Philippa Sibley and Jason Jones’ dining experiment, Prix Fixe, has crossed the three-month mark. Clear of the initial media buzz and novel glow, Melbourne’s first ticketed restaurant has proven it can hold its own, with a growing throng of returning loyalists to its credit.
Prix Fixe’s other unusual draw is its changing menu, which is refreshed monthly according to a new theme.
Head chef Sibley’s June menu is particularly sentimental. Titled Queens of Victoria, it is a loving, “Homage to the people who have most inspired my culinary career”: Stephanie Alexander, Karen Martini, Alla Wolf-Tasker, Tansy Good and the late Mietta O’Donnell.
Each has played a role in shaping Sibley as a chef. She recalls visiting Alexander’s restaurant on her 17th birthday, getting her cookbook signed “With hope for the future” and deciding: This is where I want to go.
It was Good that inspired Sibley to start cooking professionally. Sibley can trace the moment to one specific dish from 25 years ago.
“It was a peach bavarois. Light, full of flavour and delicious, with a beautiful peach jelly on top of the bavarois, and then a perfectly poached peach next to it,” she recalls. “It looked so deceivingly simple, but it’s incredibly complex and technically difficult. You have to have confidence to put up something that looks so simple. No bells, no whistles, no bullshit, just absolutely amazing textures and flavours that are true to the hero of the dish. And I was really blown away by that.”
Sibley applied for a job at Good’s restaurant, nailed it, and it was there she met Martini. Since then they’ve worked together in different restaurants (such as Melbourne Wine Room). As for Wolf-Tasker, Sibley describes her as, “A real kindred spirit, cooking-wise.”
The four-course menu (with a twist on the Negroni for Mietta, her favourite drink), dedicates a dish to each admired chef.
Sibley explains the dishes aren’t intended to recreate anything. “Basically, I’ve cooked for these people,” she says. “It’s an ode. A little nod. Like writing someone a song or a poem, it’s my version of what I think they’d like.”
The Queens of Victoria menu will be available until the end of June. Lunch is two courses with a glass of wine at $49 per person, dinner is four courses at $79 per person. To book a table, click here.