ALO, Alo was long overdue a visit by this column: one spurred along significantly by rave verbal reviews, from friends, of the now Arundel Village-based restaurant’s daily special lunches.
Eating Out Dusty Miller
Sadly, I went on a Monday, when the eatery closes after lunch. And it also proved to be the partners’ one full day off each week together.
They are Adrienne and Lesley Orford (ALO…geddit?) The whiskery, but still hilarious, BBC French resistance comedy is also their favourite viewing, which explains the name of the outfit.
I’m pleased to report that this understandable occasional absence of the proprietors made little difference to neither the standard of service, cooking, presentation, nor the warm welcome from long standing staff members and the irrepressible Evie Fenn, acting as locum greeter, meeter and seater each Monday.
I closely examined the current daily specials menu sitting in the very pleasant shady garden on a hot, muggy, sunny day.
Starters included mini tomato-and-garlic tartlets served with cheese sauce, or bacon-and-potato cakes with yoghurt and cucumber sauce, or pan-fried haloumi cheese on a bed of rocket drizzled with sweet chili sauce: which all sounded worthwhile sampling.
Appetisers are followed by a choice of crumbed beef minute steaks (flash-griddled for a minute each side; not “minute” (pronounced my-newt, meaning “very small”!); or chicken breast with a special lemon sauce; or piri-piri chicken; or the wonderful sounding slow-roasted leg of pork stuffed with dates and served with Lesley’s traditional gravy; or bream ravioli with blue-cheese sauce.
Even the vegetarian option: lentil and vegetable loaf with a creamy sauce looked mouthwatering. With mains you get a starch of choice: mashed potatoes, chips, rice, etc., and bottom line is US$16 which, bearing in mind the quality and quantity of Alo, Alo’s portions and world-class professional service, is quite reasonable, I believe.
Just as I was making up my mind which table d’hôtel combination to order, all plans were aborted on the news that the a la carte specials of the day included two of my absolute favourite-of-all-times comfort food presentations: oxtail casserole and slow-braised lamb shank!
For once, in no real hurry I initially ordered soup-of-the-day: a delicious rich, dense, velvety, intensely flavoured, cream of butternut which came with deep-fried golden garlic croutons in a china bowl, piping hot, at US$7.
It was also accompanied by 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 Pilsener. Local beers are US$2 each, imported brands a dollar dearer.
There is 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 Diemersfontien Chenin-Blanc, via US$22 for 2011 Vergelegen Chenin-Blanc; US$21 (Glen Carlou, Chardonnay) and US$17 for Simonsig Gewürztraminer.
Rosé 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. (Giggles here as it reminded me of the worst sparkling wine I’ve ever tasted: KWV…but not THE KWV! It was Klaver Wijnkelder Wonkelwijn and 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 wine production!
Reds varied 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 if you BYOB.
One disappointment at Alo, Alo was that I had to choose between the lamb shank and oxtail for mains. I settled for the latter and it was a dream of a dish: great klompjies of fall-off-the-bone lusty, meaty, oxtail portions served in a rich, meaty, gravy in which bits of potato, carrots and other vegetables had been cooked.
It came with a separate presentation of fluffy, creamy mashed potatoes, decorated with home-made crisps, half a scooped-out gem squash, re-filled with creamed veg and a fringe of salad garnish. The cost was US$22; other main course range between about US$17 and US$25.
I think all puddings were US$7. My choice of the ubiquitous ice-cream-and-chocolate sauce certainly was: but with lumps of crunchy chocolate, glacé cherry and a macaroon studding the vanilla-flavoured ice and attractively spun sugar decoration, in a large sundae dish it was probably worth it.
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 9. Fully licensed. Child and handicapped friendly. Comfortable bar. Great music. Safe parking.