Paul Mathis is one busy man. He’s opened not one, two, but six new venues in 2012, one of which is Henry and the Fox in the law/finance end of Little Collins Street.
Henry and the Fox is all-day eatery catering for the office crowd with weekday breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you need a loosen your tie after work, head there between 4-6pm as there are free canapes to go with your drink and they have a terrace for the warmer months. They don’t open on weekends, a smart move considering that the highrises transform into a ghost town.
I was invited to try their lunch/evening menu by their head chef Michael Fox, the Age Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year in 2011.
The space is an odd shape and a Feng Shui consultant would go nuts – all weird jagged corners and diagonal planes. Nevertheless the all-wood interior and pastel accents gives the restaurant the warm glow of a rustic kitchen and the use of wooden grilles suspended from the ceiling softens any noise that would bounce off all those sharp edges. The large open kitchen that faces the high communal table provides a particularly homely, home-hearth feel to the place and I’d recommend perching yourself somewhere in that vicinity rather than tucked away in the dim nether regions around the side.
The menu reads well, with influences cherry-picked from all over the globe and a variety of serving sizes to suit nibble sharing or huge appetites. Japanese, Italian, British, Spanish and French all go into the melting pot and the most surprising aspect is the price point – almost everything is under $30.
From the entree/tapas/nibbles side of the menu, I dipped into most of the items on offer. Maybe it was cold blustery night from which I’d was hiding but I found the more successful dishes to be those that were warming or heavier in flavour and texture. So my vote went to some perfect booze food in the form of oozey jamon and manchego croquettes ($4 each), an extremely filling (and definitely to be shared) slab of rabbit terrine wrapped in jamon with cubes of rhubarb compote and the most adorable bunny-tail fluffy brioche ($23).
My favourite was the sweet roasted Moreton Bay bug tails with cauliﬂower puree and blackened spiced cauliﬂower, definitely a meal on its own ($24.50).
I was less enamoured of the zucchini ﬂowers with ricotta, peas and mint, which to me evokes a more Spring-like temperature ($4 each) and both of cold fish dishes which were prettily presented but I found rather bland – cured kingﬁsh and confit ocean trout.
The only exception to my warm/heavy preference being some plump seared scallops atop an apple and celeriac remoulade, caper and raisin puree and unnecessary blocks of more sweetness in the form of toasted pumpernickel ($24.50).
From the ‘mains’ side of the menu, which arguably overlaps with some of the larger dishes from the entree column, I loved the my juicy fillet of mulloway and a classic salad of chickpea, red onion and capsicum and some not-so-classic avocado puree ($29.50). It’s not a dish that I would have naturally gravitated to but I’m glad the luck of the draw meant that I got it.
My tastings of the other mains on offer didn’t hit the same high notes – I detected no crispiness in the crispy pork belly sadly ($30.50) and the quinoa accompanying the poached chicken was much too salty, unbalancing the delicate flavours of the meat ($29).
Make sure you make room for dessert as they are a real highlight and the portions are huge for the price ($14-$16). The deconstructed passionfruit cheesecake comes in the form of passionfruit mousse, jelly, granita, yoghurt sorbet and each spoonful delivered a mix of sweet, art, smooth and crunchy. While my dessert was presented in a cute little jar normally it is the size of the huggable bowl of quince, pear and coconut crumble. Call me traditional but the use of broken up macaroons instead of a traditional oat/butter/sugar/nuts crumble mixture didn’t agree with me as it was too chunky and dry.
Pannacottas are normally a ‘lighter’ dessert option but not this one – layers of chocolate pannacotta, strawberry cream and strawberry sorbet will leave you hugging your stomach. The popping candy is an unexpected bit of fun as well!
And if you like doughnuts, the ones at Henry and the Fox are worth raving about. Beautifully light, fried and sugar-dusted morsels with a dark chocolate dipping sauce for extra extravagance.
Henry and the Fox hits the mark mostly with familiar food done in a sophisticated way and presented with care, all at a very reasonable price. As you’d expect from a Paul Mathis operation the execution and service is professional. And you will definitely not leave hungry.
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