A girlie catch-up dinner at Cirque

Disclaimer: We dined as invited guests of Cirque and Lucid Media.

Whenever the SO is away on a business trip, I often take the time to catch up on the Mt Everest pile of housework lying around the apartment. But with his last trip of the year and the holiday season fast approaching, the pile just didn’t seem at all inviting (it never is) and when the invitation came to sample Cirque’s dining menu, I thought it was a great excuse for a girlie catch-up with Ainead before the new year.

Cirque, New Farm

Cirque  has a solid reputation around New Farm for its breakfast over the last 10 years. I have often seen a snaking line of bright early birds queuing outside Cirque’s establishment for their caffeine fix and first meals of the day. It makes sense for Cirque’s owners, Giselle and Christophe Massieu to decide to extend their offering to include dinner two nights a week – Thursday and Friday.

We were greeted and offered a selection of seating options. While their ground floor dining area meant we might’ve been close to the action in the kitchen and all its delicious smells, Ainead and I trooped upstairs and fell in love with the (at the time) bright bar overlooking Brunswick Street. Why not people and traffic watch while catching up?

Cirque, New Farm

After the menu was explained to us, making our choices were a simple affair. Cirque’s offerings were a variety of tapas-style nibbles and main dishes, which are specials: a meat, a seafood/fish and a vegetarian option.

Cirque, New Farm

Goat’s cheese & zucchini croquettes with spicy tomato relish. AUD$14

We started with the goat’s cheese & zucchini croquettes, which arrived precariously stacked on top of each other. They were also hot from the fryer and we were cautious to cut them each into halves to release the steam within, lest our tongues got scalded. The croquettes’ crunchy exterior made the perfect backdrop to the relish, which to me would hardly be called spicy, but nonetheless added a tart richness to the crunchy fat bullets.

Peeking inside, the zucchini made for a stiffer centre, which explained how well these larger-sized croquettes were able to hold their shape so well. I was also pleased the goat’s cheese flavour was gentle. Ainead had shared she is still developing her cheese repertoire, and blue cheese was still too strong for her.

Cirque, New Farm - Fisherman's Pie. AUD$22

Fisherman’s Pie. AUD$22

Ainead opted for the fisherman’s pie instead of her first choice and was rewarded with a deceptively small but amazingly flavourful shallow dish. A pattern of barely browned piped mash potato hid a treasure of fresh seafood tucked in a rich creamy white sauce: salmon, cod, prawns, mussels and scallops. My sample taste almost had me regretting my own choice.

Cirque, New Farm - Pan roasted duck breast with blue cheese, israeli couscous and chargrilled pear salad. AUD$28

Pan roasted duck breast with blue cheese, israeli couscous and chargrilled pear salad. AUD$28

The pan roasted duck breast had been Ainead‘s first choice, but she had been deterred by the blue cheese. I on the other hand, had no such reservations. Blue cheese, come to mama!

Had Ainead ordered this dish, I actually don’t think the blue cheese would’ve overwhelmed her or the SO, another avid blue cheese avoider. Blue can be a tricky ingredient to get balanced right and I think Au Cirque’s kitchen have done it well here. Mixed with the large pearls of isareli couscous, the blue cheese played nice and friendly with the succulent slices of duck breast. The fresh salad of watercress, dill and asparagus offered a light touch to the sweet smokey chargrilled pear.

By the end, the dish just about bested me. Not only was it flavourful, but the portion was generous despite my having arrived sufficiently hungry.

Cirque, New Farm - Chocolate hazelnut budino with sea salt, nut brown butter ice-cream. AUD$12

Chocolate hazelnut budino with sea salt, nut brown butter ice-cream. AUD$12

Nonetheless, who could possibly leave without trying at least one dessert? Granted, Ainead and I had to share to be able to fit everything in, but it was well worth it. Think a thick chocolate mousse that is almost stiff enough to be titled a pudding, topped with a ball of silky smooth ice-cream and sprinkled with coarsely chopped nuts and crystal shards of brittle. The only thing left at the end of the sprig of mint leaves. And to think we had initially thought Cirque had no desserts to offer (dessert menu is separate and offered after the mains).

Cirque go to the markets twice a week, so the specials change weekly with what’s in season and are designed around what’s fresh. So while I don’t expect the dishes Ainead and I tried to still be available when they re-open their doors for dinner on 16 January 2014, we certainly came away with our tummies well satisfied and I definitely want to visit again with the SO in tow.


AU Cirque on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: We dined as invited guests of Cirque and Lucid Media.