Just when you thought that Dos Amigos had cornered the market in Ryde-based wild west-themed restaurants, the Alamo opened its saloon doors.
Although superficially similar, with their wood cladding, riding apparel and photos of long-dead cowboys, both restaurants have specialised in different aspects of this north American oeuvre. Dos Amigos has a distinctly Mexican feel while the Alamo is on the side of the cowboys. The food in each venue has a different emphasis too. Dos Amigos is a Tex Mex restaurant boasting Mexican, Texan and Cajun food whereas the Alamo is a steakhouse and grill. Matt and Cat saddled up and went pioneering.
Pushing their way through the venue’s tiny doors, Matt and Cat were greeted warmly by a tall chap in shirt sleeves wearing a brown apron, looking every bit the wild west bartender. He was very genial and, having established that M&C were there to eat, he invited them to take pre-dinner drinks in the cellar bar. Descending the steps, Matt and Cat were delighted to find a nicely-appointed lounge which, although the restaurant upstairs had appeared empty, was lively with other patrons. It felt like an exclusive private club. Giving their drinks order at the bar, M and C settled into some comfy chairs where they were offered a bowl of tortillas with hot salsa to share whilst browsing the menu.
There weren’t really any surprises on the bill of fare – the Alamo had already proclaimed itself to be a steakhouse and grill – and there was plenty of meaty choice. The menu itself had an unusual effect on Cat – it sent her into one of her rare but notable proof-reading frenzies. She pompously drew Matt’s attention to the lack of punctuation; some of the items appearing like a breathless string of ingredients, eg “IDEAL FOR TWO SELECTION OF OLIVES SWEET RED PEPPERS INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED GOATS CHEESE FLAT BREAD TOM ONION MIX AND OUR ALAMO CHUTNEY 11.95”. Cat suspected that this listing-style could be blamed on the menu’s font – a SMALL CAPS choice which seemed not to have any glyphs other than a full stop and presumably no pound sign. She apologises for unleashing her inner font nerd and would like to point out that the appearance of the menu in no way detracted from the dining experience.
Having delivered their drinks, the amiable waiter took Matt and Cat’s order promising to summon them upstairs when their meals were ready. They liked this pre-meal drinks malarkey – although it meant that the upstairs restaurant had been completely devoid of customers when they first arrived. Sometimes M & C have rejected a place because it is empty; eating out can be like going to a disco – nobody likes to be the first one on the dance floor.
Before long, Matt and Cat were invited to ascend the stairs to their table. The other customers were also eating by this stage which meant that the restaurant was nice and lively. While Cat disappeared to wash her hands Matthew gawped at the silent TV which was airing an ancient western. The scene showed a woman being assaulted by banditos, which some might consider to be a bit of an appetite suppressor. To avoid such an effect Matt prudently looked away and his tummy rumbled expectantly.
The food arrived. Cat had ‘Not so wild west salmon’, grilled salmon topped with anchovy and lemon butter. It came with a decent-sized salad garnish and a bowl of fries. The salmon was superb. It was flaky and tender and the special sauce was an excellent complement. The salty anchovies and acid lemon gave a nice tangy kick to the fish. Also, as it came without skin, for once Cat left a very clean plate.
Grilled salmon £8.95
Jesse James grill £17.95
2 x Estrella lager £6.80
Matt’s ‘Jesse James grill’ was a big pile of meat: 10oz sirloin, chargrilled chicken breast and breaded prawns with a sweet chilli sauce. It arrived on a sizzling cast iron platter which of course made an impressive entrance for the meat. However, it had a less positive effect on the steak. Matt had ordered his steak ‘medium rare’. But sat on the hot iron skillet it soon sizzled up the steak chart as he ate, until it was beyond ‘well done’. Matters were not helped by the fact that although the steak was good, tasty meat, it was very thinly cut – meaning that it really didn’t take long to take on a consistency approaching dry leather. Luckily the chicken provided an excellent contrast. A substantial fried breast soon soaked up the juice and BBQ-type sauce that coated the hot metal, and just got better and better the longer it cooked, ending up with a splendid caramelised crust of seasoning all around it.
The Alamo is in a small sidestreet just off Union Street, and so clearly it needs to draw punters away from the beaten track. This it sets out to do by showing a striking level of customer care in a themed venue that actually adds to the experience. The food, although pretty standard grill chow, was nicely presented and, in the case of Cat’s salmon, imaginatively dressed. The Alamo was fun, and friendly, and provides a novelty act that just might have what it takes in Ryde’s already busy restaurant offering. Recommended.