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It doesn’t happen very often these days unfortunately, but the meal I had at The Brix last week was astounding.
Keen eyes have been keeping an eye on the space behind Foxton’s Real Estate Agency at 412 Brunswick street for a while now. The planning permit was affixed to the unassuming roller door in Westgarth street late last year and the compact 40 seater which was originally scheduled to be open in May 2011, finally opened on 19th August 2011. But I reckon it’s been worth the wait.
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I’ve visited three times now, for the five course fixed price menu that is the only meal option on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday lunch, for an al la carte experience and for lunch. Cheese and charcuterie are available at the small bar as an alternative to the five course set meal.
Two of the three folk behind The Brix were on the floor the first night we visited. They are quite open as to their influences, Le Chateaubriand in Paris. Based on this fact alone I was eager to try The Brix, having had a delicious and “un-stuffy” meal at Le Chateaubriand in 2009. Emma O’Mara and Keir Vaughan (our hosts) have design backgrounds and this 40 seater is testament to their skill and tastes. It’s a lovely spot which manages to be bright and sunny even though the windows face south. The front room is dominated by a large cornucopia styled photograph which was commissioned for the space. The side room features wooden shingles and hanging plants which are a surprising feature that I’m sure will bring a welcome cooling effect as we move into summer.
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Joel Alderson is in the kitchen. I”d not heard of Joel before, but the pedigree is one to respect, Joost’s Greenhouse in Sydney, Attica and the Royal Mail in Dunkeld. He’s joined by Daniel Dobra from Greenhouse in Perth, and also the Royal Mail. If that wasn’t enough to make me want to eat there, Ainslie Lubbock (also from the Royal Mail) has helped with the wine list and works a few shifts.
Once I’d heard all that I was no longer surprised by the offerings, but was very pleased to have a bistro like this so close to home (and a 112 tram ticket is certainly cheaper than flying to Paris).
The five course menu featured grilled baby cos, salsify, flowers, horseradish snow, crunchy quinoa, salmon, beetroot, celery leaf, artichokes, braised baby turnips, roast baby turnips, veal breast (with the most delicious, thin and crispy skin and layers of luscious fat and sweet veal meat, almost like a pork belly) served with carrots, saltbush and baby leeks; Confit duck leg that had been removed from the bone and pressed, served with a slice of perfectly pink breast duck, with baby turnips. Dessert was coffee and chocolate cake with mandarin.
I’m not going to give away all of Joel’s little surprises here, but the plating is some of the prettiest I’ve seen.
We drank some delicious Gamay (2010 Puzelat-Bonhomme Petite-Tannique from the Loire Valley), and some of the range of growers champagnes on offer. The Fixed Price menu is $80 a person.
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I returned a few nights later to dine al la carte. The menu descriptions are brief and specific which leaves a lot of room to be pleasantly surprised by what appears to be a never-ending supply of herbs, baby veg, leaves and edible flowers that accompanied the dishes we tried. Some of the dished from the set menu were featured on the al la carte menu, such as the calamari (with radishes, lettuce, herbs and chive flowers) and veal breast. We started with a naturally sweet, light french onion broth which was poured at the table over a selection of croutons, teensy, weensy baby (I mean SMALL! smaller than your little fingernail) onions, chives and chive flowers.
We followed with shallot tart tatin served with creme fraiche and perfectly picked leaf salad, and the calamari.
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Mains were beef fillet which arrived with a tastebud awakening smell of smoke that came from a spring onion that lay across the meat, which was spread across a slate, served with potato and cress; a plate of Bass Grouper, and lamb with artichokes cooked two ways, jerusalem artichokes, sweetbreads and oxalis leaves.
We ordered a side of “sprout leaves” which were similar to red kale, served with more of that amazing crunchy quinoa and finished with two desserts.
With a couple of glasses of wine each we spent $90 a head.
The third time I visited for a simple lunch. The shallot tart tatin made an appearance again ($16), as did the beef with potato and cress ($22). We opted for a shallot tart, black pudding, apple cider, sorrel and duck egg ($16), and free-range chicken terrine with leeks, potato and Kaissler (16).
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There is a synesso cofee machine, house made tomato juice and they take their tea seriously too, offering Mariage Frères blends from Paris.
My choice is for the five course fixed price menu – this meal was astoundingly good, mind you – I haven’t had breakfast there yet!
Oh yeh – and there is a life size pig in the doorway….
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… and an outdoor space
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It’s terrific value and an outstanding debut. Here’s to the new kid just off the block, open only a week so be gentle with them and let them find their feet. Relax, take it easy and enjoy a new local.