Felix, Sydney

http://www.merivale.com/felix

Ash Street, Sydney

I love a good brasserie. It’s where Sunday’s should be spent (& most other days). However in Australia they are few and far between. They are as much about atmosphere as they are the food, a place to while away the hours with a loved one or friends. We’d been to Ad Lib Bistro a few times and our last meal disappointed a bit through a sense of calculation and slight price gouging. That’s the thing about brasseries, they can be a little roguish. But charm can cover a lot of flaws.

Which brings us to Felix, a brasserie modelled on a New York brasserie, itself modelled on the Parisian original. Created by the Merivale Group it has been generating a fair bit of buzz, which is not necessarily a good thing. I generally give Merivale venues a wide berth on Friday nights, but here we found ourselves.

First impressions though are great. Expansive & buzzy with dark red walls and chequered tiled floor. The bar is welcoming, but packed. We are able to find a place to perch and the Friday night ritual begins – A Martini.

Opting for a Vesper this time, it’s a mellower martini, which makes a change. Very good though and the sequence of decent martinis continues.

We subsequently move through to the dining room and settle in, feeling buoyed by the Friday night atmosphere. This place is doing what it’s designed to do. A glance to the sizeable seafood bar, means it doesn’t take much to decide it’s fish for me tonight.

Our waiter is slick and French we soon get our bread.

It’s suitably moreish. The butter is excellent and more is ordered as our dinner progresses.

We get stuck into the meal when first courses arrive – terrine of ocean trout

It’s glorious and fresh. The trout is lightly poached, well set in the wobbly jelly with a hint of lemon & thyme. It’s a dish to savour.A few cornichons always go down well.

Vanessa plays it safe and goes for the chicken & barley broth.

Although it has slick of oil, it gives way to a very clean and vibrant soup helped by the lemon so that it’s not weighed down by normal associated heaviness.

Main courses. Skate with burnt butter, capers and caramelised witlof

Served ‘off the bone’, it’s a very traditional dish with only the witlof a nod to Australia. It’s a fine meaty fish, well cooked. The butter can be a little overwhelming, swamping everything, but the capers & witlof rescue the dish creating a pleasing balance.

Vanessa ultimately ends up with the lamb pie, sauteed mushrooms & tarragon jus. She had ordered the pork belly with grapes, beetroot and fennel. We love a bit of pork belly, but this piece was gelatinous in the extreme and not particularly appetising. When our concerns were voiced, our waiter quickly replaced the dish with the lamb pie, even supplying some complimentary garlic mash. It was a problem well solved. Mistakes happen in restaurants. It’s how they’re solved that matters and this was a good example of how to turn a negative into a positive (& a reason to return).

The pie itself is a good French rendition – good melting chunks of lamb in a rich gavy. In truth it’s not a dish to get really excited about, but it does exactly what it says on the tin and fits the bill. It’s nicely satisfying.

We close the meal with a shared dessert – lemon pudding:

It rich and sharp. The pudding is deliciously light and spongey with the fresh cream providing the cool counterpoint. It does not last long and is pronounced a winner.

And so the Felix proves a bit of a hit –  good atmosphere, good service. The food is comforting and well executed. It’s where the basics are done well. Though the basics do go up to a fruits-de-mer, so there’s always a reason to return. The overall vibe is exactly what you want from the a place like this. Though the bill has a knack of mounting up, you don’t begrudge it. Nor will I a return visit.

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