For fans, the news that Peter Conistis's CBD settling ground-cum-Sydney's Hellenic Club headquarters, Alpha, has opened its doors for Saturday and Sunday lunches can be nothing but great. For everyone else, it's good news too: Alpha has the potential to become a fabulous, lazy winter weekend lunch spot if it can fill all its seats.
Less than half capacity on our visit, the place is huge and needs a buzz to suit, yet it's comfortable and gleams with warmth like the Greek isles from which it hails. Step in from the grey of Castlereagh and you're instantly bathed in the whites and creams of the Med, complemented by impressive fishing net light shades dividing the tall, spacious dining room from the intimate and casual outside section looking onto the street. At the back of the restaurant is a large bar complete with sit-up dining and drinking.
We took a seat on one of the plush, multi-cushioned central banquettes and, when in Rome (well, close enough) began with pita ($2 per person), hommous ($8), taramosalata ($11) and a bottle of Viognier ($90) from the northern Greek town of Epanomi. The hommous and taramosalata hit the mark, especially smeared over the hot, soft and crispy-where-it-counts pita (obvious warning alert: don’t fill up on this). We had barely had a slice each by the time our twice-cooked octopus arrived ($25), but in all fairness it was ready to go: the succulent flesh fell apart with each chew, accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth white beans and the floral, fruity flavours of the wine.
Next came one of Alpha’s arguably favourite dishes, the spanakopita, aka spinach, leek and filo pie ($20). A telltale sign of good Greek, the pastry was just the right level of moist but light enough to avoid dryness and that all too familiar feeling-like-a pig-syndrome when you’ve still got another dish coming. Said dish in question was the spiced, slow roasted lamb shoulder (the small yet not small version at $35) with roast potatoes and tzatziki. You can imagine it just fell off the bone. We also added a side of wild greens immersed in the holy trinity of garlic, chilli and olive oil, which were a standout ($10).
Finishing off, we squeezed down both the chocolate hazelnut baklava ($12), which was my personal favourite until I crunched into an overpowering lump of clove that must have missed the full mixing process, and the strawberry and raspberry loukoumi delight ice cream slice with filo cigars ($14). The latter was refreshing and not too heavy, but also not the best colder-weather choice.
Already established in the city as a go-to for good Greek, it’s clear that if the team here really want to make weekend lunches work all they have to do is put arses on seats (and perhaps work on dish timing a little). Food, drink and service all get a big fat Greek tick here. We just need the big fat Greek atmosphere too.