Felix Bistro and Bar is like a traditional Parisian bistrot transported to the shores of Sydney.
The head chef at Felix is Lauren Murdoch, who used to run the kitchen at Ash Street Cellar which is located in the laneway opposite Felix. And it's been a long time coming, judging by the months that have passed since the hoardings in the laneway were put up. Now, all is revealed.
Felix is all bentwood chairs, crisp white tablecloths, waiters in waistcoats and long aprons, an oyster bar and rotisserie - and wonderful French-inspired food. I had lunch at Felix to celebrate a girlfriend's birthday, and in its second or so week of being open, the place was packed with city office workers (mainly men) and tables of lunching ladies (er, mainly women). The word is certainly out that this is the place to eat. And the noise levels are correspondingly high.
The waitstaff are friendly, chatty and professional. On being presented with three different types of breads, the waiter explained that there are no individual bread plates 'because they don't have them in France'.
There is an impressive wall of wine behind the glass-fronted seafood bar at the back of the room. On beds of ice and seaweed are the scallops, crabs, prawns and oysters that will make their way onto the seafood platter (market price). My friend and I couldn't resist sharing some oysters.The various oysters ($3.50 each) came from Forster, Port Stephens and Hastings River. I thought the Forster oysters were the best - clear and plump with a distinct briny flavour. The Hastings River oysters were slightly bitter in comparison. The oysters came with an eschallot vinaigrette and a muslin-wrapped lemon. I didn't think the oysters needed anything on them, they were beautifully fresh au naturale.
Here are the mains:
I had a meat-melting-off-the-bone duck confit with pickled pears and grilled radicchio ($34). The confit duck leg was extremely flavoursome and moist, though I found the radicchio so unpleasantly bitter that I couldn't eat it. My friend had flank steak with herb butter and fries ($34). Again, the meat was nicely cooked with great flavour. We shared some green beans with parsley butter ($10) that were on the crisp side (good).
The menu also has rabbit, lamb pie, pork cutlet and well-known French classics like Gruyere souffle, crumbed lamb's brains, steak Tartare and tripes a la Lyonnaise. If you look around (and cover your ears to the Aussie-accented conversation nearby), you might imagine that you're in Paris..
My friend declared herself too full for dessert, but I forced her to order something for us to share (because it was her birthday!). Among the dessert items of coconut meringue, tarte tatin, banana souffle and chocolate mousse, she chose the lemon delicious pudding.
Lemon delicious pudding with cream and candied lemon ($16) is not what I would have chosen, but I'm so glad we had it. The pudding was amazingly light with the tang of citron, and the accompanying cream was topped with strips of candied lemon zest that was easy enough to eat on its own. I loved this dessert! We also had English breakfast tea ($4 each) and were given petit fours of almond friand.
Felix is a welcome addition to Sydney's CBD. Like Ash Street Cellar, it gives a taste of Europe in this little wannabe laneway. Both places draw the crowds, and with such polished food and service, it's not hard to see why Felix is so popular so soon.
I thought the serving sizes were modestly sized, but for lunch, you probably wouldn't want too much food. They probably expect you to hit the extensive wine list, too. The bar is on the other side of the restaurant and it also looks like a pleasant, casual place to have a bite (with a glass of vin rouge).
Felix is at 2 Ash St, Sydney (behind the Ivy complex in George St).
Ph: 02 9240 3000.
Lunch: Mon-Fri, 12-3pm. Dinner: Mon-Sat, 5.30-10.30pm