What happens when a Press Club and St Crispin chef decides to open his own solo eatery? Saxe. Saxe is what happens.
This is the brainchild of Joe Grbac (who cut his teeth under George Calombaris), and it’s a two-pronged CBD dining attack. Downstairs you’ve got casual cocktails and bar snacks. Upstairs it’s contemporary a la carte dining at its finest, getting back to old-school three-course evenings—the kind where you damn well didn’t share your plate just because someone else got food envy.
There’s something delightfully un-styled about Saxe’s styling, too. A long, blue velvet bench seat is the only real textural flourish, the rest is built from no-fuss timber, stained dark on the tables and chairs, glowing spherical pendants, leather bar-stools and rendered bricks. Refined and understated, but never boring.
The menu leans towards France, but it’s a far cry from steak and pomme frites. Think fermented white asparagus, parmesan custard and white miso gazpacho for entrée, or a confit duck breast and leg with black pud, eggplant and caramelized blood orange. There are surprises everywhere. The chicken borrows more from Shanghai than Paris, paired with shiitake mushroom, golden broth, egg yolk and a cracking 38 chinkiang glaze.
You’ll be umming and ahhing over this menu for a while. Might be best to just sign up for Grbac’s 5 or 7-course tasting menus and save your waiter the trouble. It’s all delicious stuff.
The wine list is one of the best we’ve seen, handpicked by Catalan sommelier Marc Esteve Matteau (ex The Royal Mail & The Press Club). There's 100+ bottles on the cards, and you can get some excellent vino by the glass (our pick is the Terre à Terre Sauvignon Blanc from Wrattonbully). The mix is mostly local-grown stuff, plus a few well travelled vintages from Spain, Oregon and Puglia.
Personally though? We recommend hitting pause on the vino and ordering up two of the Feel Good Inc: a zinger cocktail kicker, made from vodka, Yuzu, lemongrass, ginger, jasmine and black pepper. It’ll clear your sinuses and your palate at the same time.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White