Felix is the latest opening at the Ivy, and another in a long line of Merivale restaurants that combines a great space with a talented chef, in this case Lauren Murdoch. The restaurant is a facsimile of a typical parisian brasserie, complete with shiny white metro tiles, lines of banquettes and a few French waiters. However, it reminded me more of Balthazer in New York than of Paris, but as Balthazar is pretty good that isn’t a criticism. Its location in the Ivy lane-way is good, allowing open doors without traffic, although the thud of the music from the nearby bars does filter through (and the low level canned music jars a little - in a busy brasserie it isn’t needed).
First impressions are great, it is a restaurant that feels good, with a bit of a buzz and lots of energy coming from the open kitchen. A selection of bread and some OK butter appears with the menu which is fine, although it is a bit odd that the waiter feels the need to explain they don’t have side plates: didn’t many Sydney restaurants dispense with side plates years and years ago?
It is a shortish menu covering a lot of French brasserie classics plus a few additions like a Rueben sandwich, and some Australianised French dishes like “hand cut fries” and”garlic mash” what is wrong with traditional frites and pomme puree? Unfortunately the rotisserie section is not available due to technical problems in the new kitchen, odd given it has been open for two weeks, I would have expected this to have been fixed sooner.
I start with the “Gruyere soufflé” ($22) which is the classic twice baked variety, not a fresh fluffy one. It is OK, but I can’t help but compare it to “Bistro Moncur’s” version which is better executed with a cheesier taste and less eggy characteristics. My partner goes for the “Roquefort, figs, asparagus, beetroot, baby spinach and hazelnut salad” ($20) which is good, although with quite a powerful dressing and quite a small portion size for $20.
My main is the classic “Duck confit, pickled pears and grilled radicchio” ($34) this is indeed a fine dish, the ducks skin is crispy and the meat juicy, a lovely sauce integrates the sweet pears and wonderfully bitter radicchio. Very satisfying.
My partner heads for, another entrée, her favourite “Steak tartare” ($24) and “Hand cut fries” ($10). It arrives with all the ingredients separated on the plate, plus the bottles of sauces and mustards for a DIY dish. This may appeal to many but we thought it lazy cooking, the art of Steak Tartare is all in the mix of the ingredients. In classic brasseries the waiters put on a show as they expertly prepare the dish, here my partner used trial and error to try and create the classic dish, a bit more mustard, some more Worcestershire sauce, maybe a bit more mustard. Halfway through the dish she achieves the correct balance and really enjoys it. The chips are good, but more like proper pomme frites than hand cut fries which is a nice surprise.
We give the dessert menu a miss and finish with cheese ($24), the desserts seem a bit too Aussie for the rest of the menu, it would be nice to see other French classics like Baba au Rhum, or Iles Flottante keeping the Tarte Tartin company. The cheese selection is good, two French soft cheese, and an Aussie blue, interestingly served with biscuits and walnut bread not a good chewy baguette. We drank an indifferent Beaujolais at $75 which would have cost $35 in a restaurant in Paris, there are better on the list but a Côte du Py at $150 is a bit rich, next time I will stick to the local wines.
Felix is an excellent addition to the city dining scene, it isn’t perfect but the food is generally good, and they have have done a great job in recreating a Parisian brasserie. I imagine when the place settles down it will be tricky to get a table as it will become very popular. We would return, despite my criticism we had a very enjoyable meal with fine service.
Next I think we may give Merivale’s other new place,“Ms G’s” a go, it is in the in the old Wokpool space in Potts Point with Jowett Yu and Dan Hong cheffing so it has a lot of promise.