Tag Archives: French

Brunch at The Brix

7 Oct

A welcome breath of fresh air, The Brix is unlike any other restaurant you will find in Fitzroy. Located just off Brunswick street down the somewhat lackluster northern end, this new(ish) establishment serves modern French style food – complete with a prix fixe set menu on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

On the outside the fresh white paint gives the place a light airy feel which translate also to its interiors of wooden floors, simple lines and lots of big windows that let in the natural sunlight. Its not a big place, with probably a maximum of 15 small tables plus several seats at the bar. The staff are dressed in white t-shirts, black skinny jeans and braces and provide a professional and friendly service.

I meet O on a Saturday morning for what was intended as a late brunch, but at The Brix actually turns out to be lunch – they stop serving the breakfast menu at 12noon, oh how very French!

Cured Ocean Trout with Nicoise Garnish

Pork Cassoulet

Not to worry, there is plenty on the lunch menu to satisfy, and we quickly put in our orders – O goes for the cured ocean trout with nicoise garnish and I opt for the Pork Cassoulet.

The ocean trout comes on a black slate plate which is the perfect backdrop to the vibrant colours of the salmon and the light nicoise style salad on the side. By O’s account it’s not only a pretty dish, its also tasty and fresh.

The cassoulet comes in a cast iron dish and is served together with a couple of slices of toasted rye bread on a wooden board. The pork is tender and melts in the mouth, and the persillade (a mix of parsley chopped together with seasonings including garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar) provides a crunchy texture to the dish. The servings aren’t big – just perfect for a light lunch, but if you’re a big eater, you’ll definitely be left wanting more.

Frangipani Tart

A meal with O always involve sweets and on this occasion we choose the frangipani tart which is a pleasant offering but not exactly mind blowing. The tart casing is not too doughy or chewy and the frangipani is subtle and not too sweet.

Peppermint Tea with Artisan Honey

Washed down with my peppermint tea (served with some artisan honey from NZ) it’s a nice way to finish off a light meal.

All in all The Brix is a good addition to this part of Fitzroy and offers something completely different to the casual café fare served in these parts. Next time we’ll try the prix fixe menu.

The Brix

Rear 412 Brunswick Street,

Fitzroy VIC 3065

(03) 9417 6114

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Assiette, Ash cloud & A long ride home

25 Jul

Did you know that there is an overnight train from Sydney to Melbourne? Did you also know that the journey takes as long (if not longer) than driving between the two cities?  And who knew that people in towns with names like Harden and The Rock, actually use these services even though it means getting on / off the train at 3am in the morning? Oh and by the way the toilet / bathroom facilities are UV lit and there is no running water.

I had the (dis)pleasure of finding all of this out recently when some volcanic ash from a far away land (Chile) forced me to take the overnight train with my distinguished colleagues – who by the way were not feeling so distinguished after 12 hours sitting upright (guys, if you are reading this you know who you are).

The only saving grace of the whole saga (but by no means did this make up for the horror of the train ride) was a pre-train meal at Assiette in the trendy locale of Surry Hills (also conveniently in close proximity to Central train station).

Earning a second ‘hat’ last year, Assiette could easily have been another fancy establishment with trendy ‘deconstructed’ / fusion fare and not much else.  So I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and creativity of the food we had – a welcome treat before the dreaded train journey.  The setting is intimate (think Embrasse style – simple decor, white table clothes but none of the pretentiousness that is so common in Sydney establishments), the service prompt (we were done and dusted in just under 2 hours) and there is plenty to choose from the carefully crafted, albeit short, menu (so short that one of my esteemed colleagues mistook the list of mains as a five course degustation for $37, asking for ‘menu 2’ to which the polite but confused waiter asked – ‘are you sure you can eat all of that?’).

Cured Hiramasa kingfish with dashi jelly, pickled octopus and blood lime

Momentarily forgetting the journey ahead of us, we enjoyed our beautifully presented meals (it felt a little like ‘the last supper’ to some of us).  For entrée I chose the cured Hiramasa kingfish with dashi jelly, pickled octopus and blood lime, which not only looked fantastic on the plate, but also had the perfect balance of flavours – a touch of sweet from the jelly, the fresh briny taste of the fish and the slightly sour blood lime worked a treat.

Roasted denver leg of venison with parsnip and chestnut croquette, brussels sprouts and lardons

For mains most of us opted for the roasted denver leg of venison with parsnip and chestnut croquette, brussels sprouts and lardons.  Again, our plates arrived looking like mini works of art and tasted even better.  The venison had a warming gaminess to it, without being chewy (as is always a risk with game meats).  The brussels sprouts were perfect with the crisp lardons and the croquettes (one of my favourite things in the world!) were wonderfully golden and crunchy on the outside, and creamy on the inside – although I didn’t finish these as they were rather rich and filling.  Judging by the very clean plates at the end we all enjoyed our meals.

Pretty Dessert

Desserts were possibly the prettiest dishes of them all and I had serious food envy, given I didn’t order any (to avoid food coma on the long train ride which was going to be unpleasant enough without a bursting belly).  Unfortunately I cannot recall what was actually on the plate – some ice cream, marshmallow and delicate little cubes of jelly; but its safe to say it was delicious as it all disappeared pretty quickly.

Cheese platter

The cheese platter was also very generous with 4 types of cheese, quince paste, some lavosh and rye bread.

So with desserts finished and the last drop of wine consumed we could delay the journey no longer.  Dragging our luggage down the street like lost stragglers we ambled our way to the dreaded train to begin our epic journey – a little delirious from the wonderful food we had just consumed and somewhat hopeful that the journey would somehow be a more likeable experience than what we were expecting.

What misplaced hope – in the words of one of my travelling companions as our train journey came to a close: “that really was just horrific”.

Note from DDO: apologies for the poor quality of the photos (again!) – but as you can probably tell, there were a lot of unexpected events surrounding this dinner, hence the lack of a proper camera!

Ratings:

Assiette: 2.5 Gold Stars (out of a possible 3 – good food, relaxed ambience, worth a visit if you are in the area)

Country Link: 0 (Horrific! Only because Australian train travel is at least a century behind the rest of the world!)

Assiette

48 Albion Street
Surry Hills, Sydney

http://www.restaurantassiette.com.au/index.html

Hardware Societe

3 Apr

People that know me will doubt what I am about to admit.  But as of today, I am in love!  They say the best way to a Man’s heart is through his stomach… turns out, I am a man and Hardware Societe has won my heart.

Hardware Societe has been on my ‘brunch must try list’ for a quite some time now and arriving on this brisk Saturday morning to find a cluster of hopefuls waiting for a table , I must admit made my stomach turn.  I hate a line.  I live to be waited on, not to wait!  But thankfully, the extremely efficient and super friendly staff were quick to take our name, and assure us it was only a 5-10 minute wait.  And sure enough the DDO duo (N and I) were seated within 10 minutes in a cosy bench seat overlooking the open kitchen.  Tick and Tick!

view from the bench

As soon as we were seated water was brought to us, our coffee orders were taken and a menu was offered.  This place is busy.   But they run a tight ship.  Tick number 3!

It was a pretty hard decision choosing from the wide and tempting offerings, with Noisette breads, a range of eggs and of course the lighter cold offerings (one being the continental, which included an extremely tempting mix of fruits, crumble, fresh Bio yoghurt which I can’t recall exactly but it sounded delicious) as well as an AMAZING looking fried brioche.  I wanted to eat EVERYTHING on the menu, but decided to go with the Fried Eggs with Jamon, pesto and snow pea shoots.   They also have daily specials, which on this day was Pork belly served on a bean ragu with poached eggs.

Plating up.  Pork Belly to the front, Croque Monsieur to the back. 

I’m actually really glad we were seated where we were.  It gave N and I the opportunity to have a cheeky perve on how the dishes looked when plated up.  Given my indecisiveness on choosing a dish (if only I had the 4 stomachs of a cow…) seeing the finished product helped me decide on something.  N decided on the Mushrooms served on Brioche with eggs en cocotte.

Coffee’s come served with mini cinnamon donuts

Our dishes arrived just as I finished the last sip of my coffee and everything perfect.  I can’t actually remember the last time I went out for a brunch and (despite the crowds) was genuinely excited and happy to be amongst it!! My fried egg’s were cooked to perfection.  Still a little runny in the yolk, but beautifully crisp edges of egg white stacked atop 2 thinly toasted slices of whole grain Noisette bread. This is the perfect example of good quality produce, cooked and served to its full advantage.

Fried Eggs with Jamon, snow pea shoots, pesto and grated cheese ($13)

Of course N and I have a mutual understanding of the sharesy situation, so we got half of each.  And i’m glad, because I definitely would have got food envy if we hadn’t.

Mushrooms on toasted brioche and olive tapenade with eggs in a pan ($15)

The mushrooms were earthy and meaty (oh yeh, vegetarian options too…) atop a tapenade covered, thick cut brioche finished with cheese in the grill.  And then paired with some runny egg yolk… Flavour nation!!  These guys sure know how to impress a girl!!  Having grown up hearing the phrase, “there is no such thing as perfect” you do leave Hardware Societe questioning that very suggestion.  And if their only fault was how (understandably) in demand they are causing a 5 minute wait, I’d say the service, food and that sweet little donut that comes with my coffee is enough for me forgive and forget. Love is a many splendid thing.  And Hardware Societe, you are Love!!

Hardware Societe  20 Hardware Street Melbourne VIC 3000

(03) 9078 5992

The Paris Diaries Series: Entry #3 Chez l’Ami Jean

21 Mar

The Paris Diaries Series: Chez l’Ami Jean

Chez l’Ami Jean came with high recommendations from a friend who had been to Paris several times in the past few years but failed on all occasions to get a table.  Planning ahead I had booked a table in advance for the very European time of 10pm – perfect timing to allow for some retail therapy before our first French meal in Paris (for readers who have been paying attention – yes these diary entries are not in time order).

Weaving our way through the streets of the 7th arrondisement we arrived at l’Ami Jean with people literally spilling out onto the otherwise quiet, dark street.  Inside, even without the all the people, there is little room to move between tables and the place is electric what with the waiters zooming past and the patrons talking (loudly), waving their arms around (very passionately) whilst enjoying the Basque cuisine created by Stephane Jego.  But even with all the buzz, l’Ami Jean is your quintessential Parisian bistro and has the feel of being totally authentic and local – all in the midst of the city, under the Eiffel Tower.

Chez l'Ami Jean

Even though we arrive 15 minutes late, our table is not ready.  But alas we are placated with a plate of the most delicious, finely sliced prosciutto whilst we wait patiently.  After another 15 minutes we are shown to our tiny table, sandwiched between a father/daughter and a lovely old French couple (who knock back at least 2 full bottles of red wine during our meal, and are still there when we leave).  The menu is basic and I can recognise basic terms like ‘Boeuf’ (beef), ‘Porc’ (pork), ‘Fruits de Mer’ (seafood) and ‘Poulet’ (chicken), but unfortunately that is where my French culinary vocabulary ends, so we went with the 3 course ‘prix fixe’ meal and left the ordering to our waiter.

Despite not being a pumpkin fan, J had been talked into a rabbit served on a bed of risotto with a puree of pumpkin.  Aesthetically, the dish looked like a watercolour with the brightness of pumpkin serving as a backdrop to the succulent rabbit and topped with a swirl of bacon.  The dish tasted just as good as it looked – the rabbit had been slowed cooked to perfection, and was perfect with the sweetness of the pumpkin – testament to the dish was that J finished it all, even the pumpkin.

Rabbit served on a bed of risotto and pumpkin puree

I had gone with the seafood – an assortment of razor clams, mussels, squid and other shellfish served amongst a creamy foam, assembled to replicate an ocean scene with a swirl of bacon on top.  Each of these elements together created a beautifully balanced and textured dish with the sweet freshness of the seafood, the saltiness of the pork and the light, airy but at once creamy foam.

Fruits de Mer

At this point J and I are starting to feel the effects of jet lag and general fatigue (it’s past 11pm), but we soldier on – intrigued as to how pork could possibly be cooked ‘rose’ (rare).  It arrives shortly on a bed of herbs and topped with the requisite bacon encircled with bone marrow. The meat is succulent and juicy, and it is indeed pink inside.  First time having rare pork – but can happily report no gastric allergies or viruses contracted…

Pork - 'rose'

I had ordered steak, which despite looking beautiful on the plate, was actually too tough and sinewy for my liking.  This too was served with marrow and bacon artfully placed on the plate.

Steak served with marrow

Time check – its close to midnight and the place is still raging (and the old couple next to us have just opened their second bottle of wine).  Thankfully our desserts arrive promptly, the famous Riz au Lait – a rice pudding with salty caramel and a fruit and nut mix on the side, and an apple crumble with custard served in a cute glass jar.  Both were the perfect finish to the meal – light and with just the right level of sweetness.

Riz au Lait

Crumble - served in a glass jar

And so we departed – very happy to have dined like the locals.  For anyone who does visit Paris, Chez l’Ami Jean comes highly recommended not only for its rustic and beautifully presented food, but also for the quintessentially French atmosphere. Oh and if you have time, sit back and kick on with another bottle…just like a real Parisian…

Chez l’Ami Jean

27 rue Malar Paris

75007 Paris, France

www.amijean.eu/

Embrasse Express Lunching

14 Mar

First Saturday off in FOREVER! So needless to say, I take this rare opportunity to part take in some Saturday leisurely lunching with my 2 favourite ladies N and Z.  Yep.  A Lady (Ladies) of Leisure! With all the time in the world… or at least a whole leisurely hour and 20 minutes, until we must vacate the table to allow for the next sitting.

I’d always heard about how AMAZING the food at Embrasse was, and for some reason I remember the brunch offering being highly celebrated.  Well Apparently not?  Well not this month anyway! It seems they are only doing the express lunch (2 course meal, with glass of wine and tea and coffee $35)!  I’m not sure if it was part of the Food and Wine Festival or a permanent change, but happy to try none the less.  Judging by the fast filling reservations (we were lucky to squeeze ourselves in for the 12pm booking) peoples high regard for Embrasse had not changed. Nothing like a sense of urgency to make you want something all the more.

fresh baked multi seed roll

Butter


The dining room is pleasant enough, the table cloth covered tables and clean surrounds creating a pleasant, clean ambiance.  Service is quick and efficient and within 30 seconds of being seated, I am offered water (tick) and wine (double tick…and a GOLD STAR).  Love being waited on.  Hate waiting to be waited on.

So shortly after our wine is poured we order (ladies of leisure but with a time limit) and bread is served! As soon as I was seated the first thing I noticed was that luscious looking perfectly sculpted blob of butter.  The bread was fresh and perfectly soft on the inside encased in a slightly harder outside.  A wonderful accompaniment to the creamy lashings of butter … or is it the other way around? Either way. YUM!

Kingfish lightly steamed, peas, seaweed, sea water froth

Shortly after, entrees were presented.  I ordered the Kingfish which was surprisingly satisfying given my habit of instinctively ordering every meat offering on a menu.  Plus I love peas! The Fish was steamed just enough so it wasn’t dry, and the textured crumbed encasing added the perfect balance.  Could have done without the Uber fancy sea water froth, but the seaweed and pea mash was a wonderful accompaniment.  N ordered the other entree on offer (we always make sure we order something different so we can do swapsies) of the Pork Belly.

Crispy Pork Belly, burnt carrot, pickled corn, apple/olive oil

The pork itself was to me, a little dry, but the apple oil and burnt carrot we well matched to give it some life again.  It wasn’t a bad dish, but the pork belly was very lean and so when deep fried, it lost that amazing fat-to-meat taste explosion that normally occurs when eaten.  You won’t hear me say this often, but glad I went with the seafood option over the meat…

Confit cornfed Bendigo Chicken Breast, beetroots, golden raisins, soy milk

Onto mains.  I went with the chicken (again, a day of exceptions.  I rarely choose chicken breast.  Breast to me equates to overcooked and dry…).  Now gotta say.  Embrasse gets presentation to a tee.  How can one not be a little excited when that is put in front of them, the beetroot ribbon glistening in all its glory.  Taste wise, this was good enough.  But I think that was largely due to the beetroot and raisin accompaniment.  So lesson learned.  Chicken breast ain’t my thing! N went with the other mains option of the Dory (she on the other hand will almost go the fish 87% of the time)

Dory cooked in rocket, cauliflower, rice, maharaja spice, radish, carrot

Having had a little taster (got to love being raised in the habit of sharing) I actually got a little (… a lot!) food envy.  The Dory was pan fried to perfection, slightly crisp on the top and succulently sweet in the center.  The rice was cooked really well and carried a slight sweetness which had so much flavour, could stand alone as a dish in itself.

So short lived this ‘Lady who Lunches’ experience!  Given the exceptional company, and good food, I wish we could have lingered.  But maybe that is also part of the reason it was so enjoyable.  We always long for the things that we can’t have….

Embrasse

312 Drummond Street

Carlton

www.embrasserestaurant.com.au