Friday 24 August 2012

The Brix, revisited

The Brix
Rear 412 Brunswick Street (cnr Westgarth St), Fitzroy (map)
9417 6114 (phone bookings taken)
Open lunch Friday & Saturday, dinner Tuesday to Saturday

Chocolate, grapefruit, meringue

I'm moving house on Monday, so since my trip to Hong Kong and an intense week of movie-going at MIFF (11 films in 8 days!) my life is a blur of packing boxes, utilities disconnections and mail redirection.

But I'm coming up for air to publish a post about The Brix, the Fitzroy restaurant modelled loosely on Le Chateaubriand in Paris. I wrote about The Brix shortly after it first opened a year ago, and I was saddened to read in this week's Espresso column in Epicure that the restaurant is now on the market. It's been a difficult journey for co-owners Emma O'Mara and Keir Vaughan: they lost their head chef, sous chef and pastry chef in February and were forced to close for a week or two, but then reopened with new head chef Ashly Hicks (who came down from Brisbane's Buffalo Club). I dined at The Brix last month with a friend and had a sublime meal - I'm afraid I've only got time to post the photos with brief descriptions, but I urge you to get down there while you've still got the chance and enjoy the set menu.

The Brix

There's an à la carte bistrot menu, but the best option is definitely the five course set menu ($90, or $70 for vegetarian if you give them notice). The five course set menu comes with an amuse and a cleanser, and there's also an optional additional cheese course (when my friend and I dined there, the cheese course was comped). The dishes were certainly intricate as you can see below, but they never felt fussy or overworked.

The Brix

The amuse-bouche was a miniature sandwich of pain d’épices (similar to gingerbread) filled with duck parfait and topped with dabs of rhubarb juice gel and espresso gel and a few mache and baby coriander leaves.

Pain d'epice

The first course was a riot of purple, featuring venison that had been cured for 24 hours, dried for seven days and then dehydrated. There was also a thin slice of raw venison, beetroots cooked in juniper salt, oven roasted and raw, juiced red cabbage foam, candied chilli, Ossau-Iratty, chickpeas and red cabbage leaf.

Venison, beetroot, red cabbage

The second course consisted of South Australian squid shaved and confit in hazelnut oil, together with fried squid tentacles, variations of cauliflower (juice, a charcoaled floret, slow roasted, dehydrated then thinly sliced), lardo, pig's ears, roasted squid powder and parsley oil.

Squid, cauliflower, hazelnut

The third course was Bundarra Berkshires pork shoulder with celeriac cooked in a salt crush and coated in ash (from a vine branch), thin sheets of roasted celeriac, pickled celeriac, a celeriac ribbon boiled in chicken stock, burnt onion juice, slow roasted onion petals, caramelised onion paper and onion flowers.

Pork, onion, celeriac

The fourth course was Aylesbury duck breast (cooked sous vide at 58 degrees for 45 minutes) with rendered fat, roasted parsnip, a parsnip and vanilla puree, a celery juice gel, buttered celery, crisped chestnuts and duck sauce.

Duck, parsnip, celery

Then out came a "cucumber ice" palate cleanser: a gin and tonic foam made from Tanqueray and tonic water. The garnish was compressed cucumber dusted with dill pollen and juniper salt.

Gin and tonic

The cheese course that was comped: Langres rolled in dried mushroom powder, fresh walnuts, fried and raw enoki mushrooms, raw pine mushrooms and crisped leek roots. It came with a mushroom consommé, which was poured at the table.

Langres, mushroom, leek

The dessert course was a chocolate mousse made from 66% Valrhona chocolate, served with grapefruit gel and the most beautiful candied grapefruit wheel. There was also a house-made buttermilk and vanilla purée, toasted meringues, lychee and a sprinkling of chocolate cookie crumbs.

Chocolate, grapefruit, meringue

And just when we thought it was all over red rover, out came an additional sweet snack: sensational pumpkin doughnuts in a bag! They were made from a sweet pumpkin and beurre noisette purée, rolled in candied seeds and nuts and sprinkled with cumin. Wee bottles of vanilla and malt milkshake with red and white stripey straws were an additional playful touch.

Pumpkin donuts and malt milkshakes