131 Smith St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
03 9419 5101
I caught up with Damo at Huxtable on a Wednesday evening last year. He’d just broken up with his partner of over a year and I wanted to touch base with him to make sure everything’s okay. Half of me wanted to not bring my camera, cos my photo-taking obsession tends to get in the way of conversation. But Damo kindly told me he didn’t think that my photo antics interrupted things that much at all. Hence, this post was made possible.
There is one situation where I wouldn’t bring my camera and blog though, and that’s during first dates. Big no no… ha ha!! These days I’m starting to think I shouldn’t tell everyone that I blog, especially dates. What does the general public think of food bloggers? Are we weird?
Anyway, what I really liked about Huxtable was its relaxed, friendly vibe and the bustling open kitchen. Sure, the place feels a little posh on entering, but the atmosphere quickly establishes itself as informal and convivial
Once Damo and I were seated, the waitress asked if we’d prefer mineral or tap water. I think that speaks a fair bit about what they’re aiming at here. These days, we’re getting more and more places that would only offer mineral or sparkling water, making you feel a little cheapo and shameless when you meekly request for “tap”. It’s good that Huxtable hasn’t gone along that pathway.
I may be wrong, but I think Huxtable was one of the first few restaurants that got started with the share plate concept in Melbourne. What are your thoughts about share plate venues? Like it or hate it? I’m personally not that big a fan of it, wrote a paragraph detailing why inside my post on Añada. But Huxtable seemed to have borrowed some concepts from Spanish tapas places, so the menu did make some sense here.
Either way, Damo and I didn’t even have to comprehend the menu We simply went with the set menu, priced at $50 per person. I think the meal works out cheaper if you go with that option, but I’ll still list out the dish price (where applicable) if you were to order it individually.
tom yum school prawns $13
tempura eggplant prawn fritter, shiso $5.5ea
The meal started off awkwardly when the school prawns and the tempura prawn fritters arrived almost simultaneously. Yes, the school prawns (eaten whole) were amazingly delicious to both of us. However, Damo is allergic to prawns and crabs, and we hadn’t been asked earlier if we had any dietary requirements. Because we were seated at the bar, one of the chefs quickly noticed our quandary. With a humble apology, she gave us the tofu dish as an extra replacement dish. And I got to keep the yummy school prawns all to myself!
The eggplant prawn fritters had a really nice bite to it, and it reminded us of yum cha style dumplings. I also liked the tofu replacement dish, it had a nice, flavourful punch of black beans on top. Damo, however, was pretty ‘meh’ about it.
I’m loving bar seats more and more these days. They’re prime seating real estate to me… where you have a higher vantage point and can watch all the action happen. And lighting’s normally brighter there too. I loved watching the almighty bustle in the open bar kitchen. It’s a miracle the chefs don’t collide into each other. They were really cooking and coordinating dishes in full drive that night. Makes me realise how difficult it is working inside a kitchen with hungry diners outside.
olive crumbed basil mozzarella, smoked tomato $4.5
jalapeno and cheddar croquette 3.5ea
crisp filo log of lamb puttanesca, lemon yoghurt 5.5ea
This next wave of food didn’t resonate that nicely with us. We were both quite unexcited about the olive crumbed mozzarella, I suspect the olives made it taste way too salty both inside and out. The croquettes were more enjoyable, especially with the dusting of jalapenos on its outsides. But at that point, I think we were also starting to get bored with so many deep fried offerings. The filo log of lamb had a really fork-tender, flavoursome meat going for it. But we somehow still weren’t that keen about it, the dish felt heavy, the crisp noodle-y outsides felt unnecessary, and something was just missing.
There was a comfortable interlude between the earlier small bites and the bigger courses that were to come next. Dusk settles across Fitzroy’s streetscape outside, and it gave Damo and I time to catch up over things. That’s the good thing about these set menus, it’s stretches your evening and you can enjoy your meal over a few hours. You also don’t have to worry whether you’ve ordered right, or if you’ve ordered enough.
I think the ceviche of scallops, octopus and snapper, chilli, lime $21 was hands down the best dish of the night. Because it’s served raw, the ingredients had to be really fresh, and they were. The lime and chilli dressing made it so refreshing and easy to want more and more.
By this point, we were starting to feel quite stuffed. The john dory, szechuan eggplant, enoki mushrooms, garlic chips $24 held obvious Asian influences. The dory was on the salty side, and the eggplants had a fair amount of Chinese vinegar in it. Quite nice on our first few bites, but it got a little overpowering as we continued. Yes, this dish has an Asian fusion thing going on, but I personally think they’ve gone on the wrong pathway here somehow. Again, I think something’s missing.
Our final dish should’ve been served earlier on when we were not full. The roasted duck breast, quinoa, hazelnut, pickled cherries, goats cheese $27 came blushing pink and wonderfully flavoursome! We also loved the beautifully roasted quinoa salad it sat on. Very yummy… it was delightful having crunchy quinoa with bursts of cherries, feta and hazelnuts with every bite.
Huxtable's set menu had a few hits but also quite a few misses. Seeing how very filling it was, next time, I'll probably go a la carte and order the dishes I know I will like, ie. less deep fried stuff. I was also surprised that the set menu did not include a dessert at the end, it means that you have to order dessert on top of it. Unfortunately, we were way way too full by then to share even one dessert.
I did pop in for desserts at Huxtable two days ago! This time we got seats outside…<
The rhubarb jam doughnuts, orange blossom custard, yoghurt sorbet $15 looks good, but my companion and I weren’t particularly excited about it. We liked the ice cream and fudge sandwich $12 though… it was sweet, simple and the shortbread-like biscuit gave it that extra yummy touch.
I think the highlight of this restaurant, and the main pull-back factor for us here, would be its friendly staff. The food may not have really hit the mark for us this time, but somehow, the feel of the place makes you want to come back. When I walked by two days ago, I wanted to walk in, that’s why the impulse dessert visit. Weird… I think it’s the vibe… it’s very ‘now’… so inviting… and just sooo Melbourne…!