30 July 2012

Fix St James: Wine Bar & Restaurant, CBD Sydney (6, 27 July 2012)

111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Steaking out a protein fix

A casual catchup with Tony Hollingsworth brings me back to Fix St James who first recommended the restaurant to me for their steaks. We start with some Sydney Rock Oysters ($4 each) from Port Stephens which were freshly shucked with a decent amount of brine as hoped. I would have loved a bit of champagne vinaigrette for the price though. We're tempted by the Greenstone Chateaubriand with Wild Mushrooms ($80) for our protein fix which was very tender with good flavour although sets you back a pretty penny. Can be shared between two but a hungry person could probably finish it by themselves and feel fully satisfied. It matched very well with a glass of Ulithorne 'Frux Frugis' Shiraz, McLaren Vale SA 2005 ($23). It was a very expensive drop but very good with minimal tannin and good flavour. A side of Hand cut chips ($9) were nicely cooked with a crisp outer and soft centre and helped make the steak dish a meal. Feeling quite full we stretched the budget to enjoy a Choc Nut Truffle ($2.50 each) with rich tasting quality chocolate although I've never been a fan of the dusted chocolate on truffles for some reason. The excellent thin pastry of the Chocolate Tart with Star Anise Ice Cream ($15) reminded me of the one I had at Bird Fish Cow. I was expecting a similar rich chocolate filling but it was more a light chocolate mousse filling. The ice cream was very good though.

PROS: Friendly and efficient service, Quality ingredients, Nice wines, Buzzing atmosphere
CONS: Can get very expensive depending on what you order
MUST TRY: Greenstone Chateaubriand with Wild Mushroom
VERDICT: A good place for those looking for a business lunch with decent steak and quality wine
Ulithorne 'Frux Frugis' Shiraz, McLaren Vale SA 2005 ($23 glass) 

Bread (complimentary)

Sydney Rock Oysters ($4 each)

Greenstone Chateaubriand with Wild Mushrooms ($80)

Hand cut chips ($9)

Choc Nut Truffle ($2.50 each)

Chocolate Tart with Star Anise Ice Cream ($15)

Wines by the glass


Dessert and cheese menu

Bill $179 for two

Revisit (27 July 2012)

A casual catchup with friends brings me back to Fix St James keen to order their Coorong Angus Skirt Steak Tagliata ($33) again which I enjoyed for the first time back in November 2011. This time there seemed to be a more substantial amount of steak underneath which I could hardly finish but it was pretty tender as hoped. The fresh rocket on top is a good match with the dish and the crispier potatoes are cooked more to my liking this time around. A glass of Abbotts & Delaunay, Cotes du Roussillon, France, 2010 ($12) matched well on the palate. Sydney Rock Oysters ($48 dozen) came at a premium price but are always enjoyable although were unfortunately missing much of their prized brine I was hoping for compared to last time. A complimentary Smoked Eel & Pyengana Twice Baked Soufflé ($22) had nice creamy flavours with noticeable smokiness from the eel giving it an extra depth of flavour. I enjoyed sitting at the front of the restaurant which seems to have more cosy atmosphere compared to at the back raised dining area. Service was friendly and efficient yet again.

Abbotts & Delaunay, Cotes du Roussillon, France, 2010 ($12)
Sydney Rock Oysters ($48 dozen)

Smoked Eel & Pyengana Twice Baked Soufflé ($22)

Coorong Angus Skirt Steak Tagliata ($33)

Bill $176 for three

Winter warmer special: main course, glass of wine and coffee for $35

View Larger Map
Fix St. James on Urbanspoon

27 July 2012

The Baxter Inn: Whisky & Wine Bar, CBD Sydney (26 July 2012)

Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000

A whisky lovers paradise

“Absolutely no bookings, no doorlist, no functions — everyone is welcome.”

The Baxter Inn has been on my wish list since it opened after hearing many good things about the place. The first challenge when visiting was working out where it actually was. Make sure you take good note of the address or you'll question where it is and start asking the hairdresser next door for directions as I did. Walk down through the arched laneway, turn right at the end, then head to the far right corner where you'll find a doorway that leads down a flight of stairs and head through the unmarked door past the empty kegs. I think this might be Sydney's answer to Melbourne's The Croft Institute in terms of being very well-hidden from unsuspecting pedestrian traffic although when busy I've heard long queues form which would expose the hidden entrance. My Pencillian cocktail ($17) of Scotch Whisky, lemon, honey and ginger served in a sours glass is quite strong with a decent taste of whisky. The flavours worked quite well together although I was more of a fan of my friend's Old Cuban cocktail ($17) made with rum, mint, sparkling wine and lime served in a coupette glass. It had a nice balance of flavours and was very enjoyable to drink with a refreshing twist on the palate. There's a fair amount of seating in the bar but best to arrive early to grab a table and enjoy the quirky memorabilia and soft mood lighting.

PROS: Interesting decor and cosy atmosphere, Service seemed friendly and accommodating, Whisky lovers paradise
CONS: The website looks like it's more for a funeral parlour than a welcoming bar, Apparently gets very popular with long lines outside so arrive early, I didn't really notice a bar menu
MUST TRY: Old Cuban cocktail, Revisiting to try other cocktails
VERDICT: A very cosy and interesting bar that you could easily settle in for the night and enjoy their range of whisky and wines
Find the laneway

Look out for the red roped area — although when busy you'll probably see a very long line queued outside

Laneway sky views
Head down the stairs and open the unmarked door

Impressive whisky display — apparently the white bucket is for the tips

Drinks menu

Cocktail menu

Complimentary pretzels

Pencillian cocktail: Scotch Whisky, lemon, honey, ginger ($17)

Old Cuban cocktail: Rum, mint, sparkling wine, lime ($17)

Scotch with fresh green apple juice ($7.50)

Fair amount of table seating

Sitting at the bar is a great spot to admire all the bottles of whisky on show

Private reserve display cabinet

Nice candle and feature lighting

Toilet sink located behind the toilet so a little awkward to access

Heading back out through the laneway to the real world

View Larger Map
The Baxter Inn on Urbanspoon

Simon Food Favourites Map

View Simon Food Favourites in a larger map Key: BLUE - Location visit and review PINK - Simon Favourites and places offering something special

Small Bars in Sydney map

View Small Bars in Sydney in a larger map