The Eat-In made a great impression before hitting its expiration date last year, and Alfio’s has a similar concept and run time. There’s a set menu for a bargain $50 – a multi-course trip where the dividing lines between starters, mains and desserts aren’t always clear; what’s obvious, though, is that you score a generous amount of food that’s rustic and beautifully realised. (On Saturday, our dessert was chalked up as one word – ‘blue’ – which turned out to be a simple platter of French Bleu d’Auvergne cheese, crackers and pear, with a surprise follow-up of chocolate ‘salami’; other dishes included a spring-declaring medley of broad beans, peas, and mint banked on a low landmass of goat’s cheese; ‘olives and bits’; deep-fried broccoli and anchovy butter; mussels in a rice and nettle broth; and a three-act main, spread over separate plates of goat, polenta and kale.)
It’s a high-grade bounty of food for just $50, and even though Alfio’s runs on a set menu, you can ask for a vegetarian or pescetarian alternative when you book (so my dinner was reset with substitutions of burrata and peppers and a lovely cloud bank of gnocci with nettle and lemon sauce). If there’s any catch at all, it’s purely that you have to remember that it’s BYO, cash only and it’s worth booking to ensure you don’t miss out.
Set in an old-school Italian restaurant, Alfio’s is named after the owner (who ran its previous dining incarnation for a mammoth 30 years). It still has all the lovably cheesy hallmarks of a neighbourhood eatery timestamped by the past.
This pop-up is the latest project for Full Circle, known for its anything-but-ordinary approach to feeding people – the group’s guerilla culinary events include impromptu soup parties in parks and dinners in the back lot of Opera Australia. Full Circle was kickstarted by Kristen Allan and Daniel Johnston, who met when they were both working at Vini (he would later go on to set up 121BC in Hong Kong; Kristen’s known for her great cheese-making workshops for Cornersmith); they found Tom Merryweather along the way (he ended up being the floor-managing ace at The Eat-In), and here we are, spending time with their newest creation, Alfio’s. This restaurant is only here for a few months, but the menu changes daily (as you can see on Instagram), so that gives you a good excuse to pay multiple visits to Alfio’s while it’s still around.