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Why Allegra Wowed The Judges Of The National Restaurant Awards

With its stunning terrace, summer is the perfect time to head to Patrick Powell’s Allegra – but in three short years, he has shown they have the ability to cater to all

It’s a couple of days after the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, where Allegra was named the 53rd best restaurant in the country, validating founder Patrick Powell’s decision to strike out on his own three years ago. “Thank you very much,” he says when we offer our congratulations. “It means we are doing something right. It is great for team recognition, for all the hard work and passion they have put in.”

Patrick Powell
Patrick Powell

That team needs a great leader and Powell is certainly just that. Allegra is a real find: ever-changing menus, well priced too, and a stunning setting meant the restaurant quickly became a favourite at Absolutely – all this and they launched just before a pandemic shut down hospitality. “I guess one small positive of the pandemic is that it gave us a chance to reset and focus on what was important to our guests.”

He says of opening Allegra in November 2019 that he “was at a point where I as a chef felt mentally capable of opening a restaurant” and came off the back of some impressive stints at some of the best restaurants in London. He explains that his love for cooking started way earlier, growing up in Killala, Co. Mayo in Ireland. “My earliest cooking memories are going to visit my grandparents’ house when I was a child,” he reminisces. “They lived in a very typical Irish farmhouse – everything was cooked on an old Stanley range that was fuelled by peat. They had a massive vegetable garden out back and food was literally pulled from the ground and cooked on the same day. My grandmother would spend the whole day baking and cooking at a very leisurely rate. I will always remember the smells in that house.”

A love for cookery shows while still at school – “When Ready, Steady, Cook was in its prime,” he enthuses – encouraged him to take the plunge and join the industry. “When I was 15, I got a job working in a restaurant washing dishes. I loved it – the energy, the excitement, the camaraderie. I have stayed with it since then.” He honed his craft under the tutorship of acclaimed Irish chef, Derry Clarke, at the Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain in Dublin after his graduation from famed culinary institution, the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Powell then went to work at Cutler & Co. in Melbourne – before London came calling.

Allegra Garden
Allegra’s stunning terrace

“The first restaurant I worked in over here was Wild Honey in Mayfair for the chef Anthony Demetre,” he says. “It was a hard kitchen; very classic food and techniques. After two years there, I moved to do the opening of Chiltern Firehouse with Nuno Mendes, where I spent four years as head chef. That then led me onto Allegra. Nuno told me to just ‘enjoy the ride’ and he was right. Hospitality is a difficult profession and openings are physically and mentally taxing. It is very important to take a second to appreciate what you are doing and to enjoy it.”

Given the issues that face hospitality right now, Powell would be forgiven for being slightly downbeat – but he seems to be genuinely happy with his lot and what he has created with Allegra. “We like to think of Allegra as a lot more than a restaurant,” he says. “You can come and enjoy our a la carte or tasting menus in the evening, or have some fried chicken and a beer in our [11,290 sq ft wraparound] terrace. Alternatively, come for a sharing style lunch with family and friends, or have a glass of wine in our garden and watch the sun set over the city. I guess you’d describe Allegra as a high-end restaurant that is for everyone. Informed, but not formal.”

Allegra Cornish Pollock Ceviche
Cornish pollock ceviche

The aforementioned terrace is a wonderful spot during the summer, but Powell is always offering up new reasons to pay them a visit. “Our menu is hyper seasonal and always evolves with the months,” he says. “There is a continuous conversation going on in the kitchens as to how we can improve a dish or make things better. We are always scrutinising ourselves. We’ve just launched our menu for the terrace, which currently includes dishes such as Cornish pollock ceviche with tomato, leche de tigre and sea vegetables, and Rare-breed pork chop with smoked bone marrow and peas a la francaise.”

The national recognition is certainly well deserved, but Powell remains humble and is clear and what he wants to offer with Allegra. “We want people to leave Allegra with a big smile on their faces, planning their return. The core of what we do here is good old-fashioned hospitality. We want people to feel special as soon as they come through our doors. That this restaurant is their restaurant.”

allegra-restaurant.com

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