The bartender brings it to the table in a thermos, along with a glass, a side of three meaty green olives and a shot of brine, and then pours it in front of me, smiles and heads back to the bar. It’s ice-cold, salty and briny thanks to my extra dash, and I can feel the cool liquid slide down my throat. A Martini served at -10°C is one of two promises from CBD bar and restaurant, Alfie’s. And while I don’t have a thermometer on me, it’s fair to say the first is one giant delicious tick. I’d order another, except for the fact it’s a Tuesday.
Located amongst the hustle and bustle of Bligh Street, Alfie’s is the latest restaurant opened by Liquid & Larder, the team behind formidable Sydney steakhouses don’t-sneak-your-phone-in Bistecca and handsome subterranean spot The Gidley. But don’t come expecting the same kind of opulent experience here. At Alfie’s, it’s clear the team have shifted gears and are now moving at speed in fifth.
The set-up is clever; the spacious bar area at the front is open and ready to capture all the nearby suits in need of an after-work tipple. With concrete floors, sage-green chairs and a charcoal terrazzo bar, it could verge on a little clinical-looking, if not for the larger-than-life colourful artworks, which inject personality into the room.
I wasn’t kidding about the speed. I’m blissfully sipping on my Martini in said bar with the afternoon sun when I kindly get told my table is ready. And no, I can’t really sit here for longer, because we only have the table for one hour and 15 minutes. And there’s a booking after us. OK then. I worked in hospitality for eight years. Turning tables? I lived it. Let’s go.
There’s a method to the madness, of course. Liquid & Larder wanted to create a fast-paced steakhouse in Sydney, where service is swift, prices are reasonable, and you can head back to work after lunch slump-free. Alfie’s has trimmed the menu fat to make it possible – that means there’s no starters or snacks. Tartare? In your dreams. Thankfully, complimentary thyme scones with bottega butter arrive shortly after seating, and it’s a salty, umami bite. That and a juicy Bloody Shiraz Spritz has got us well on the road and we’re digging the ride so far.
Alfie’s second promise is steak to your table within 15 minutes after ordering. And because this is the Bistecca team we're talking about, any old steak it ain't, but a 220g Riverine sirloin, dry-aged at the on-site butchery found at the back right of the room (the neon-red steak-ageing facility also holds the stock for Bistecca and The Gidley). Keeping with the theme, the restaurant’s walls are covered in a classic blue butchery curtain – a nice touch.
There’s no other steaks on the menu, nor any other mains for that matter, so you go with the sirloin and sides of your choosing. And, true to their word, within 15 minutes after ordering, our steak arrives, blackened on the outside thanks to being sizzled on Alfie’s custom-made grill. It’s cooked to perfection, blushing pink, with a glorious amount of fat, char and seasoning. Paired with a green sauce, heady with confit garlic, Dijon mustard and horseradish, it’s a cut above most steaks in town.
A medley of field, Swiss brown and button mushrooms arrives on top of a herby green goddess puddle, with crisp fried enoki mushrooms on top. The enoki is a textural crunch, and pickled shimeji adds a vinegary sharpness, making it an interesting (not a wallflower) side.
The potato gratin is adorned with a scattering of thin, golden potato skins and an oozing cheesy sauce, taking the humble spud to a sky-high level. It tastes rich and comforting and like the kind of thing you want to eat in front of the heater on a winter’s night. Though our cucumber salad, with pickled and fresh cucumbers and grilled lettuce, is overdressed with the spiced honey vinegar. Nice flavour, too wet.
Alfie’s has teamed up with Redfern's gelato masters Ciccone and Sons to make the 'F*ck Off’ dessert: burnt honey gelato with beef fat and rosemary, and it’s utterly delicious. Magnum, bow down.
And what’s that? Our time is up.
Alfie’s is not your average date-night spot. It’s probably not somewhere I would recommend for you to have an overdue catch-up with friends or your next family lunch. But when you’re in want of a swift yet quality feed with excellent steak, bone-chilling Martinis and sides with main-character energy, Alfie’s is your guy. And that steak? It’s one of the best I’ve had in recent memory, and well-priced, too. I’ll be back for that alone. And while we’re here, another Martini, please. I promise I’ll be quick.
Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.