Review: Waterloo’s Allegra Dining is a hidden gem worth digging for (Sydney)

Sydney’s food blogger community has been raving about Waterloo’s Allegra Dining for quite some time and it seems, in this particular case, it’s perfectly fine to buy into the hype. Tucked away at the far end of the breezy courtyard of 18 Danks Street, which also hosts Kepos & Co and a bunch of showrooms, this almost-one-year old is a stunning addition for an area that’s not at all lacking when it comes to quality options. It’s Italian by taste, with pasta and crudo regular finds on a menu which seems to evolve with seasonality in mind, and is beautifully spaced with the same kind of bright, chirpy demeanour and minimal, effective design Sydneysiders have come to expect from modern eateries.

Wine bottles sit neatly displayed behind in sections opposite the bar and behind a neat row of tables. This is a well-organised, well-lit and elegant interior without the need for ostentatious displays or overstuffed flourishes, with a real gregarious neighbourhood feel elevated by a long open kitchen that sits right next to the entrance. It’s the kind of atmosphere directly in-line with the grounded approach to food and drink, which focuses on strong flavours and simple presentation.

The menu is simple across lunch and dinner although there are stacked modern interpretations which put an elegant twist on tradition. Sunday brunch fans will want to jump through the ‘all day’ menu with the likes of Ricotta Hotcakes ($18) served with honeycomb, figs and mascarpone, or the Brekkie Burger ($18) with pork sausage, egg, bacon, spicy ketchup and scamorza. Though if you’re particularly hungry and in no rush then go for the Sunday Long Lunch ($55), a five-course set that leaves it all up to the kitchen.

Dishes featured in the Sunday Long Lunch are likely to change regularly but on my visit it went a little something like this.

A plate of Focaccia with rosemary and sea salt doesn’t take long to kick things off, and thought it’s tempting to dig straight into the soft and warm artisan bread, the better idea is to save it for a later course where you have something to mop up. And don’t worry, the dishes are timed in a very steady fashion and there’s little waiting time between courses (though this obviously depends on how busy the kitchen is – my visit was at 1pm on a Sunday and only a few tables were occupied).

Though there was a Spanner Crab Sandwich ($12) with shiso and spicy tartare on the a la carte menu, I was perfectly satisfied by the warm Veal Tongue Pamigiana Sandwich, my first course and one of the standouts with super soft lightly toasted white bread wrapped around rich crumbed veal tongue, melted cheese and a light BBQ sauce. It couldn’t be any more different than the following second course: thick slices of Citrus Cured Hiramasa Kingfish simply plated with dots of green apple, fermented chilli and burnt lime.

A step up both in size and quality is the gorgeous Saffron Risotto flavoured with chilli and mascarpone and topped with a nice line of soft, rich South Australian crab. Moving away from your typical thick and creamy risotto, this one is light and fluffy so as to let the fresh crab do most of the heavy lifting as far as the palate goes. It all works incredibly well, leaving enough linger on the tongue to warrant a palate cleanser, which comes right after as two juicy pieces of Compressed Watermelon with Tequila and lime sherbet.

The string of savoury dishes ends with a Beef Short Rib with meat sourced from Black Onyx Beef up in the Rangers Valley, left to soak up flavour from a pesto calabrese and assorted alliums. Those who try to avoid fatty meat won’t take to this dish at all, but lovers of the richer cuts should relish this main.

It’s not often that a restaurant’s Tiramisu stands out. If you’re focusing on Italian food and getting this staple dessert wrong then that’s a clear warning sign that you’re menu needs a rework. It seems Allegra Dining’s kitchen team is perfectly aware of this, so regularly make use of different premium chocolates to construct this beautiful work of culinary art. For me, it was Tuscany’s perfectly balanced Amadei chocolate that was showcased in a towering tiramisu, made with impeccable balance and the playful little addition of pop rocks (albeit ones that are hardly noticeable). It’s a strong way to finish, and is thankfully available from the a la carte menu as well so even those in a rush can pop by for dessert.

Allegra Dining

Address: 8/18 Danks St, Waterloo NSW 2017
Contact: (02) 9698 1699
Hours: Tues-Sat 5pm-10:30pm; Sun 9am-3pm