In Food + Drink

The Tiny Sydney Bar Transporting Patrons To 1920s Paris

Merivale venues are known for their well-researched and well-executed concepts, and the latest from the Sydney hospitality powerhouse is no exception.

Stepping into dimly-lit Little Felix, which opened in Sydney CBD laneway Ash Street in August, is like walking into a Parisian saloon in the 1920s – an era when women wore flapper dresses and pearls and men carried canes. Justin and Bettina Hemmes, leading design firm ACME and stylist Amanda Talbot are behind the interiors.

“We were really inspired by the concept of the ‘third place’,” says venue manager Joseph Stephens. “After the home, the first place, and work, the second place, we need these third places where we can relax in a social setting and meet new people or become more familiar with the ones we already know.”

The reasoning behind the succinct menu

The food menu by head chef Nathan Johnson of next-door venue Felix is short. Hors d’oeuvres and open-faced sandwiches sit alongside charcuteries and cheeses, including a brilliant truffle brie. Drink options are limited too – deliberately so.

“Our menu approach was to modify classic cocktails from the early 20th Century Paris using pre-existing products we felt wouldn’t be out of place on the Ritz backbar circa 1920,” says Stephens.

“We feel a focused list of drinks – that we’ve really dialled-in – is the best way to showcase this. Also, I think a succinct lint allows guests to quickly find a tasty drink and then get back to enjoying their evening with each other.”

Little Felix’s wine list was curated by sommeliers MS Franck Moreau and Jean-Charles Mahe, and sees wines served out of magnum bottles.

Three cocktails to try

Three cocktails Stephens recommends trying? The Raconteur, Le Ricain and Some Assemblage Required.

A runway favourite at Little Felix, Raconteur is an herbal twist on a gin martini with yellow Chartreuse (a French liqueur). “We wanted to up the quantity of gin, to bring it in line with modern palates – we like our drinks much drier – so we included a blend of Plymouth and Monkey 47 gins which bring different botanicals to the table,” he says.

little felix

Le Ricain has three different versions. Its house style plays with apple and chestnut liquer Le Birlou, added in small amounts to give the drink a new accent. The result is a hint of homemade apple pie. “It’s an ideal balance with the cognac and fresh lemon juice,” Stephens says.

Lastly, Some Assemblage Required is a twist on a Boulevardier – a relative of the Negroni – consisting of Bourbon, Vermouth and Campari.

“We introduced some Pineau des Charentes, a fantastic French fortified wine, which added so many complementary flavours. And then we stirred everything down with a couple of coffee beans,” Stephen says.

He calls the drink one of his favourites among the signatures. “A little boozy, a little bitter, a hint of coffee and some great, rich fortified wine flavours make this great to sip on after dinner,” he says.

little felix

What’s next for ivy precinct

Little Felix is the first of four new bars and eateries to open in the ivy precinct this year. A Middle Eastern eatery on George Street, a spin-off of the wildly-popular Totti’s in Bondi and a bar in Palings Lane are set to follow.

(All images: Little Felix / supplied)

Published 27 September, 2019