A few weeks ago, my friend Vanity Fare and I decided to try the recent addition to the Merivale empire in Ash Street laneway, Felix Bistro, run by Lauren Murdoch, who used to operate the kitchen of Ash Street Cellar just across the road. I kept hearing good reports about it, and the few times I had walked past it, I’d thought the place looked beautiful and quite like an authentic brasserie.
We were lured by the thought of freshly shucked oysters, as they are not often found in Australian restaurants. Even in fine dining establishments, I’d found that the oysters had been shucked in advance and just popped again in the shell at serving time… No wonder that until now, no oyster had passed the test of the lemon juice drizzle, where you can see the oyster’s edges retract at the contact of the juice, the ultimate proof of freshness!
We had chosen the 7pm sitting and when we arrive, the place was already buzzing and quite loud, which is a good sign, but at the same time not great for me, as I am very soft spoken as well as a bit deaf! Oh well, we’ll talk the universal language of food.
We chose our entrees, a Steak Tartare for VF and a Cod Brandade for me, asked for the specials, as we saw that Wednesdays “Plats du jour” were dedicated to game dishes. The waitress told us the Chef had prepared a dish of Partridge on mushy peas with artichokes and jus… That sounded good… so good in fact, that we both ended up choosing it!
I also really wanted to taste at least a couple of oysters beforehand. We were offered three different varieties of Sydney Rock Oysters: Merimbula, Pambula and Culburra (thank you Vanity Fare for remembering all these names!)
I couldn’t decide, so VF suggested we tried all three, like a mini degustation, which was a great idea! I would just forgo the dessert if I had to…
We also had the choice between a red wine vinegar with shallots dressing or just fresh lemon, but we didn’t use either, as we wanted to fully enjoy the taste of the oysters. Each had its own characteristics: one was more plump, more creamy, the other more sweet, the last one more salty… it was interesting!
The entrees followed and VF’s Steak Tartare passed the test. She found the beef tender, and liked the traditional accompaniments to season to taste (Worcestershire sauce, mustards…); very rustic and authentic and fun to play with: “I love playing with my food!”, were her words.
The Cod Brandade was very creamy, nicely seasoned, not too salty and there was a generous amount of it, I was happy.
I decided to order a glass of red wine to go with my game dish and called the sommelier, told him I wanted a glass of Bourgogne (I had spotted earlier 2 varieties at $9-10 on the wine list) and that’s when he offered to get me a glass of blablablabla (couldn’t quite hear what he said) and I said “Sounds fine to me!”. He did well, the wine he brought me was superb!
We both thought the Partridge confit legs were lovely, they were cooked perfectly. VF’s only little criticism was that the mushy peas brought maybe too much sweetness and that the dish might have needed something more to cut through it… maybe more artichokes? But overall, it was just a beautiful dish!
We decided not to forgo the dessert in the end, but took a long time to choose the dessert to share. Everything sounded good, but we couldn’t face anything chocolatey or too creamy. I was sorry to see that they didn’t have any Tarte Tatin or any Crème Brûlée… what kind of Bistro is that?? Lol. We finally decided on the Pear Tart with Red Wine Ice-cream and we didn’t regret it, it was very nice, especially the red wine ice-cream, surprisingly good, as I wasn’t too sure what to expect.
Then we got the bill… VF told me: “That wine must have been a very nice wine…”
Me, worried: “How much?”
What an idiot, I should have just stuck to my initial choice! The wine was delicious, but had I known, I would have drunk it very, very….. very slowly!
On the whole, I thought the food was lovely, and if I was a wealthy businessman working in the CBD, I would for sure have lunch at Felix 2-3 times a week! It’s however not the case, and Felix is definitely not your every day bistro: not the same prices, but also not the same quality!
I guess if you don’t go crazy on the wines like some people (hum), the prices are not that unusual, but I’ll still keep it on the “Special Occasion” list.
2 Ash Street
Sydney NSW 2000