Seriously, what’s with all the steak restaurants? In the last six months alone we’ve seen grand entries to the genre in Armorica, Clam Bar and Poetica, among others. On top of that, the immortal Rockpool is still going strong, as are French faves like Hubert, where steak frites are a certainty.
No one is more aware of the critical mass than Liquid & Larder’s James Bradey. But the group – which is behind two of the CBD’s best sizzlers, The Gidley and Bistecca – just opened its third steak venue, Alfie’s, at the base of a brutalist ’50s building near Martin Place.
“There was no point adding more of the same,” says Bradey. “You can’t come to Bistecca and leave in under two hours because there’s so much to the process. People are time-poor, and people are price-conscious at the moment. We wanted to do something quick but without jeopardising what we do.”
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The answer lay in speedy European steakhouses such as London’s Flat Iron, which serves only one cut at a price that won’t completely burn your wallet. The only cut you can get at Alfie’s is a 220-gram sirloin, fired over ironbark and charcoal just like at Bistecca. At $38, it’s more keenly priced than the cheapest steak at Chophouse across the road ($58), and this baby is guaranteed to hit your table in 15 minutes.
“We’re going for the flavours of Bistecca at the speed of the city,” says executive chef Pip Pratt, who has simultaneously added a butcher to the Liquid & Larder stable – a long held vision for the group.
Whole sections of beef from Haverick Meats are delivered to Alfie’s, then wet-aged for a month and butchered on-site. The T-bone is sent to Bistecca and the rib eye to The Gidley; what’s left is pure sirloin destined for the restaurant’s custom grill.
But a steak is nothing without sides, which here tap into Pratt’s childhood in the UK. Available in two sizes, they include a cheesy gratin riffing on Welsh rarebit, and a spin on bubble and squeak. Forget about Heinz with your fries – Pratt has taken a punt on chip-shop curry sauce instead. “It’s dead good, but a lot of Australians don’t get it. We’ll see how long it lasts,” laughs Pratt.
Pratt and head chef Matt Thomson are also firing up the rotisserie during the day for a take on porchetta (the “Beefetta”), featuring five-hour slow cooked beef from 5pm. Plus, top gelateria Ciccione & Sons has collaborated on dessert – a stick of burnt honey gelato, beef fat and rosemary.
If none of the above makes Alfie’s feel like a different beast, wait till you see the place. From the street it looks like a little club you actually want to be in. The vibe is coming from the front bar, where the house Martini – designed by group bar manager Alex Gondzioulis – is served at minus-10 degrees and touted as the coldest in town.
Further inside is the dining room, designed by Tom Mark Henry to channel the laid-back energy of east London. Loud and colourful artworks by Melbourne artist Steven John Clark are a total departure from the Euro steakhouse look, ditto the projections and DJ booth. A transparent, blood-red ageing room puts those steaks on display like a gallery.
Alfie’s is sure to cement the area’s “steakville” status, but Pratt isn’t worried about competition. Everyone is back in the office – and there are plenty of offices on Bligh Street. “Alfie’s is for the crowd who have to go back to work. Not the CEOs, really.”
4/6 Bligh Street, Sydney
(02) 9044 5733
Mon to Sat 11.30am–12pm