Alo, Alo was overdue a visit by this column: one spurred along significantly by rave verbal reviews, from friends, of the Arundel Village restaurant’s daily special lunches.
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
So I killed two birds with one stone by suggesting it as a venue for the monthly lunch of Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society, which was accepted with alacrity and unanimity.
Alo, Alo has two of the country’s most dedicated hands-on owners.
They are Adrienne and Lesley Orford (A-L-O…geddit?) The whiskery, but still hilarious, BBC French resistance comedy is also their favourite viewing, which explains the name of the outfit.
It was a lovely sunny, bright, cloudless day, but there was a slight nip in the air. If, like me, you tend to believe Highveld “winters” run from the full moon in May until August’s full moon, this was the first day of winter.
But one of the reasons we sat inside the chintzy, cottage, home-from home family/de-luxe restaurant was that it was likely to be too hot for some members in the full sun.
Alo, Alo has a welcoming and well-stocked cocktail bar full of character and last Friday it was full of characters swopping tales of what each had been up to since last we met, a month earlier at Piccobello’s.
Guys were reluctant to leave the friendly pub until hunger pangs began to tell and sat, having already ordered from the restaurant’s very popular US$16 two-course table d’hôtel (with choices) lunch special. Bearing in mind that the eatery’s a la carte menu ranges in price — for main courses — from US$17 to US$25 a dish, this is splendid value; especially as there are no short-cuts nor penny-pinching reduced portions.
With pre-prandial drinks and waiting for starters, we nibbled a choice of three on-the-premises baked still warm, loose-crumbed artisanal breads: made, respectively, with added butternut, courgettes and beer and lovely salted butter.
This was washed down with an icily cold Golden Pilsner. Local beers are US$2 each, imported brands a buck dearer.
There’s an impressive simple to follow wine list which included two Zimbabwean white labels from Bushman’s Rock in Mashonaland East at US$9 a pop.
Imported whites ranged from US$10 for 2012 Rooiberg Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon-Blanc to US$34 for Diemersfontein Chenin-Blanc, via US$22 for 2011 Vergelegen Chenin-Blanc; US$21 (Glen Carlou, Chardonnay) and US$17 for Simonsig Gewürztraminer.
Rose wines were restricted to Rooiberg Natural Sweet (US$10) and Delheim Pinotage, costing US$15. Sparkling wines were Bon Courage Blush at U$15 and Simonsig’s Kaapse Vonkel at US$24.
(Laughs here as it reminded me of the worst sparkling wine I’ve ever tasted: KWV…but not the KWV! It was Klaver Wijnkelder Wonkelwijn. Totally disgusting! Virtually undrinkable! (That was at the otherwise sadly missed Sherrol’s in the Park.)
My daughter saw a picture of a clover (klaver) plant on the label, assumed it was a shamrock, and asked if the Irish were in partnership with our cousins from south of the Limpopo in wineries!
Alo, Alo’s reds vary between US$13 for Rooiberg Cabernet-Sauvignon and Merlot to US$35 for a 2008 Vergelegen Merlot and US$30 for a 2011 Diemersfontein Pinotage. Corkage is US$5; but that can be discussed for sizeable groups.
Much of the more-ish bread finished, we were ready for a fairly limited choice of appetisers: mini spinach and cheese tarts, turned out to be tart — singular — but my neighbours raved about their flavour and texture or there was a rocket, avocado and parmesan cheese salad with balsamic dressing.
But most of us — probably at my recommendation — opted for the perfectly wonderful, light-as-a-kiss warm cheese soufflé served with a rich, dense, asparagus sauce and a substantial side salad. I’ll be honest: I could have eaten three of them!
There was a wider choice of main courses available, almost every one of which I felt sounded extremely tempting and at least two of which I decided to pop back to Alo, Alo to try for a quotidian working lunch soon.
These were a so-called mini beef Wellington: the meat and mushrooms in an intense, herby, gravy under the pastry cladding, accompanied by creamy, light mashed potato looked and smelled good enough to leave home for, as did a precisely cooked slow-roast leg of pork with crackling and gravy, which, I was assured, melted in the mouth.
This latter dish came with a sizeable jacket baked Idaho-style potato with sour cream, apple sauce and seasonal vegetables.
Other choices include piri-piri chicken, crumbed chicken breast with lemon mayonnaise and courgettes and ricotta cannelloni with a tomato and onion relish.
Don’t think any members went for the vegetarian option, but a couple joined me in attacking memorably good fish curry (Leslie, who cooks everything herself, uses a traditional Indian butter-chicken sauce recipe) with saffron rice, sambals including a piquant chutney, sliced banana and a “Durban salad” of chopped onion-and-tomato.
Using an anonymous but generously portioned line fish, it was just delicious.
Off the special menu I think all puddings were US$7. My choice was a trademark light, zingy and citrusy lemon meringue pie, decorated with glacé cherry and caramelised sugar ornaments. It was so light that it was difficult to photograph, wobbling in a slight breeze!
Alo, Alo is in the Arundel Village Shopping Mall car-park. They open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee/cake and supper 9am-10pm Tuesday to Saturday and on Sunday and Monday shut after lunch at about 2:30pm, having opened at 9am. Fully licensed. Child and handicapped friendly. Comfortable bar. Great background music. Safe parking. Tel 369198/369257.