Thirteen Duxton Hill
Thirteen Duxton Hill is not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for those who prefer traditional food. Like the year of the rooster that we’ve just entered, Thirteen Duxton Hill is, “proud, confident and perhaps a bit eccentric.” Thirteen Duxton opened in late 2016 it hasn’t taken long for this casually confident restaurant to come into its own. Now I’m Australian so it could be that I have a penchant for this kind of cooking, and the quirky, casual style that permeates a visit to Thirteen Duxton Hill. So far I’ve visited twice, once for brunch and once for dinner. Let’s do brunch first.
Thirteen Duxton Hill for Brunch
The brunch concept is simple, a blackboard reveals the menu of the day (posted to Instagram in case you can’t be bothered moving from your seat). Choices are based on what’s available and what the chef is inspired by. Speaking of the chef, his name is JP Fiechtner, he’s from Melbourne of course. Front of house is Sally Humble, who I have to say brings the whole dining experience together in such a friendly and professional way I wish we could clone her.
Menu choices are relatively limited, it’s a small kitchen and rather than trying to do too much not very well, JP has gone for quality over quantity. On our Sunday visit there were seven menu items that encompassed everything from bircher with fruits and meringue to a Roast Chook. I chose the scrambled eggs on sourdough and Husband went for an eggplant escabeche with a fried egg, on toast.
Scrambled eggs ($15++) might sound pretty boring but these were far from it. Soft and creamy eggs were served on a perfectly crisp piece of sourdough, not one that you had to saw at to cut, and not one that got soggy very quickly. The eggs were topped with burnt cocoa powder (one of JP’s ‘things’) that added a very subtle charred flavouring.
Eggplant escabeche ($16++) had a zingy, vinegary tang and a lovely crunch from the bamboo shoots that were added. Again served on sourdough and topped with eggs, this was the most unusual breakfast combination I’ve had for a while.
For me, no weekend brunch is complete without coffee. After our first one at Thirteen Duxton was a little weak we asked for a stronger version. The lovely barista brought our full strength coffee over, promising she would re-make it if we weren’t happy. Ahhh, what a breath of fresh air 🙂 It was fine, of course, but the gesture was appreciated.
Overall what really made us sit up and take notice though was the service. They seat about 30 to 40 pax, there were probably 25 on our visit, and two staff (plus chefs) were running the entire show. In a relaxed, efficient and friendly way. Why oh why can’t we see more of that here? Anyway, we got to chatting with Sally who suggested we try out dinner, so we booked in for an Australia Day dinner with a group of (non) Australians.
Thirteen Duxton Hill for Dinner
The casual brunch vibe continues into the evening. Thirteen Duxton basically feels like you’ve come around to your friends for dinner (and one of them just happens to be a great cook and the other a great host). We were a group of nine so we had the chef’s menu at $66++ for 6+ courses.
The menu for dinner is handwritten on cards, and includes about 10 or so a la carte options, of which we sampled six plus a dessert. Explanations are sparse and really focus on the key ingredients (I really wish I took a photo of the menu!).
Our first dish was corn in prawn butter with burnt cocoa powder. It seemed like an unusual starter but really was quite a winner. Crispy corn drowned in the prawn butter was the right amount of saltiness and buttery offset with crispiness and freshness from the corn.
The chicken liver parfait was divinely creamy and I literally ate it with a spoon. It was served with nectarines though and, not being a fan of fruit with my savoury, I could have lived without this. What I did love was the beauty of the dish and the candied beetroot on top was a pleasant surprise.
Next up was a yellowfin tuna ceviche with spring onions and blue pea flowers. Again, just gorgeous to look at. And the tuna was indeed divine. Thinly sliced and not chewy, the subtle flavours of sesame and lime complementing the freshness of the fish.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that a few in our group were unhappy about the lack of carbs. The food is all protein heavy, and for me this works great as it’s how I eat at home, but it doesn’t work for everyone. It definitely would have been a good option to have a potato/sweet potato/cauliflower dish to add to the menu for those in need.
Our next course was chicken goujons. They were lightly crumbed with a kind of dukkah spice and breadcrumbs and served with a chinese vegetable, I think it was choy sum, a bit lighter than kai lan and with a lovely crunch.
My favourite was next, and when it was served I really didn’t think it would be. Three, very decent sized, whole barramundi appeared, served with a curried squid ink sauce and clams. The fish was absolutely divine, although it did take some perseverance to get to it. Once you did there was tender meat that just fell away from the bones and melted in your mouth. The slight curry zing to the sauce was a nice touch as well. Unfortunately, in our group, the fish wasn’t as well appreciated as the chicken. As far as I was concerned though, this dish showcased the best of JP’s cooking.
Our final main was the beef flank with black vinegar and yeast. At least that’s how it tasted and I do remember seeing yeast mentioned on the menu next to something. The beef seemed a bit flacid, if I can put it that way, and I’m not sure if it was the meat itself or the kind of pickled flavour that went with it. Either way this wasn’t my favourite.
Dessert was a very soft baked meringue served with an aniseed flavoured paste. Too sweet for my liking but we all know there’s no surprise there 😉
Drinks and service
The restaurant was super busy, being the Thursday before Chinese New Year, as well as Australia Day. All the staff were brilliant, attentive, helpful and knowledgable. We had a couple of issues with corked prosecco that were unfortunate but ultimately were handled very well. As per usual our booze bill far outweighed our food bill. Aside from the prosecco, which was good until the corked bottle, the wines were excellent. We enjoyed a really lovely Riesling at $85++ per bottle and a Shiraz Grenache blend, also at $85++ per bottle. I’m told that the boys enjoyed the beer on tap too.
I’ll definitely be back, probably with a smaller group so we can try a selection of a la carte dishes and to see what else this clever chef can do.
Thirteen Duxton Hill
[do I need to write the address? 🙂 ]
Call ahead for reservations as their opening hours can change
phone +65 9054 1435