoumades.
Just the right balance of creaminess and sweetness - the perfect dessert.
The ice cream slice was pink in colour, and had small pieces of strawberry throughout the ice cream. It came with a piece of pastry wrapped up to resemble a cigar, but I didn't care for it and felt that it didn't add much to the dessert. There were small raspberries placed around the ice cream slice, which tasted delicious when combined with the ice cream. The ice cream slice was creamy and not too sweet, making for the better dessert out of the two.
I thought the experience in the beautiful dining room and modern Greek cuisine was nice, but also didn't think there was anything very exceptional about Alpha. The best thing was probably the value in price for the amount of food that we ate. The bill came to about $52 per head split among three people; for an entree, three mains and two desserts. The food is quite filling, and the menu is designed to share; so it's not like some restaurants that require people to eat three courses before they are satisfied. The worst aspect of Alpha was probably the service. Although it wasn't terrible, it wasn't very good either. Being a weekend, the restaurant was also rather busy and loud. For those who don't enjoy having to shout to make yourself heard, I would not recommend visiting this place on a Friday or Saturday.
Where: 238 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW
Why: For traditional Greek cuisine with a modern touch
Cost: Moderate pricing. Mezes (entree sized dishes) start at $2, large dishes range from $12-$45 and desserts range from $11-$13
When: Lunch and dinner 7 days a week