“Be as thou wast wont to be. See as thou wast wont to see”
As many who know me will attest, I am a firm believer that food should be fun. Being delicious, sustainable and ethical is also important, but at the heart of it, its the social aspect of food that keeps drawing me in and I like to have fun when I’m social. Seriously, why else bother?
So, a beautifully designed dining room in Melbourne’s CBD, that unashamedly bucks the no bookings trend by being the first ticketed venture in Australia and looks for whimsy and fun when finding the inspiration for the monthly changing menus, almost feels like it was created for me. Thanks Jason, Philippa and Ruth. Much appreciated.
The inimitable Jason M Jones (one of Melbourne’s most well known café entrepreneurs) floated the idea after seeing the success of the format in the States at places such as Chicago’s Next. The idea of not having to look at the menu, just getting what you are given, appeals to me. The kitchen can have real focus and aim for perfection whilst minimising wastage. For a chef of Philippa Sibley’s (most recently of Albert St Food and Wine) flair, style and creativity it seems the perfect stage.
The pair are keen to stress that this is definitely not a theatre restaurant, but that does not mean that things aren’t a wee bit theatrical. The copper lined service kitchen is visible to the dining room and is akin to a stage (a prep kitchen out the back handles the less glamourous tasks). Front row seats can be attained by booking the Kitchen Table which seats eight. The dining room also feels theatrical and is a little flashback to the 80s with a soft apricot ceiling, beautiful marble tables and custom made spot lights for each table.
Prix Fixe opened its doors to the public on February 21 and yours truly was literally the first to step inside and sample the debut menu, inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The courses for the set menu were presented in ‘Acts’ and paid homage to the play’s Athenian setting. Sibley calls it, “delicious, but silly”.
As a prelude to the opening Act, an amuse bouche of Sibley’s twist on Avgolemono is served. It’s a silky asparagus soup with a lemon and egg sorbet and I could quite happily have had a second.
Act I – Bacchanalia!
Aegean Inspired Selection of Mad, Midsummer Quips and Retorts
Haloumi with sauce á la Greque, taramasalata, layered ‘tzaitziki’ with ouzo infused labne, pea falafel. Each quip filled the mouth with new flavours, each retort had a new texture. I found it a fun way to start the meal.
“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”
Act II – “Titania”
Chicken, ‘Green Fairies’ & Feta
A slow cooked ballotine of chicken, stuffed with a panzanella salad and served atop skordalia with Green Fairies – artichokes and green olives, barrel aged feta and a rich chicken jus.
“Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful”
Act III – “Bottom”
Truffled Honey, Apricots, Pinenuts, Roses
Truffled honey panacotta, apricot sorbet, partly poached apricot, pinenut and almond baklava, candied rose petal
“We will meet; and there we may rehearse most obscenely and courageously. Take pains; be perfect: adieu.”
The idea and the execution impressed equally during my visit to Prix Fixe. Thought has gone into virtually every little touch from the still warm Rustica bread to the Pepesaya butter, black volcanic salt, custom made tableware and truly exceptional service. I fully intend to return. Jason says that the inspiration for June is a knockout, but I am not sure I can wait that long.
It may not bill itself as fine dining, but I think its a fine way to dine.
A few tips and details you might want to know:
- Lunch $49 pp – 2 courses and a glass of wine
- Dinner $79 pp – 3 courses and a surprise or two
- $8 pp – ‘Free pour’ San Pellegrino mineral water
Tickets in groups of 2, 4, 6 or 8 can be booked online here
A few tables may be kept for walk ins – always worth trying, particularly at lunch time.
Tickets for each month’s inspiration go on sale the first day of the month prior. April’s “The Whole Hog”, celebrating all things pig, is now available.
Prix Fixe is located in Alfred Place at the Paris end of Collins St, Melbourne.