Introducing the newest restaurant opening in Barry…welcome to alium
‘I love cooking and just want people to see how nice simple stuff can be.’
As a statement of intent, that’s refreshing. It’s an unguarded comment over lunch, not some carefully PR massaged mission statement, but aren’t those often the times we reveal much about ourselves?
They’re the words of Antonio Simone, currently of Dinas Powys’ The Humble Onion, who is about to open his new restaurant in Barry’s landmark Pumphouse. Besides, as anyone who has eaten his food knows- as a summing up of what his food is all about, it takes some beating.
We are talking about his plans for alium (lowercase ‘a’). If there’s one thing South Wales doesn’t have enough of, it’s restaurants named after Latin puns. And this one resonates: Alium translates as ‘another’, and of course allium is the family which includes the onion. “Another onion”.
Antonio’s late father (and chef) Giuliano was raised with Latin. Steeped in it. That’s, really, when you’re taught by monks in Puglia’s Ostuni, ‘the white village’. So a Latin name is a tribute to his memory and the way he inspired his son.
Layers, see. Almost like an onion.
But ‘simple’ here doesn’t mean quick. Quite the opposite. Antonio’s food is layered with patience. Care. His sauces linger long. In his hands, the humble chip goes through several painstaking stages to reach an exemplary level. His slow-cooked meat dishes celebrate the flavour and texture you only really achieve with time. Not that vegetarians are excluded: The Humble Onion always had a reputation for feeding non meat-eaters well, and nothing will change at alium.
Humble by name, humble by nature. It’s not a pose. You won’t find Antonio on social media telling you how great his food is: alium feels like something from the heart. It’s there when he tells you what he owes to his partner, Lois, and says she’s the true jewel in the crown, his catalyst and inspiration. It’s there in alium’s motto ‘Produce. Parrilla. Plates.’ No pretension, no ego, just a commitment to feeding you well. This will be an inclusive menu with something for everyone.
We talk about the new menu. Anyone familiar with his cooking will find themselves smiling as old favourites get a mention and new ideas crop up: pork belly, lamb breast, neck of lamb, blade of beef. That last one has always been a Humble standard, and the centrepiece of the Humble at Home boxes from last year.
So what can we expect from alium?
The ideas come thick and fast. There’s talk of a braised ox cheek fritter with homemade pickles, of Porlock oysters and sea bass ceviche. Of aged beef tartare and wild prawns with harissa and roast garlic, and roast sole with shiitake mushrooms and roast chicken butter. Of orzo with pickled girolles, finished with deep fried ‘angel hair’ capellini pasta.
This will be a three course à la carte menu, rather than his ‘Poca’ small plates, though you couldn’t be blamed for improvising and ordering five or six ‘starters’ instead. You’ll be able to sit outside-that famously balmy Barry microclimate permitting- for cocktails and Gordal olives, for example, if you want something light.
Sweet tooth? A dense milk chocolate ganache with raspberries, perhaps. And it wouldn’t be alium without that salted caramel panna cotta and popcorn. (He gets very animated about his cheeseboard. This is a man who takes cheese very seriously…) And of course, Antonio’s renowned Sunday lunches will be very much present and correct.
alium will champion Welsh produce. Nowhere will that be more apparent than in their aged steaks, from Oriel Jones. Expect to see familiar cuts- porterhouse, sirloin, fillet- as well as less common ones: he mentions deckle, the spinalis dorsi cap which sits on top of the ribeye, a prized but rarely seen cut championed by none other than Meatopia founder Josh Ozersky. There’s mention of a brown butter béarnaise, too.
Those steaks will come courtesy of Lemmy, almost a metric tonne of hulking custom-built parilla grill made famous by former residents Hang Fire Smokehouse.
The building might be familiar, though you’ll notice changes. There’s a green and copper theme throughout, a light industrial look in homage to the Pumphouse’s 1880s origins. It won’t be slick or sleek, but homely and welcoming. There will be a ‘Provenance map’ name checking suppliers, everyone from tableware makers to menu printers, the local businesses without which none if this would be possible. It’s a nice touch.
This will be somewhere to relax, to indulge yourself: the sort of place you’ll come for family celebrations, perhaps, in the private dining area downstairs. Upstairs there’ll be well-spaced tables and long benches for around 70 diners. Downstairs will be the small team, Antonio and his right-hand man Josh, who has been with him for five years.
alium will be open Wednesday to Sunday, for lunch and dinner. Reservations will go live next month, but we’d recommend signing up for the Newsletter as well as keeping a eye on their social media channels.
This is an exciting opening: it deserves to do well. This is exactly the kind of independent restaurant we need, and exactly the kind of business we love to support. It’s time Antonio’s food reached the audience it deserves.