This restaurant is now closed.

There’s a serious cooking pedigree at Australia’s first ticketed restaurant, Prix Fixe. Chef Philippa Sibley has been part of some of Melbourne’s temples of gastronomy over the years including the amazing and very lamented Ondine but moved away from fine dining to more accessible and, at times, hearty food when she established Albert Street Food and Wine in Brunswick.

Prix Fixe (pronounced pree feess) delivers what it says on the label. Both lunch and dinner menus are a set price, purchased in advance and the only thing you need shell out for on the night are drinks and a tip for the wait staff. The restaurant, in Melbourne’s Alfred Place, a small paved laneway between Collins and Little Collins at the eastern end of the city, also encourages walk-ins.

The menu changes on a monthly basis. The Clean Plate Club, with the addition of our pescetarian friend Ms Divine, were present for ‘Ode to autumn’. It was a good test of the restaurant’s flexibility on dishes. Ms Divine doesn’t eat meat and Nuts About Town advised her allergy as well as a request to not have red meat. Greedy Girl and FullAsAGoog were in for the whole hog, as it were.

The standard menu was presented to us all and the wait staff explained what variations would take place for Ms Divine and Nuts About Town. Happily, the first course (accompanied by nice, crusty bread rolls) was something we could all enjoy. The menu descriptions are somewhat economical, so it pays to give your attention to the waiter when the dishes are placed before you. This was vichyssoise, a slightly confronting first dish for Melbourne diners who had reluctantly shimmied out of their heavy coats. Cold soup on a cold night? It was, in fact, delightful – as smooth as it could possibly be and a slightly unusual colour, given it was made from purple potatoes. It also contained some lovely surprises, including a quenelle of cheesy ice cream, chive oil and a purple potato crisp on top.



We then moved to starters. Greedy Girl and FullAsAGoog had the advertised second course, pictured at the top of this blog. It was a hare terrine with a tiny centre of chicken liver,  a pear and ginger chutney, venison carpaccio topped with juniper dust and what the menu described as ‘rooty remoulade’ – a salad of sorts, consisting of parsnip crisps, a parnsip and artichoke remoulade (a thick sauce in the style of a mayonnaise) and homemade ‘bark’, basically a crispbread. This was a dish where the various elements combined brought the plate to life. On its own, the terrine was a bit bland – dipping it into the chutney was a beautiful mouthful. The venison carpaccio was not at all gamey but very subtle. The little ‘salad’ on the side the plate was salty and crispy and a delightful texture. Greedy Girl broke off some of the wafer to share with Miss Divine. It was a nice crunch but nothing spectacular, flavour-wise.

Ms Divine and Nuts About Town had a variation on the dish. Instead of the meat elements, they had grilled haloumi cheese and some roasted peppers. While the cheese was a lovely salty hit, the peppers were a bit of a let down. Ms Divine commented they had a nice charred tinge to them but seemed very bland. She was also concerned they were very cold.

And so to main courses. The ‘plat de resistance’ of this menu is the pithivier of pheasant, pine mushrooms and chestnuts, served up for Greedy Girl and FullAsAGoog. To describe this another way, it was a ‘pheasant wellington’. The ingredients had been contained within a crepe and then encased in what the waiter described as housemade puff pastry. The overall effect was something that quickly felt heavy to eat and was crying out for something lovely and crunchy to give it extra texture. Over the top was poured a reduction of the cooking juices mixed with wine. But the strangest thing about this dish was the lukewarm temperature. While Greedy Girl concedes many sweet versions she’s had over the years have been served cold or at room temperature, on a cool Melbourne night it just felt odd in the mouth to be having a savoury, hearty pie that wasn’t hot.

pithivier of pheasant, pine mushrooms and chestnuts

Pithivier of pheasant, pine mushrooms and chestnuts

Nuts About Town was given a variation of pheasant breast served with seasonal vegetables. She pronounced this perfectly edible but the serving size defeated her.
pheasant breast

Pheasant breast

Ms Divine was given the vegetarian option. This was a selection of seasonal vegetables, including a mushroom, served with a carrot puree and battens of puff pastry. She commented that the vegetables lacked any real flavour, the dish was again on the cold side, and was in need of more sauce to offset the stodginess of the pastry. Indeed she felt the only flavour on the plate came from the puree.
seasonal vegetables

The vegetarian option

And so to dessert. We all had the same dish, with the exception of Nuts About Town who missed out on the macadamia crumble. This was a gingerbread ice-cream with poached quince, pastry shards and the macadamia crumble. The title of the dish is ‘Hansel and Gretel’ based on the fairy tale where the hapless pair left crumbs in the forest to find their way out. Greedy Girl is the first to admit she doesn’t like ice-cream. She tried it and pushed the rest away, although the others at the table enjoyed it, describing it as very smooth. The poached quince pieces were tender and had a lovely flavour but the star of the show was the crumble. Greedy Girl would have been happy just with a bowl of that. She was well and truly over pastry by this point and left the shards on the plate as well.
gingerbread ice-cream with poached quince

Gingerbread ice-cream with poached quince

Being a school night, the girls drinking sauvignon blanc drained their glasses and we prepared to settle up and head off.

The four courses at dinner were A$79 – it’s a relatively inexpensive way of sampling the cuisine and the amount of food is reasonably substantial. The service was personable and we spied the chef herself flitting around the restaurant and chatting to some of the other patrons.

The venue is reasonably comfortable, with pleasant lighting and fun, indie music. It was enjoyable picking out some of the very eclectic tracks we could hear in the background. The tables are quite close together though, so on a busy night the ambient noise would probably drown out the music.

It wasn’t perfect dining by any means. Greedy Girl would scour the advertised menus much more closely to get a combination of dishes she thinks she’d really enjoy before she could be tempted back.

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