Whenever you decide to eat out at a restaurant, you're showered with hospitality and culinary care. However, that sense of home is sometimes lacking. This is not the case at Allegra Dining Room
Allegra Dining Room is a fully plant-based and intimate dining experience for a maximum of 28 guests Thursday to Sunday. Here, guests are treated to a homely multicourse evening filled with seasonally-themed meals with a choice of matched wines. The concept for Allegra Dining Room has been brought to life by the team of Etica, the wood-fired pizza and pasta place located downstairs. As you arrive at street level, you realise that Allegra Dining Room is nestled one floor up.
In contrast to Etica's modern casual vibe, Allegra Dining Room takes on a more intimate and sleek persona. Natural fibres and upholstered seats dot the dining space while wooden chests and sideboards anoint the outer edges. There is an art deco-like feel that keeps the space modern yet timeless. The furnishings seem to match the meals perfectly – plant-based and crafted from nature. The space was designed by artist Gabriel Cole and courses are served on earthen crockery designed by South Australia artist Samantha Faehrmann. Upon arrival, guests are warmly welcomed by Etica's founders Melissa and Frederico Pisanelli.
The plant-based menu exudes flavour, craftsmanship and energy, all packaged in neat courses; Adelaide's first plant-based fine-dining experience. Guests who book in for the ten-course experience book for a merry time (Allegra is Italian for 'merry'). If walk-ups arrive, they can be accommodated by a bar menu depending on availability. This doesn't seem to be a problem because Allegra Dining Room is meeting a genuine demand for plant-based fine dining options in one of Australia's most vegan-friendly cities.
The menu depends on the evening and the season, so guests won't always experience the same menu in a hurry. To start, a broth elixir helps to clear the palate and is partnered with a nut cream tart. Following this is an eggplant, zucchini and pine-nut medley that's spooned carefully onto neighbouring bread or crackers (depending if guests need a gluten-free option). Flavours are woven together to give guests a revitalising taste of Allegra Dining Room's ability to create well-rounded courses. Guests are thus treated to the intricacies found in each dish, like in a bowl of capsicum, olive and crushed almonds. The capsicum is a burst of colour and melds well with the olive and contrasting texture of almonds.
Another of Allegra's specialties is zucchini flower with plant-based ricotta and mint. The flowers are prepared in a light tempura, so guests can still adore the colour peeking through the shroud of crispy batter. These flowers are arranged in a bouquet across a smear of mint puree aside delicate cubes of ricotta. Here, the flavours celebrate all that is unadulterated in locally-sourced ingredients.
For a contrasting twist, grilled corn in a chipotle crust is served and – yes – it's totally acceptable and fun to swap out cutlery for fingers. This break in pace prepares guests for the cloud-like rounds of gnocchi with a warmed cherry tomato and garlic reduction. While it's tempting to eat quickly, it's best to take the time to appreciate the flavours as well as the delicate preparation and painstaking plating that goes into each dish. To round out the heavier courses, there's gently caramelised fennel with a parsley puree and almond cream. To finish, a crispy cos lettuce and fig salad is coated in a subtle nori dressing.
The sweet, blushing fig segments in the salad lead guests to the dessert course. What waits is warmed pineapple with coconut cream topped with an aquafaba meringue and lightly toasted coconut shavings.
Guests will be hard-pressed to leave Allegra Dining Room without a full belly, after having experienced the best plant-based dining experience that Adelaide has to offer. Allegra Dining Room proves that plants should enjoy the centre-stage more often; the possibilities in flavours and texture are endless.
Reader Note: The courses represented in this review featured on the menu on the night the author dined. Menu items are subject to change daily and/or seasonally.