Monday, December 13, 2010

Felix, one chic cat

Stray down Ash Street behind the Ivy and you'll discover a little sliver of somewhere else. I choose to see this as a new side to Sydney; a darker, sleeker, more understated Sydney. Not to say the masses aren't still trying to get into Pool Bar. It's just that there are nearby alternatives too now.

Felix Bistro and Bar, Ash Street, Sydney

Felix is the newest addition to the Merivale litter (not sure how far away Ms. G's is), and it's a keeper. Down the laneway directly opposite Ash Street Cellar, Felix is a relatively spacious and breathtakingly stunning bistro at first glance with Lauren Murdoch heading up the kitchen.

Inside Felix Bistro
It's all style as the luxe restaurant reveals itself in warm lighting and wooden surfaces, tiled floors walls - some with mosaics, red candle lamps and bentwood chairs, suited and vested waiters and loads of Parisian chic. The adjoining bar looks like it comes direct from the 1950s, with its booze lined shelves and excluding the CBD bankers having Friday drinks.

The restaurant is fairly empty as we arrive for what I was told over the phone is the early sitting, though the bar is packed and noisy. It continues to be noisy through the night, and I have a little trouble hearing the waiter tell us that there are no rotisserie items available this night. Forgiven, considering they only opened four days ago.

Felix actually reminds me a lot of Uccello, the French cousin perhaps. It's dark and stylish, loud and filled with the genetically and wealth blessed, while serving serious, traditional cuisines. And it's a laneway instead of a pool for viewing entertainment.

Oyster bar

The food menu is manageably varied but with a dedicated oyster bar, I can't go past the freshly shucked oysters, especially at the end of a sticky, humid day. The wine list, on the other hand, is a tome and looking at the wine collection behind the oyster bar, help from the sommelier does not go astray.

Bread station
As I remember from Ash Street Cellar, bread is freshly sliced from the loaf, and here a dedicated station holds loaves of sourdough.

Perhaps it's a French thing, but I actually found the bread service overwhelming through the night - I probably had more than three slices of bread just because it was there and kept getting refilled without being requested.

White and brown sourdough bread
Both white and brown varieties of the bread were springy and soft, and a good way to sedate the ravenous appetite at first, slathered in a quality, creamy butter of course. I also enjoy bread when I'm having oysters, just to bring down the indulgence a notch.

Oysters with lemon, horseradish cream, eschallot vinaigrette
The oysters are presented on a stand and in our case, an ice filled metal dish. Ordering six of the molluscs, we had no idea that we would be receiving two each of three varieties - from Forster, Hastings River and the last which I couldn't hear. Shame though, because that was my favourite with the creamiest flavour of all.

I'd also never had such icy cold oysters before, which I really enjoyed along with a squeeze of lemon over them all. The Forster oyster was the next favourite followed by the Hastings River which I found relatively bland but still a good platform for the tart, spicy horseradish cream.

Each table setting is also provided with a bottle of Tabasco sauce, which I didn't think was particularly French, for the express use with the oysters. I think with the oyster bar in full view, no-one was missing out on oysters as starters.

Crumbed lamb's brains, ravigot sauce, steamed daikon
If only the gorgeously crumbed and deep fried lamb's brain were non-offal croquettes of some sort, I'd be more keen. Instead, I try not to gag (I'm not good with soft and squishy offal) as my companion has the very rare brains, mushy and creamy with goo inside the crisp, deep golden outer.

The vibrant green sauce of chives and what look like mustard seeds is a good distraction, but not enough encouragement for me to go too close to the brains.

Gruyere souffle
I stay safe with my souffle instead, a browned hat or UFO shaped egg concoction featuring gruyere cheese. The melted cheese on the outside is the best part, while the hot insides are creamy if not a little floury. Loads of freshly ground pepper, and even bread, lessen the richness.

I found the gruyere sweet and nutty but reserved in flavour and couldn't help but think the addition of another, stronger flavoured cheese would be ideal for this cheese lover.

Duck confit, pickled pears and grilled radicchio
I follow up richness with richness - after all, it is French food. The duck is my pick of the mains, a perfectly tanned leg on top of grilled radicchio and pear chunks. The duck meat indeed falls from the bone with just a nudge of the fork and is none too salty. The seasoning was beautiful with warm spice notes lifting the confit up from standard.

The richness is toned down by the very bitter radicchio (I wonder if cooking it intensifies its flavour) and the very sweet, soft pears. I would have liked some freshness on the plate other than the parsley, as the well cooked duck with the well cooked bitter leaves and the well cooked pear was rather full on.

Skate, brown butter, capers, caramelised witlof
The fish is not necessarily always the healthy dish on the menu as this pool of brown butter shows. The skate produces an interesting lined 'fillet', though it's not too different in taste and texture to other flatfish.

These fillets swim in a naughty brown butter sauce, buoyed by a bunch of softly caramelised witlof leaves that again lend a strong bitterness to the dish while the capers add little extra hits of saltiness.

Garlic mash
The garlic mashed potato sounds promising and delivers. Thankfully not overly creamy, the garlic fragrance is definitely the star of this bowl. The mash is thick and creamy in texture rather than flavour, and provides very good reasons for investing in a ricer.

Green beans with parsley butter
Green beans that we actually didn't order stay with us on the table, and I'm so glad they did. I now have a benchmark for beans as these were cooked to absolute perfection. Whether it's the variety of beans or the age, I've never had such tender shoots, all perfectly green and resplendently shimmering in a parsley butter. Simple perfection in a side dish.

We didn't have time for dessert on this occasion and honestly, the noise was getting to me a little. Obviously, it's a brand new venue and it's festive season, not to mention the gorgeous bar, but I look forward to slightly quieter nights, perhaps followed by drinks at the bar once Felix purrs beyond its first few weeks.

Felix - Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon


chocolatesuze said...

eeee that gruyere souffle is calling to meeee!

Zina @ tastedbytwo said...

Yes, I have to take Felix to Felix! I've only walked past but the bistro looks stunning and reminds me of Paris.

Tina said...

Hi suze - What's it saying? Eat me? :D

Hi Zina - Yes, you should! It's so gorgeous!

Jobe said...

Good scoop, Tina. I've been wanting to see how this went.

MelbaToast said...

Offal = awful! I'd be gagging too if I had to watch my dining companion eat brains! A dedicated oyster bar however sounds like my idea of bliss!

Monica ^o^ said...

I'd probably stay away from the lamb brain too, just a bit too horrid for me hehehehe :P
Everything on the menu seemed very rich, but love the decor :)

howard said...

Looks awesome! I didn't mind Ash St Cellar so it'll be interesting to see how well she does here!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The name reminds me of the HK bar :) The souffle looks like a Mexican hat to me :P

OohLookBel said...

Mmm, brains.... Love your photos. I'm going to Felix tomorrow, and can't wait!

Wendy @ Obesebaby said...

wow nice photos ! whats the brain taste like?

Tina said...

Hi Jobe - Thanks. Do check it out yourself.

Hi MelbaToast - Though thinking about it, oysters and brains have a similar texture... :D

Hi Monica - Decor was definitely one of the highlights.

Hi Howard - Yeah, I still really like Ash Street Cellar... :)

Hi Lorraine - I was thinking an akubra.

Hi Bel - Hope you enjoy!

Hi Wendy - Creamy, gunky and bluegh, I say.

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

Im a huge fan of ash st cellar and so exited to try felix - looks so glam indeed!

I agree with suze, id be all over that gruyere souffle!

Tina said...

Hi Gianna - It's definitely glam and pretty, a little more posh than Ash Street Cellar, I'd say


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