2 Ash St Sydney, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Mon-Wed 5pm-late; Thu-Fri 3pm-late|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9114 7372|
I don't think I've ever sat down in a more narcoleptically comfortable room than Little Felix, Merivale's latest value-add to the Ivy precinct. The banquettes, the couches, the cushions, oh my. There's also a high amount of cheese and low level of light, which combine to create the kind of place where you might fashion your coat into a pillow and lie down for a kip.
The small bar sits next to older French bistro brother, Felix, occupying the site formerly home to Christopher Hanna hairdressing. It's the first in a new line of venues Justin Hemmes has planned for the ground level of Ivy and Ash Street – venues the Merivale chief hopes will keep the inner-city bubbling after sundown and create a neighbourhood of around-the-clock hospitality.
Soft jazz radiates through an emerald green room framed by plush banquettes and tiny lamps. I'm told 1920s Paris was the design brief, but there's nothing inherently French with a capital "F" about Felix junior. There is a smack of Jumanji, however, thanks to jungle-print textiles and a lion's head above the door to the loos.
On a weeknight visit the bar is mostly full of couples smelling of Aesop and six-o'clock swillers well versed in the art of "just one more". I don't think anyone leaves in the two hours I'm there. Did I mention this a comfortable place?
There's nothing you could classify as a main course on the carte, but there is enough bread, cheese and charcuterie to see three or four friends to the end of a 2015 William Fevre Chablis magnum ($235).
I say magnum because there are only 17 bottles on the list and they're all magnums, albeit also available by the glass or carafe. It's a nifty hook, and there's a very handsome fridge showcasing the big guys next to the bar. But magnums are notorious for running out of stock (the interesting ones, at least). I'm curious to see how long the one-and-a-half litre wine dream survives.
In any case, the baller 70-page wine list from Felix can be summoned if you're chasing champagne with greater complexity than NV Veuve Clicquot ($27/$160/$330).
I imagine beaujolais would be best mates with a perfectly fine terrine ($16) that tastes of its parts – pork, chicken and jewels of pistachio – although it could be served closer to room temperature to soften the fats.
A balanced steak tartare ($12), is conveniently spooned across four fingers of toast while truffled raclette tartine ($19) takes comfort snacking to giddy new heights; Sonoma sourdough graced with toe-curling truffle butter, cheese and mustard bechamel, a melting of raclette and fresh Tassie truffle. Mon Dieu!
Curd nerds are serviced with Epoisse, Toggenburger, Brillat-Savarin, Tete de Moine, Mothais sur feuille and other milky wonders from France and Switzerland. Forty dollars buys you a selection of five sans any quince paste or muscatel faff. Do it.
Merivale group bar manager Sam Egerton has crafted a cocktail list inspired by Hemingway-era classics. A Paris Meridian ($23) riffs on the French 75's combination of gin, champagne and lemon by using Beefeater, Chandon blanc de blancs and Farigoule de Forcalquier, an aromatic thyme liqueur from Provence. It's immensely quaffable and totally works with washed-rind cheese, much like a textbook Hanky Panky ($21.50) or Martell Cordon Bleu cognac ($31).
Little Felix is a solid addition to Ivy's laneways and perfect if you're keen to read a book by lamplight or quietly catch up with mates. Essentially, it's for anyone who doesn't want to be bothered by the world outside.
Hemmes just needs to throw some blankets down for guests inclined to curl up for the night. Now that really would be around-the-clock hospitality.
If you only eat one thing: Truffled raclette tartine ($19).
If you only drink one thing: Paris Meridian ($23).