Alex&Co., Par­ra­matta, NSW Os­te­ria Ilaria, Mel­bourne,Vic Aloft Perth, River­vale,WA Spicers Potts Point, Sydney, NSW

Australian Traveller - - Contents -

THE SCHOOL DISCOS OF MY child­hood pro­vided chaotic de­light: a scout hall full of ra-ra skirts shak­ing to the tune of Agadoo while bud­get light­ing and smoke ma­chines worked over­time. I loved those smoke ma­chines. While girl­friends were dip­ping a toe into the labyrinthine world of flirt­ing, I’d be bust­ing a move to­wards the wan­der­ing fog. I was re­minded of my smoke ma­chine predilec­tion re­cently when Alex&Co. dished up the adult ver­sion. When my en­trée – young king­fish tartare, sea grapes, wa­ter­cress, tomato granita and green olive – ar­rived, it was closely fol­lowed by a chef armed with tomato con­sommé and liq­uid ni­tro­gen. As he pre­pared the granita ta­ble­side, a fa­mil­iar mist swirled around us. Gim­micks aren’t of­ten my bag, but this one im­pressed. And I re­ally wanted to be im­pressed. Par­ra­matta has long been touted as Sydney’s next ‘it’ post­code, but the evo­lu­tion has been slow. Alex&Co. is the precinct’s new high-end of­fer­ing and the am­bi­tious project shapes up as a miss­ing piece of the cul­tural puzzle. The $2.5 mil­lion venue has cast a wide net, trad­ing as a cafe, bar and restaurant. The vast space – it seats 350 – stretches across 600 square me­tres un­der­neath the new Meri­ton Alti­tude tow­ers: cock­tail bar at one end, restaurant at the other. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Kyle Quy (Nola Smoke­house) has pep­pered his mod­ern Aus­tralian menu with in­ter­na­tional el­e­ments; a nod to the restaurant’s mul­ti­cul­tural home. This is most ob­vi­ous with the ‘Parra spice’, a sig­na­ture mix in­clud­ing sumac, cumin and turmeric. I get my fix with the ‘Parra spice’ roasted chicken, served with as­para­gus, car­rot, leeks and es­chal­lots. It is vi­brant and tangy, and I am jeal­ous of our neigh­bours who or­dered the ‘Parra spice’ fries. Among the small plates and en­trées, the but­ter­nut pump­kin risotto with bur­rata, pepi­tas, dukkah and bal­samic vine­gar is a sig­na­ture dish and, I’m told, one of the most pop­u­lar. For ca­sual oc­ca­sions, a bar and pizza menu is avail­able. There is also a se­lec­tion of mains de­signed for shar­ing, such as the three-hour braised lamb shoul­der. When I in­di­cate an in­ten­tion to share dessert, our waiter makes a size-based rec­om­men­da­tion and, as well as am­ple, the le­mon meringue bombe Alaska is a stand­out. Silky Ital­ian meringue and smooth le­mon sor­bet com­bine de­li­ciously with co­conut ice-cream (although the menu stated vanilla). While the ser­vice could barely be faulted, the same could not be said for my break­fast visit ear­lier the same week. Teething is­sues in­cluded: slow ser­vice de­spite a com­i­cally im­bal­anced waiter-to-diner ra­tio; a long wait for food; an undis­closed key in­gre­di­ent sub­sti­tu­tion; and – per­haps most trag­i­cally – hard­boiled cod­dled eggs. An un­prompted dis­count helped ease the dis­ap­point­ment. Alex&Co. lacks nearby like-for-like com­pe­ti­tion, which will likely en­cour­age lo­cals to per­sist in the event of a poor first im­pres­sion. And if sec­ond im­pres­sions are any­thing to go by, this venue will be a hit.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A se­lec­tion of plates to snack on and share at Alex&Co.; The venue serves as a cafe, restaurant and bar; The vast space seats 350 peo­ple; Try a dish, such as the ‘Parra spice’ roasted chicken, that uses Alex&Co.’s sig­na­ture spice mix.

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