Good decision. We arrived early and found ourselves seated with a sleek, handsome but somewhat silent fellow.
To begin, cocktails (I suspect you could bribe me to do many things with a well-executed amaretto sour) and wonderfully fresh oysters, dressed with a shallot and red wine vinaigrette.
For dinner, The Brix offers a bistro menu or a five course, set option ($80). The bistro menu looked a little limited, and my sister, who's a fan of the strange, unusual and complex, opted for the latter. It is at this point I must warn you: if you detest the sight of exquisitely beautiful food arranged with tweezer-and-scalpel precision, if you abhor dishes which are thoughtful and push past the conventional, and if you simply can't stand tantalising flavours dancing pleasantly on your palate, then STOP reading now.
To start, sourdough and rye, served with a rich butter reminiscent of cheese; sounds odd, but that's what G proposed, and I seconded.
First course: smoked tuna, avruga cavriar and mushrooms. This dish had so many components and it was impossible to know what everything was, and whether to eat the parts or the sum. In an unexpected but brilliant twist, the smoked tuna consisted of a intensely flavoured jelly-like sheet accompanied with crisps of snapper skin. Other ingredients in for the show included seaweeds and puffed wheat.
Second course: scallop with pork, baby radishes and broadbeans. The revelation for me was the fresh broadbeans (so fresh and subtly sweet) and the salty/sweet sauce which was a perfect partner for the scallops.
Third course: venison, onion and clove. This dish was probably the most lively of the set - fronds and tendrils of vegetable leaping from the plate. Key elements included a white clove powder which disappeared before one could grasp its full flavour profile (now there's a pretentious term), the sweet and peppery taste of the white and purple carrots respectively and the frosted ball of a pickled onion. The real champion, however, was the venison - rich, tender and flavoursome. I'm going weak at the knees just thinking about it...
Fourth course: lamb, lettuce and peas. For some inexplicable reason, this dish resonated with an overwhelmingly British vibe for me. (Not that that is ever a bad thing!) The ovine component looked suspiciously like lamb-dressed-in-pork-belly's-clothing, but was definitely ohmygod tender lamb on the tongue. The rather substantial layer of fat which accompanied the lamb tasted quite good piping, meltingly hot, but became too rich for G and I as it cooled. (So I suppose the lesson is to scoff it down quickly...?) The 'dirt' in this dish was a mystery, but its sweet kick and gritty texture proved addictive.
Fifth course (this is a bit of an endurance event!): banana, caramel and rosemary. I know what you're thinking, because I, too had similar thoughts - why is this dessert so ugly? The truth is, two bites in, and superficial appearance is a thing of the past. The foam tasted like a banana-caramel milkshake blessed by the gods, and cubes of chocolate which looked exactly (and confusingly) like bread were an amazing accompaniment.
I'll be honest and say that the set menu is probably not a wise choice if you're after a solid, comforting meal; The Brix is the place to go if you can't quash a hankering for powders, crumbles and edible flowers and a yearning for combinations which shouldn't work but impossibly, do. One other thing, this place might not be the greatest if you don't enjoy eating off slate-like plates; other than that, if you have cash to burn, don't burn it - visit The Brix, pronto.
P.S. - Happy Birthday G!
The Brix Cafe & Bistrot
412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (enter via Westgarth Street)