90/96 Bourke Road Alexandria, NSW 2015
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-10pm,Sat 8am-10pm,Sun 8am-8pm|
|Features||Wheelchair access, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Bar|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||02 9002 1333|
Vicinity is brand-spanking new, a real looker and so generously proportioned it's more of a consumption compound than a single dining entity. At dusk, seen from the street, it glows. Up close, it has major-league design brief written all over it.
A vast, high-ceiling space has been cunningly divided into zones using design elements - swathes of sheer fabric, a clutch of pendant lights, groups of like chairs - rather than walls. There's a communal-table zone, another of more intimate dining tables, a large bar, a private function room, a lounge area and a generous deck with a sleek gas brazier alight on each table.
We find ourselves gawping for a while, unable to focus on our menus, admiring the way the broad range of textures cohere into a stylish whole.
Also noteworthy is the busyness of the place. It's barely a week old and in an area not exactly brimming with pedestrians but, by 8.30pm, most of the dining seats are occupied. It's not heaving, it's thriving.
Finally, we close our mouths and turn to our menus. The wine list is a more than 100-strong mix of local and imported vintages. The sommelier comes over and helps us with our dithering over a couple of pinot noirs. He's warm and friendly but uses formal wine speak. We select a Pegasus Bay 2010, more on the basis of something in his tone than his talk of texture and length. It turns out to be perfect.
My starter of roasted vine tomatoes with black garlic, sorrel and feta on grilled sourdough is a thing of beauty. The vivid tomatoes - warmed on a grill, still attached to their stem - look ready for a photo shoot, and taste divine.
The only problem is that I have to deconstruct the tableau myself and figure out how to get it all onto the bread and into my mouth. My serviette bears the scars of the exercise. My dining companion's seared chorizo with apple cider and parsley is rich and rustic, the chorizo satisfyingly spicy.
We have no criticisms of our mains - a fillet of barramundi cooked on the kindle grill; prosciutto-wrapped pot-roasted flathead fillets with lemon, star anise, cinnamon, tarragon and chilli - they're more than good, but they're still outshone by the other elements of the meal.
We had considered ordering one of the healthier, sophisticated sides - such as roasted beetroot green lentils, labne and mint; or broccolini with lemon and anchovy breadcrumbs - but chose chips. They arrive in a tiny, shiny copper saucepan, alongside a selection of flavoured salts. The salts are a waste of time because the chips are so good on their own. We could live on them.
It's rare that a dessert manages to defeat us but the knickerbocker glory, recommended by our charming auburn-haired waitress, does it. Rich layers of lemon curd, cream and honeycomb fill a tall glass.
We want to keep eating it, especially the tart lemon curd, but by the halfway point, simply can't. If I eat another mouthful, someone's going to have to call an ambulance.
Vicinity is well pitched. It's handsome and spacious, with professional floor staff. The food is good and well priced, and the whole enterprise sits at a comfortable point between slick fine dining and something more relaxed and casual.
Starters, $9-$19; mains, $20-$36; desserts $12-$15.
Knickerbocker glory; roasted vine tomatoes with black garlic, sorrel and feta on grilled sourdough.