Prix Fixe is Philippa Sibley’s joint venture with restaurateur Jason M Jones. The concept is simple; ticketed dining where you book a table for a night and devour what the kitchen brings out. It is available as a 4 course dinner experience ($79) or a 3-course lunch ($49). Prix Fixe had blown a lot of air recently through social media channels with claims that they “created a magical dining room” and a “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” inspired menu, and naturally the hint of a Shakespearean dining adventure ensured we had booked tickets to the opening night well in advance.
As we came across the discrete New-York fashioned door, the anticipation for what would happen next was incredible. Entering, we could see Sibley and her cohort of chefs rushing around just across the open-view kitchen. We were quickly directed to a table in the far corner of the dining area by the attentive and professional team.
Whilst the exterior of Prix Fixe looked polished with the gold plaque, the interior was reminiscent of a 70s soap opera dining room set. Large curtains hung from the industrial ceiling which served as partitions between the diners and the back of house, dim orange lights hung over each table and a large creamy-brown booth seat stretched underneath a gold paneled wall. The room buzzed with loud conversation – to the point of having to lean over the table and ask my dining partner several times to repeat themselves and compete with the adjacent table to maintain conversation.
We ended up not opting for the matched wines, opting to order a couple of cocktails to begin with instead. The cocktails were beautiful to look upon, with delicate touches of herbs livening up what were otherwise the expected basic flavour profiles.
The first dish to tantalise our taste-buds was a delicate and beautiful Avgolemono – asparagus soup with egg sorbet & herbs. The egg sorbet’s creaminess complemented the subtle cooling tones of the asparagus perfectly with the hints of herbs adding playful touches of added delight. This was a lovely send-off for the journey ahead and definitely a highlight dish for the evening.
Somewhere before Act I took the stage, a freshly-baked crescent of bread was placed on our table (quite literally ‘on the table’ with no plate) which we gladly took to with generous lashings of butter as soon as it cooled enough to eat. Who doesn’t love fresh bread, right?
Act I – “Bacchanalia!” was a triumph of form: a seemingly disparate selection of varied flavours and textures that flowed together with subtlety and surprise. The light, crisp pea felafel was a standout, as was the silky taramasalata studded with roe. Hints of anise, smoke and saffron came together to make Act I an enlightening and highly enjoyable dish. It was, however, the high water mark for the evening.
Act II – “Titania” emerged in the form of a chicken ballotine; a technically impressive dish of chicken rolled around lively hints of lemon and thyme. The questionable analogy Joe drew for this dish was that it was kind like listening to progressive metal – yes, it’s a difficult dish to pull off, requiring a wealth of expertise and technical ability but it’s a victim of style over substance which didn’t rise to the heights of flavour we saw in the previous act. The pomme puree that came with it? A delightful little boat of fluffy goodness with intriguing depth.
Ok, so here’s the deciding factor in why our Prix Fixe experience was a letdown. I will preface this by saying that we didn’t complain to staff on the night, probably because after sitting there for three hours we really just wanted to be on our way home.
Rach has a nut allergy. As a regular food adventurer, it’s really tough to balance the desire to not be annoying with the desire to not die a horrible death from asphyxiation while vomiting on a crowded dining room floor. On any given day, we’re more than happy to not ask for special treatment if it’s not something a restaurant is comfortable doing, but knowing ahead of time what to look out for is kind of imperative.
This is why we emailed Prix Fixe about a week in advance to ask if we should be wary of any menu items. We got a prompt and confident response back that there shouldn’t be anything to worry about but that we should mention it on the night. It’s also why we called up hours beforehand just to check again. It’s also why we politely mentioned it to one of the servers as they brought the first course out.
With all of those things considered, is it not fair to be incredibly disappointed when dessert was plonked in front of us consisting of baklava made with big chunks of almonds? It’s not like the almond was a peripheral ingredient. It was clearly visible from a distance but still seemed to have been missed by Prix Fixe every time we enquired about it beforehand. People can die from this sort of thing. Had we have faithfully listened to all of the assurances given to us beforehand; our evening would have ended up in the emergency room. It’s hard to understand how this can happen in the dining room of people who clearly have so much experience, ability and emotion invested in it.
We honestly hate writing negative reviews, which is why we tried to keep this one as balanced and as fair as possible. That being said, Prix Fixe has engaged in a highly-visible campaign for attention in the lead up to opening night and we well and truly bought into it. Maybe we just didn’t “get it” but we expected more considering what was promised.