Peter Conistis, owner and executive chef of Alpha, has no shortage of love or experience when it comes to Greek cuisine. His hatted restaurants include Cosmos, Eleni’s and Omega. He was invited to cook for VIPs at the opening of the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. (Could there be any greater honour for a Greek chef?) But the pinnacle of his many achievements just might be the stunning recent refurbishment of his acclaimed dining establishment in Sydney’s CBD, Alpha.
It took Conistis eight years to get council approval for a woodfired oven in the heritage-listed building that Alpha calls home—but he’s done it. The delicious aromas of charcoal-roasted ingredients waft from the Josper oven, which takes pride of place in the generously redesigned kitchen. Helmed by head chef James Roberts (China Doll, Omega, Chez Dee, Est.), the open kitchen is a busy theatre-like space, producing a reimagined menu of share plates as well as three immovable old favourites: scallop moussaka, slow-roasted lamb, and spanakopita.
A new bar (pictured above) topped with rich marble and custom-fluted timber lends understated opulence to the space—though you’ll feel overtly opulent eating the taramasalata topped with ossetra caviar imported from Greece (highly recommended).
So who is behind this elegant upgrade? The hospitality whisperer himself, Paul Papadopoulos. Creative director of interior design firm DS17, Papadopoulos is the brains behind Henrietta, Nour and Mama Mulan. He has a knack for creating modern spaces diners want to congregate in, but he hasn’t thrown out the old in favour of the new—Alpha’s signature stone walls engraved with Greek letters remain. In fact, they’ve been enlarged, as Conistis discovered two panels that had been accidentally thrown out after the first fit out. “We wanted to maintain the same essence that the original Alpha captured,” says Papadopoulos. “An extraordinary light-filled space that was classic and timeless with a dash of Grecian modernism.”
The colour palette is light and natural, with blond timber furniture, textured stone walls and white pendant lights reminiscent of sailboats. Cool materials like concrete and marble stand with warmer ones like wicker and timber to create a relaxed and casual ambience. Dining chairs are a classic Thonet design. The idea is for the artfully presented dishes to take centre stage and not be overshadowed by loud decor.
Papadopoulos says he wanted to maintain the spirit of the existing restaurant and to not lose what everyone had fallen in love with previously—the heritage fabric of the building, the natural light, the food and the atmosphere. “It was a matter of enhancing customers’ emotional response to a beautiful space,” he says. When quizzed about rumours Alpha will be redeveloping even more of the property in the near future, Papadopoulos remains tight lipped. “Watch this exciting space,” he says.