It was the promise of bone marrow that brought us to Fix St James. Monday was my birthday and I don't tend to make a fuss with celebrations, content with the idea of a quiet and laidback dinner for two. We'd had pre-dinner drinks and I'd led the way to the restaurant but I only knew something was up when Suze stood back at the entrance and said "you should go straight ahead".
SURPRISE! All my favourite food blogging friends had been secretly assembled by Suze. Ack! I'd had no inkling of this deviousness. This is the second time I've had a surprise party thrown for me. That crazy wave of shock and confusion soon swells into a Hallmark-style heartwarming glow, even as your nearest and dearest revel in your blinking disorientation.
Fix St James new front bar area
It's been four years since my last visit to Fix St James, and I've been keen to check out its recent renovation by owner and sommlier, Stuart Knox. The front part of the dining room has now been converted into a wine bar area, offering all day snacks and nibbles, with flexible seating to suit couples, groups and solo diners. I always forget how close it is too, nestled one skinny block east of Westfield Sydney on Elizabeth Street.
School prawns with chilli salt and aoili $16
Brooke is our friendly server tonight, and it's not until after we place our orders -- seven orders of bone marrow please! -- that word gets back from the kitchen that they don't have enough bone marrow. Noooo...... They only have five serves available but offer three complimentary orders of school prawns in consolation. It's an unnecessarily generous gesture and one that's appreciated.
Can't talk. Eating.
The school prawns are thrown straight into the deep fryer before being tossed through with chilli salt. We devour them shell and all, crunching everything down from their heads to their tails. A squeeze of lemon juice adds a refreshing zing; a dip in the accompanying garlic aioli makes them even better.
Pork, duck and pistachio terrine with spiced apple $20
There are a smattering of non-bone marrow entrees around the table, including a cast iron pot of sizzling tiger prawns with garlic and a wedge of pork, duck and pistachio terrine. The pork, duck and pistachio terrine is particularly tasty, hefty in size and meatiness without the pastiness you sometimes get from a stodgy terrine. This one is firm and compact, with chunks of meat and a welcome crunch from embedded pistachios. The only drawback is the toast which is a little on the dry side.
Sizzling tiger prawns with garlic and white wine $25
'Ode to Fergus' - bone marrow, parsley and duck fat croutons $15
And then the bone marrow arrives. A whole army of roasted bones are laid down the middle of the table, each trough impaled with a spoon. The 'Ode to Fergus' is Knox's tribute to Chef Fergus Henderson's signature dish.
Bone marrow goodness
The bone marrow has been roasted to a perfect quivering plumpness, and we scoop out the fatty lushness with determined glee. In Fergus Henderson's original dish, slices of toast are served on the side, but Knox amps this up considerably with duck fat croutons.
The croutons look like Jenga-stye potato chips but they have the texture of super crunchy garlic bread, except in this case replace the drenching of butter with the decadence of duck fat. Oh yeah, if you're going to go out with a bang this could well be the way to go.
Coorong skirt steak tagliata $34
Coorong skirt steak tagliata is a tumble of steak slices hidden beneath a pile of rocket and parmesan shavings. It's interesting to note, too, that four years ago this was served with Cape Grim scotch fillet for $35. Now it's Coorong skirt steak and priced a dollar cheaper - an astute move that makes good use of secondary cuts to keep price points down.
Blue swimmer crab risotto $32
Other mains include blue swimmer crab risotto, plump grains of aromatic rice served with sweet clumps of blue swimmer crab, and a hearty confit duck leg served with alcohol-soaked prunes.
Confit duck leg with boozy prunes and new season carrots $32
Greenstone steak sirloin with Cafe de Paris butter $42
I snaffle a hunk of the Greenstone steak sirloin from Suze, cooked medium rare as requested, and crowned with a molten slab of mustard and herb Cafe de Paris butter.
Market fish of the day: flounder
The fish of the day is also impressive, a whole flounder cooked with lemon juice, garlic and butter to a fork-flaking succulency.
Beef tartare with egg yolk and chips $32
I go with the beef tartare, seasoned just how I like it with a generous amount of capers. It's not overly salty or sweet but balanced in piquancy, and the meat is meltingly soft and tender. It's one of the best beef tartares I've had the pleasure of eating in quite some time.
Duck fat roasted potatoes $9
We order the duck fat roasted potatoes too but I prefer the chips that come with my beef tartare, fluffier and crunchier than the duck fat potatoes that are a little on the heavy and stodgy side.
Creme caramel $12
Desserts are simple but elegant. The creme caramel is as silky as you could hope for, the smooth custard resting on a slick of golden caramel sauce.
Dark chocolate mousse with muscat blood orange $14
The dark chocolate mousse packs a fair amount of intensity too, yet maintains a light texture that confuses the tastebuds.
Birthday cake! Vanilla chiffon cake with cream and fresh fruit
And then there was cake! Suze had asked what my favourite cake was and dutifully granted my wish. I love a classic sponge cake with cream and fresh fruit - Suze upped this by baking a chiffon that was ridiculously fluffy. After blowing out the candles, the cake was whisked away for slicing before I got a chance to take a photo of the entire ensemble but rest assured it was a double storey vision of heaven. I was in such raptures of bliss that I didn't just eat my slice; I had two.
Thanks Suze for being such an wonderful friend, for organising a surprise dinner and making my favourite cake in the whole wiiiiiiiiiiide world. Thanks to these awesome folk for keeping a secret and thank you everyone for my birthday wishes so far! You're all too kind!
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Fix St James
111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9232 2767
Monday to Friday 12pm - 3pm
Monday to Thursday 5.30pm - 9pm
Friday 5.30pm - 10pm
Saturday 6pm - 9pm
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Fix St James, Sydney (Sep 09)
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11/21/2013 01:24:00 a.m.