I’ve been watching the progress of Huxtable with interest, and when it opened a few weeks ago the views to the inside through the full window frontage enticed me enough to try it out on Sunday night.

Huxtable have been very smart in converting the double room into several distinct yet seamless spaces – high stools and tables by the windows framing the passing parade on Smith Street, comfortable carpeted booths for cosy conversations along one wall, cafe-style 4×4 tables in the middle. Finally, a rectangular bar for solo diners and those wanting to watch the preparations and chat to the chef – built with alternating gapped brick layers so there are handy hidey-holes to rest your feet into (good for shorties like me who often find their feet dangling off bar stools like a 7 year old). Oh, and hooks under the bar for your bags – good attention to detail.

Now to the menu – everything at Huxtable is made for sharing. It’s not quite tapas because a lot of the menu consists of larger plates – but note that not having entree-main-dessert can add up to a surprisingly large bill.

To start we had jalapeno and cheddar croquettes ($3.50 each), pleasant balls of potato and cheese with a kick of chilli and deep-fried. In terms of fried food I preferred the tempura eggplant prawn fritter with shiso ($5.50 each) – soft nuggets encased in a light shell, reminiscent of a serving of soft-shelled crab. The other item of ‘bites’ the waitress recommended was the tom yam school prawns ($12) which I’d like to try next time with people who weren’t as adverse to eating whole prawns, shell and all.

The larger sized dishes are divided into sea, land and earth. We shared Korean BBQ pork ribs with spicy slaw (though not really all that spicy, more like a Thousand Island dressing) and chilli gherkin (again, not hint of chilli).  A nicely balanced dish combining the savoury sticky ribs, the sweet dressing of the salad and the sour crunch of the gherkin ($19 for 3, we got 4 for $25.50).

Next up a lovely moist roasted duck breast, again with the balance of sourness and crunch from the soy braised daikon and a dab of sour plum on each fillet. For three pieces it’s $22 and we got four for $30.50.

From earth, a plate of crumbly lebanese cauliflower encircling some harissa yoghurt (again, no heat) and sprinkled with pistachio dukkah ($12). Some of the table liked the unexpected dissolving crunch of cauliflower, while others thought the vegetable had been overcooked and charred to the ashen texture.

A definite winner was the roasted pumpkin baked ricotta, mint and pomegranate molasses ($12) – I’ve discovered a new way to roast my pumpkin!

Even though we’d managed to try a lot of dishes, we still had room for dessert – an ice-cream and fudge sandwich consisting of shortbread wheels welded together by a doughnut of raspberry ice-cream and rich chocolate fudge ($10). A simple yet effective dish harking back to childhood desserts.

Another childhood favourite, banana fritters with coconut sorbet and a rum caramel ($12). The bananas seem to have been fried to a nice goo inside their casings, and the sorbet was declared delicious. The only tiny quibble was that the poppy and sesame seed wafer was a bit soft and did not deliver a satisfying crunch to combat the remaining soft and sticky textures.

On a more sophisticated note, I shared a strawberry and marscapone cheesecake with a pistachio cream ($14). I liked the presentation, the carefully stacked strawberries resting atop a cake trailing cheesecake base crumbs, with an elegant pool of cream on the side. While not a giant slab of cake, its richness makes me think it’s best shared with two people.

At the end of the night we concluded that Huxtable is a worthy addition to the Fitzroy/Collingwood dining scene – on a Sunday night it was pretty much filled with young couples and groups of friends gathering for a drink and a chat. It’s a place to relax yet cool enough to bring people and offers some unusual tastes in its menu to keep you excited.

To read more about Huxtable, check out “…it pleases us” and I’m so hungreeeeee. For more nibbly food in the vicinity, try Peko Peko and Anada.

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