Monday, 25 July 2011

Restaurant Review: 4143 at James Barnes, Bistro Food, Alexandia

I enjoyed my lunch at 4143 at the James Barnes, A LOT. This has given me a bit of a problem.

Whenever I read gushing reviews of a place where the blogger has been hosted by the restaurant I'm a bit sceptical. Was it really that good? I'd expect you to do the same of me. However, I really want to write a favourable review of 4143. On my cycle ride home from lunch I decided that the best thing to do would be go back and spend my own money there before I wrote the review. Then you'd know I'm prepared to put my money where my mouth is. Which I did this Saturday.

So why do I like the place so much? Firstly, the building is a very cool space, being situated in a renovated part of the old James Barnes mill that used to occupy the site. There is lots of natural light, exposed brick and natural wood on show. Very urban industrial which suits it's surroundings perfectly.

Secondly, and most importantly, I thought the bistro food was very good. All of the flavour combinations went really well together and the dishes seemed to be well thought out. Everything was really well balanced, whether it was the right amount of balsamic dressing with the onion tart or the level of seasoning on the roasted potatoes.

Thirdly, it came across eating the food, and was confirmed when I spoke to the chef, that there is an incredible amount of technique that went into the dishes. The lamb shank has been slow cooked for sixteen hours, de-boned and there is a little surprise waiting inside when you cut it open. The duck breast has been cooked sous vide.

Fourthly, the presentation of the food is fantastic. Take a look at my photos.

The fifth reason I'll offer to you is that the prices are very good. Restaurant price inflation is something I've really noticed recently. It seems to me that it's pretty uncommon to get a main course for much under $30 in a bistro setting like this these days. They do small main courses at $16 which are still a decent size (large mains $28) and sides for $7, desserts $10.

If I like it so much will it be going onto my list of Top Eats? On balance I've decided that as a restaurant it won't because there are a few draw backs to the place. The restaurant is located on its own in the middle of industrial Alexandria. Although it doesn't take that long to get there, it isn't on the way to anywhere and there isn't much around it to check out after lunch.

On both my Saturday lunchtime visits the restaurant has been quiet and lacks some atmosphere because of this. In winter all the glass windows make it a little bit cold and the background music should be tweaked (slightly) so it is more soothing.

Caramelised onion tart with goats curd and balsamic

There is texture form the flaky pastry, soft onions and melting goats curd. A great combination of flavours from the sharp balsamic, sweet onions and slightly sour curd. What is not to like?

Braised lamb shank en crepinette on parsnip puree with muscatel jus

This one was a real favourite. The lamb is very tender and there is a spinach, garlic and parmesan sauce inside the lamb. The parsnip puree and green beans go nicely with the lamb. Hard not to like.

Duck breast on green lentils, spinach and brussel sprouts

This dish didn't change my opinion that duck in Australia is pretty bland. However, the sauce nestling underneath the lentils and wilted spinach is awesome. I asked the chef for the recipe and he wouldn't give it to me! You won't hear me say it very often, but I actually liked the brussel sprouts.

Sides of: Roast baby beets and beans, Buttered brussel sprouts with pancetta 
and Roasted chats, garlic cloves and rosemary

The roasted chat potatoes really distinguished themselves. Their heady smell had us all drooling! The potatoes have been coated in a spice mix of rosemary, garlic, paprika and salt.

Desserts of: Tiramisu and Bread and butter pudding with 
rhubarb and macadamia ice cream

I was a fan of the tangy rhubarb in the bread and butter pudding and I scoffed a whole tiramisu even through the gluttony of all this food!

Chocolate mousse with hazelnut biscotti

The pop rocks on top of the chocolate mousse provided a fun crackle in your mouth. The chocolate mousse itself was rich and intense.

Thank you to Denéa for organising and the friendly crew at 4143 for hosting me (the first time round).

4143 at the James Barnes on Urbanspoon


  1. loving your pics. good write up! :-)

  2. I'd be scoffing that Tiramisu for myself as well!

  3. The food looks amazing. I am slightly *shocked* that you are criticising a restaurant for being in the wrong part of town, though!! Lots of London's uber-trendy places are in totally random places, that shouldn't take away from the food and drink...

  4. @BE - I quibbling over perfection here. I REALLY liked this place.

  5. What do you mean it isn't on the way to anywhere? It's on the way to Bunnings! Well, for me anyway. I really liked the food here and when it warms up you'll probably be seeing me outside tucking into fish 'n chips and beer