Hungry Hinch

Felix & Cafe Sydney

Felix Bistro
2 Ash Street, Sydney
02- 9240 3000

Café Sydney
Customs House, Circular Quay, Sydney
02- 9251 8683

In June 2012, I plan to fly to New York, go straight to the Oyster Bar in the bowels of Grand Central station and slowly pick out a few dozen oysters. Maybe, half a dozen Cape Breton from Nova Scotia, definitely Kumamoto from California, some Shigoku from Washington [state that is] and some Cuttyhunk from Massachusetts.

I’m planning so far ahead because I have been forbidden to eat raw oysters [or sushi, or sashimi] since the middle of last year when I had a liver transplant. I’ve been on what they call the Pregnant Woman’s Diet.

What’s this got to do with Café Sydney or Felix Bistro? Well, as a precursor to that NY trip for some Manhattan maritime munchies, I took Mrs. Nosebag to Sydney recently, on doctor’s orders, to see how my new liver would respond to air travel. Worked like a dream.  Big Apple here we come.

And two standout places we ate at were those two. First time at the relatively new Felix Bar & Bistro in one of Sydney’s few Melbourne-style lanes, second dinner date at Café Sydney which has one of the greatest harbour views of any restaurant in the world.

Dinner at Café Sydney, overlooking the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House brought back memories from the 1970s when one of my first ever Hungry Hinch reviews for The Sun newspaper was for The Summit  restaurant atop Centrepoint Tower. I can still remember the owner’s name, Oliver Shaul, because, after my review came out, he complained to the Editor. Didn’t get him very far because Hinch was not only the restaurant reviewer but also the Editor.

The review started out: ‘If nothing else, and there is nothing else, the view is spectacular’. It confirmed my opinion that nearly all restaurants that are perched on the top of skyscrapers, or revolve, serve lousy food. Mainly because they cater for tourists and they only come once.

Two exceptions: Windows on the World, more than 100 storeys up on the late lamented World Trade Center. And Café Sydney.

It’s a great space. A great bar. And if you are lucky enough to score a table on the terrace you face a night of magic. We were lucky to be there a couple of nights before New Year’s Eve. They were practising for the light show and  fireworks display on the Bridge  so we had a preview of the rainbow hologram.

The meal was the pot of gold at the end of it. Just the specials were enough. Forget about the other menu. I had  WA crayfish with baby cos, peas, lemon crème fraiche and Avruga caviar for $27.

Everything was so fresh. So well-presented and great staff. Sugar snaps with squash fetta and lemon vinaigrette. The first night I had a salad of beetroot, goat’s cheese and watercress.

For bigger meals, apart from the big meaty dishes, there was snapper with anchovy butter and asparagus and a Moreton Bay bug croquette.

Apparently it’s becoming a huge place for lunch. One visitor raved on the net: ‘Café Sydney is now my absolute favourite place in the whole wide world. If you never thought you could buy a little happiness, this place will change your mind. This is THE spot to wow international guests (or take your wife so she falls in love with you all over again!). With champagne by the glass, I would come here for lunch everyday if I lived in Sydney’.

Speaking of romance, Felix Bistro is described in the blurb as ‘affectionately designed as a romantic homage to the quintessential French brasserie. Diners are charmed by its many authentic touches; like walls featuring real Parisian subway tiles, imported French chandeliers, a beautiful pewter bar and food delivered by waiters in traditional long-aprons’.

 And all of that is true. It is an elegant bistro with a great bar and a huge space. It’s another tentacle of the Hemmes Ivy empire and Justin Hemmes has done it again. I do believe the Paris underground tiles are real as is the pewter in the bar.

The beautiful young things wearing very little spill out of their dresses and spill into Felix from the pool bar and other BP watering holes in the complex.

Veteran reviewer Terry Durack says Felix is ‘…done with care, faithfulness, detail, a lot of energy and plenty of good food. You've gotta love it’

They have plats du jour which go from suckling pig on a Monday through game night on a Wednesday night and coq au vin on Saturdays. And on a huge menu with fish, lamb pie and duck I liked the fact they even listed a Reuben sandwich with a dill pickle in the Mains. That’s style.

[Brought back memories of the worst Reuben sandwich I have ever eaten. Nairobi Hilton. It always comes up when we play Best/ Worst Foreign Correspondent games.

If you played it in Sydney, Felix Bistro and Café Sydney would be right up there on the Best list.

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