Straight out of the gate, I’m going to say I wasn’t on a date when I smashed every vegan morsel at upmarket Sydney plant-based restaurant, Alibi, but I was there with a great male friend (no pity please – I’m consciously single).
Anyhoo, my brother-from-another-mother and I both commented on just how amazing a place it would be for anyone who was on an actual date. Located in Ovolo Hotel in the uber-cool harbour side suburb of Woolloomooloo, the ambience of the place is off the charts romantic.
While it’s really modern, with pops of bold, bright colour everywhere, it’s also super cosy with plenty of private booths and nooks and crannies to enjoy each other’s company without feeling like everyone is staring at you.
Alibi opened in March 2018, at its helm legendary US plant-based chef, restaurateur and global plant-based dining pioneer, Matthew Kenney, of Matthew Kenny Cuisine.
With its seasonal, colourful and innovative menu it has created quite a buzz in both vegan and omnivore circles, so I was pretty stoked to get there and sample the wares, including the plant-based cocktail and wine offerings.
While there’s an a la carte menu, we opted for the Eight Course Plant-Based Tasting Menu, because let’s face it, who wants to make a decision after a long day at work? That aside, every item on the banquet list is pretty incredible, and comes paired with a plant-based cocktail, wine or beer.
We did add another dish to our order – the Heirloom Tomato and Zucchini Lasagna, which is a perfectly mouthwatering stack of zucchini with the most flavoursome sun dried tomato marinara, macadamia ricotta and pistachio pesto I think I’ve ever tasted. If you go to Alibi for no other reason, it has to be this.
At this point, I should also mention that each dish is presented like a work of art, with stunning colours, structures and textures. Plated to perfection and bursting with fresh flavour, a meal at Alibi is absolutely a feast for all the senses.
But back to the banquet … It begins Kimchi Dumplings with red cabbage and ginger foam – tidy, tasty green packages served with a glass of 2018 Swinging Bridge ‘#003’ Amber Pinot Gris + Gewurztraminer + Riesling from Orange, NSW, which was pretty damn special.
The dumplings went down a treat, with a lovely pickly, gingery flavour to them and they were the perfect intro to the next dish – Beet Hummus, served alongside fried chickpeas, oregano tahini, cashew yogurt and za’atar lavash. Its wine pairing was 2017 Eloquesta ‘Blush’ Rose case Black Muscat + Viognier, from Mudgee in NSW served ‘Chilled’.
My dislike of chickpeas usually knows no bounds, so I tend to avoid hummus at all costs. However, this dish was exceptional, and I wiped that plate clean with the za’atar lavash in no time.
The wine pairing, while delicious, was quite raw and had texture, which was unusual and in a good way made me feel like I wasn’t drinking wine at all so guilt factor there was (almost) zero. This handmade wine retains the antioxidants that many wines lose in the processing, so it’s actually good for you. Healthy wine? Massive tick!
Following this delightful duo, the Charcoal Steamed Buns with roasted carrots, cashew hoisin and red cabbage arrived with a glass of Lord Nelson ‘3 Sheets’ Pale Ale from Sydney, NSW. These little black buns packed a knock-out punch of flavour, however I didn’t love the pairing with the beer, as my palette was already in tune with the flavours and texture of wine and it seemed a weird juxtaposition this far into the banquet.
Others may well love it – we all have our own tastes and if you’re a true foodie, you’ll probably ‘get it’ more than I did.
Following on from this Kelp Noodle Cacio e Pepe with sugar snap peas, pea sprouts and dehydrated olive dust was delivered with 2017 Nick Spencer ‘Dry Red’ Shiraz + Tempranillo + Touriga National + Cabernet Sauvignon, Gundagai, NSW.
The dish itself was spectacular – fresh and flavoursome with plenty of texture in the kelp noodle. It was a big hit with both of us, but I’ll be honest, I opted out of the wine pairings at this stage, as there was so much flavour going on and it was all a bit much for me.
Again, others who are more into that kind of thing would thoroughly enjoy it, but I was happy to circle back around and stick with the banquet’s first offering of Swinging Bridge ‘#003’ Amber Pinot Gris + Gewurztraminer + Riesling. It worked perfectly with the rest of the meal and I was happy. My dinner companion also opted for a simpler selection and chose green tea.
On from this came Chickpea Socca, which was served with lemon dressed roots and greens, green goddess dressing and lemon cashew yoghurt, which I loved despite my chickpea aversion. Had I stuck with the degustation, I would have sipped an organic 2017 Domaine Pichot ‘Coteau de la Biche’ Vouvray Sec, from Loire Valley, France, which looking back sounds delightful and gives me more than a tinge of regret.
The final savoury dish of the night, Polenta Verde served with kale pesto. almond ricotta, blistered tomato and roasted fennel, was fairly special too, even though I have about as much admiration for polenta as I do the humble chickpea. Degustation lovers would enjoy the 2017 Even Keel ‘Tumbarumba’ Chardonnay, from Tumbarumba, NSW, that is offered with it and again, on reflection, I wish I had stuck with it.
The two dessert offerings were Coconut Cream Pie with a macadamia crust and banana, served with 2017 Frogmore Creek ‘Iced Riesling’ Coal River, Tasmania, and Strawberry Panacotta with stone fruit, coconut and lemon myrtle, served with 2017 Piero Gatti Brachetto, Piedmont, Italy.
Despite being really full, we downed both of these in seconds – they were amazing. I’m sure the stickies that accompanied them were too, but you already know where I’m at with that.
All in all, the meal was spectacular, and Alibi is definitely a plant-based destination you need to put on your ‘special occasion dining’ list.
Alibi is located at:
Ovolo Woolloomooloo, 6 Cowper Wharf Roadway
+61 2 9331 9088 www.alibibar.com.au
Open from Tuesday – Saturday 6pm – Midnight
About the Author
After 30 years of working in Australian media, Shonagh is one of Australia’s busiest and most in-demand beauty, health, travel and lifestyle writers.
As a health and lifestyle journalist and consultant, Shonagh has worked closely with international wellness experts and icons, including Dr. Sandra Cabot, Therese Kerr and Miranda Kerr.
In other aspects of her work, she has travelled the world reviewing wellness retreats and luxe holiday destinations, and she has interviewed and written feature articles on some of the world’s best love celebrities, including Sting, Elle McPherson, Pamela Anderson, Simon Baker, Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani, Tina Arena, Heather Graham and many more.
She currently lives in the NSW Southern Highlands with her four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and one Maltese Cross), where she grows her own veggies and advocates ending Factory Farming and animal cruelty.
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