Alex & Co is a new establishment in Parramatta with many sides to it - a cocktail bar down one end with tables and stools, a nearby lounge area with views of the river, restaurant seating in the middle with street views, a covered outdoor al fresco area, and a cafe counter down the other end for that all-important coffee and cake fix.
It's long and large, open and airy in part, with interesting decor in the different sections – colourful prints advertising alcohol, flower baskets hanging from the ceiling, rustic metal baskets beautifully arranged with flowing vines of flowers on white pillars, greenery protruding from ornate white walls and an open cabinet of neatly stacked firewood ready for the pizza oven. The lighting inside is the opposite of harsh and lends itself to an intimacy that blends with the natural light filtering through from the outside.
Equally as interesting as the decor, is the food. An all-day bar menu provides popular snack items whilst a little bit of fancy can be found in the more formal dining area. I chose from the small plate and entree section of the dining menu, a strategic move so I could fit in dessert. It was the young kingfish tartare with sea grapes, watercress, tomato granita and green olive that I had with a side of fries & aioli sauce. Now, what I thought I was getting was a piece of grilled or battered fish with tartar sauce and accompaniments but what I got was a total surprise. It's all in the spelling and the 'e' on the end of tartar is what made the difference. A tartare is raw meat or fish served with seasonings and accompaniments and not the creamy mayonnaise tartar condiment. My entree was delivered by head chef Kyle Quy who prepared the tomato granita in front of me with his liquid nitrogen, which was pretty cool to watch as it turned to icy form. Eating raw fish was a bit out of my comfort zone but it was a refreshing start to the meal and went down easy.
The fries, Parra Spice, were something special as well. Chef Kyle advised, that when devising the menu, he looked at other restaurants in the area to get a feel of the culture and that there is plenty of with Parramatta being very multicultural. He knew fries are something most people want and decided to have them on the menu with a touch of difference in the spice – a blend of cultures that includes sumac (Lebanese), widely-used parsley (that is actually native to the Mediterranean region), coriander (Chinese parsley), cumin (Indian), your regular black pepper and salt plus a secret ingredient that you'll only discover if you visit. The end result - they are delicious, and you'll find the same spice added to some of the meat dishes.
Another surprise came to the table from the chef for me to sample – the Alaskan snow crab with soy bean, pea vichyssoise and avocado. It was another refreshing, light dish. Both entrees are perfect for warm days.
Other entrees on this menu include butternut pumpkin risotto, grilled quail and pork belly whilst mains include venison, scotch fillet, chicken and lamb dishes.
My son, who accompanied me on this day, chose the Gyros plate of slow roasted meats, rustic salad, garlic yoghurt, pita bread and Parra Spice fries from the bar menu. More than just a snack, this plate was huge with delicious chicken and lamb pieces.
Other items on the bar menu include pizzas and burgers, chicken wings, prawns, calamari, octopus, lamb ribs, salad with pita crisps, charcuterie and cheese board plates, making for a good variety.
After a little break, it was time for the dessert I had eyed – the Lemon Meringue Bombe Alaska. Consisting of lemon sorbet and vanilla ice cream covered in Italian meringue with sable biscuit and lemon curd decorated with fruit and flowers, it was the ultimate decadence and finish to a great outing.
My son was eyeing the banana cream brulee but he was just too full to fit it in. I think we'll have to go back for that as it sounds heavenly with its salted caramel and macadamias. Other divine desserts on offer are Eton mess, a dark chocolate tart with peanut butter pom poms and white chocolate mousse, coconut pannacotta with watermelon granita, and rocky road pizza.
The drink list is extensive with beers, ciders, red and white wines, spirits that venture culturally with Indian malt and Japanese whisky, as well as cocktails and moktails. First up, I chose the very invigorating Johnny Pussycat moktail of fresh pineapple and raspberries mixed with citrus, mint, watermelon and fizz, and later, a cappuccino with latte art in the form of a cute rabbit face.
There's a range of prices in both the food and beverages to suit all budgets, from $7 to $70. Check out the full menu on their website.
But that's not all. The cafe counter had an enticing selection of cakes and tarts so I took some home for devouring later on with hubby. A green dome of pistachio and chocolate mousse with a hint of raspberry and a coconut-cake base went fast as did the tart of passionfruit-flavoured custard.
Alex & Co also celebrate various events, such as Halloween and Melbourne Cup, with degustations and good times second to none. There's also Sangria Sundays with $15 jugs and $5 Parra Spice fries to indulge in whilst chilling out to live acoustic tunes.
In short, Alex & Co is a welcome addition to Parramatta with its elegance, perfect presentations, touch of spice, culture and friendly staff.