Editor's note: Alloro closed in February 2015.
Alloro is part of the same restaurant group as Zafferano, and some similarities are evident, even down to the style of the menu. Alloro opened in 2000 and has been producing carefully executed Italian food since then, though it seems beneath the radar of the London food press. I hadn't been for many years and so a revisit was long overdue. Chef Daniele Camera, originally from Turin, has been head chef here for several years. Three courses at dinner cost £39 (with a few supplements for costlier ingredients). The fairly narrow dining room has wood block floor, plain white walls and a bar to one side. Tables are a decent size but are closely packed together, with linen tablecloths and napkins. It is a measure of the success of the formula that on a Monday evening the place was packed.
The wine list was, as at Zafferano, almost entirely Italian, and is just as unkind in its mark-up levels. Although I saw one wine at £28 the prices climbed swiftly. Examples were Dolomiti Cesconi Pinot Grigio 2009 at £48 for a wine that you find in the high street for £14, Isole e Olena Syrah 2006 at £90 for a wine that you can buy for £31, and Jermann Dreams 2009 priced at £120 for a wine that retails at £37. Grander wines are no less marked up, with such as Antinori Tignanello 2008 at £150 compared to a retail price of £52 and Sassacia Tenuto San Guido 2000 at £420 for a wine you can find for £133. Mineral water was £3.75 a bottle.
A nibble of salt cod fishcake was served with a little sauce flavoured with mustard and lemon. This was a really well-made dish, the cod carefully cooked, the batter crisp, the sauce well balanced (16/20). Bread was also pleasant, with soft focaccia and ciabatta. My starter of salad of suckling pig was nicely presented, the pork sliced very thin and topped with dressed salad leaves, the dressing having enough acidity to cut through the richness of the pork (15/20). Similarly good was a salad of crab, with ripe avocado with a tomato sauce and a garnish of fried soft shell crab. The tomatoes had good flavour and the crab meat was carefully prepared (entirely free of shell) and was of good quality (easily 15/20).
We were unable to resist the lure of white truffles, in this case shaved over tagliarelle pasta, a thin pasta made from eggs, semolina and durum wheat. The pasta was very good, though it seemed to me a little too buttery (15/20). My dessert was nougat parfait with little dots of chocolate sauce, prettily presented. The nougat had excellent texture, and was thoroughly enjoyable (16/20). Tiramisu did not have as much coffee taste as it might have done, but was pleasant (14/20). Espresso coffee had good, strong flavour.
Service was much less slick than at Zafferano. Though our table was placed near the main flow of waiters, topping up was erratic at best, and getting attention was problematic as waiter after waiter sailed serenely past our table, which appeared practically invisible to all but one waiter. A particularly bizarre example of the service occurred when we finished our nibbles, and the waiter carefully removed our used cutlery so we could reuse it for the next course. This might be acceptable at a student dinner party where there are insufficient knives and forks to go round, but absurd at a restaurant at this level of price and formality.
The bill came to £154 per head, but that is not representative since it included two hefty truffle supplements and a quite good wine. With more normal consumption and modest wine the bill is likely to be in the range of £80 per head. This is hardly a bargain, but the level of cooking is high.