I must admit to assuming that the new Huxtable restaurant on Smith St would win this month’s ‘tell me where to go’ poll and, as I was really keen to eat there anyway, I visited with four friends last month. I’ve held this review until the month ended, so I can now announce that Huxtable won with 77 of the 162 votes (48%). It’s the most votes received so far and the largest winning margin. This is to be expected as it was the only new venue in the list.
My group included two other bloggers and a food industry expert, whose insight into the behind the scenes operations of the restaurant business made for intriguing conversation. We enjoyed an excellent meal with very good service and few things to find fault with considering its newness. It was an impressive introduction and it is somewhere I would like to return to.
We started by working our way through many of the delicious (mostly) bite sized entrees, including the jalapeño and cheddar croquettes (below).
The quail terrine (above).
The tempura eggplant and prawn fritters with shiso (above).
The steamed crab and corn with xo chilli (above).
The olive crumbed anchovy mozzarellas with smoked tomato before (above) and after (below). We each chose three nibbles, and I the three fried things. The eggplant and prawn fritters were my favourite through the olive crumbed mozzarellas are divine.
The wine list (which unfortunately is not on the website) features some excellent choices by the glass, including a sweetish floral French vouvray (chenin blanc) that was well suited to the rich salty entrees. I followed this with an earthy malbec (from Argentina if I remember correctly) that was a fine match with the duck and vegetable dishes.
The roast duck breast with soy braised daikon and sour plum (above).
The pork special with baked apple stuffed with morcilla sausage (above).
The roast Glenloth chicken leg with tarragon, frisée and hazelnuts (above).
The tuna tataki, japanese flavours and tempura crumb (above). The mains are of various sizes. Some, like the duck and the tuna, are modest in size (this is proportional to their price). Everyone liked their choices but the idea of sharing dissolved as we all wanted our own dish.
The lebanese cauliflower with harissa yoghurt and pistachio dukkah.
The slow roasted crushed potatoes and garlic. Both the side dishes were scrumptious and well sized for our group of five.
The interior is an understated mixture of dark muted colours. It features an open kitchen, bar seating and table seating with low 60s style swivel seats. With a long windowed frontage to Smith St, it has little bare wall space and thus few places for artworks or other decorative elements. Designed by Byron George (who also did St Jude’s Cellars), the space is functional and comfortable if not particularly exciting. The bare brick bar reminds me of ugly 60s suburban walls. The ‘retro appeal‘ must be ironic or something…
The strawberry and mascarpone cheesecake.
The banana fritters with coconut sorbet and cuban rum. The sesame seed encrusted wafer of caramel was a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the fritters, sorbet and sauce.
The stilton and quince oatcake oreo (front) and the young coconut marshmallows (rear).
The biggest disappointment of the evening was one dessert – the ice cream and fudge sandwich (above) – chosen by two of our group. The icecream was lovely, but the fudge was too hard to eat without removing it from the centre and overall it was too plain, though the shortbread was good and resisted becoming soggy as the icecream slowly melted. For this dessert to work, it needs to be less frozen and to have something extra to provide another flavour.
I had developed an initial positive impression of Huxtable based on its thorough implementation of social media to market itself prior to opening. As I commented in online marketing for new cafes and restaurants: a Fitzroy case study, this allowed future customers to develop a sense of anticipation about this new business.
Compared to the poor online presence of many existing competitors, Huxtable has its menu (minus wine) on its site, along with Twitter and Facebook accounts and a blog. This marketing expertise may have already paid off, as Huxtable has received more blog reviews than another relatively new restaurant, Jorg, which has been open longer. The first review of Huxtable was published by It pleases us, followed by I’m so hungree, Mel: hot or not and Jess Ho.
The service throughout was helpful and informed but casual and appropriate for the customer mix. Huxtable is a most welcome addition to the rapidly maturing dining precinct on Smith St, which includes Gigibaba and Boire, with Easy Tiger (Thai) and more newcomers soon to open.