When we shared dinner with friends at Theodore's, the staff recommended to us "a new wine bar over at the intersection of Brunswick Rd and Lygon St". Its name is Faye, and we all agreed that we should make it our next meeting spot. (A photographer at The Age chose the same evening to capture it, and captured our table in the process.)
Faye's entry and signage is set back a little from the street, but not hard to find if you're actively seeking it out. The same goes for dishes suiting special dietary requirements: while chicken hearts, ox tongue, pasta and cheeses featured prominently across the menu, the staff helped us cobble together a set of dishes that ensured the vegetarians, dairy-allergic and gluten-intolerant among us all had plenty to eat.
For me, y'all know that my tests of a restaurant come early (non-alcoholic drinks) and late (dessert). Faye ticked off the first one with Soda #1 ($7) appearing at the end of the cocktail menu. It's a mix of fig leaf whey fermented strawberry soda garnished generously with mint and lemon; more carbonated and lightly flavoured than a kombucha by my reckoning.
The mark of a fancy dining experience, we were served bread and spreadably-soft butter, with gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives for those who needed them.
A couple of us were keen on silverbeet and fontina croquettes ($8 each), their thick crust and rich filling offset by strips of asparagus and apple.
A salad of fig leaf ricotta, heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers ($18) was an excellent mid-summer choice. The chef kindly portioned out precisely one beetroot slice per person ($17) and the diary eaters among us carefully shared the thick caramelised yoghurt they were served with.
We also shared two heavier mains. The eggplant ($28) was one of the most popular dishes of the night, flavoured with black garlic and supported by plenty of braised lentils and Otway shiitake mushrooms. The prospect of sourdough pasta ($26) was intriguing and it proved to be my favourite savoury dish of the night, served in a nest with salted ricotta, then teamed with big chunks of smoked zucchini.
There was enough stomach room around the table to have us cover the dessert menu ($10 each)! The dairy-free option (bottom right) was a very pink and tangy bowl of rhubarb sorbet, fermented strawberry (probably the solid partner to my soda's cordial?), and vermouth. We also sampled pineapple icecream with long pepper and coconut (bottom left), flowering gum icecream with smoked mango (top left), and white balsamic icecream with semi-dried plums and chocolate (top right). It's rare to see such an inventive dessert menu, and having a chance to try the lot was even more fun than any single dish.
Faye was a fun and fancy night out, and we were well attended to by the staff. It looks like the kind of place that will rotate its menu regularly - we're hopeful that they'll continue to cater imaginatively and with friendly consideration of their customers' dietary requirements.
Shop 1/22-30 Lygon St, Brunswick East
Accessibility: Both step and ramp access is available from the street. Tables are low, chairs have back support, and furniture is medium-spaced. We didn't visit the toilets.