The Brix had been showing up on our radar for a few months – our favourite review came from @thatjessho – but the perception of overly stuffy French cooking with the Melbourne price tag attached often had us delaying our visit. Then the rave review from The Age’s Epicure magazine hit the newsstand and everyone had to sit up and take notice.
And then the place shut up shop. Epicure’s Larissa Dubecki commented that head chef Joel Alderson (Attica and Royal Mail Hotel) had departed along with the sous chef and pastry chef – but didn’t go into why. And so the place was thrown into restaurant limbo for a few weeks.
* gossip * A notice appeared on the website saying that they were closed “until further notice” and was then recently updated, announcing they would be reopening on Tuesday February 28. Details came through that Alderson had walked away two days after being given notice (for what? who knows). Both sous chef Daniel Dobra and pastry chef Shaun Quade rethought their position and also chose to depart from restaurant and designer owners too. It just becomes more intriguing as we descend the rabbit hole. *gossip session over*
To replace the departed, the owners have secured the talents of Ashley Hicks as head chef and Kyle Connor as the replacement sous chef – both come from The Buffalo Club in Brisbane’s trendy Fortitude Valley. They have promised to keep the simple approach to food that made the headlines before their arrival. We were there on the first night of The Brix 2.0 to see if it lived up to expectation – so with that in mind, we have allowed for teething problems and a limited menu (as explained to us by fab wait staff on arrival).
That said, we left feeling we had overpaid for being under-fed. No complaints with the current four entrée, four main and two dessert (plus cheese selection) menu. Hard to choose between the rustic French offerings, but we opted to share the pressed terrine of the day – ham hock – which came with wafer-thin toast (rye crisps, apparently) and pickled cucumber and baby iceberg lettuce. At $17, the decent-sized, meaty starter just about justified its cost. Great terrine, good moisture content. Happy.
Then came the main – steak frites with smoked bone marrow (wagyu skirt, served medium-rare with six, count ‘em, six chips). At $30 there was a good amount of tender meat, and while the chips were cooked through, they weren’t as crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the onside as we might have hoped. Oh, and there were six of them.
But, really, no complaints. The market fish was monkfish served with a dribble of burnt butter sauce, turnip and radish – I might add that the two veggies were more garnish than sustenance, so really, you needed to order one of the side (chips $8 or hand-picked salad $12) to make it a complete meal – and raising the price to $40. The fish itself was good – dense white fish, perfectily cooked, with the flavour shining through the rather nothing sauce. But there were only three pieces the size (at a puch) of a 50 cent coin. For $32? I don’t pay to eat out to feel like a mug.
Starving, we pushed on to dessert – creme brulee – blow-torched caramel top that is ripe for cracking with your spoon and getting stuck in your teeth and smooth vanilla custard underneath. Enough to share, like the starter. So why are the mains so measly?
One more grip – wine list promises sparkling wine and champagne, but only lists champagne, the cheapest glass of which is $22. I know they want to do the French thing – but how about a $12 glass of good old Aussie fizz?
Service: great. Décor: great – especially the white knotted rope ‘sculpture’ hanging from the ceiling – is it us or does it resemble the skeleton of a great whale – if you have been to London’s Natural History Museum you will know what I mean?! Lovely outside dining spot, cool toilet wallpaper. We want to like it, and we will check out the brunch menu, but are fearful of a repeat empty wallet, empty stomach scenario.
Did you go last year, and have you been back – we’d love to hear you now and then thoughts. And, $32 for six mouthfuls of main – are Melbourne restaurateurs having a laugh?
The Brix Café & Bistrot
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Ph. (03) 9417 6114