The first thing you’ll notice when you walk up the stairs and enter into Laissez Faire is the rustic, French-inspired space and the picture window looking down on the street, a perfect spot to perch above the King West strip with a cocktail.
Chef Zachary Barnes has a heavy hitting resume. He sharpened his techniques in the kitchens at Alo, Gordon Ramsay London, and Michelin-starred Daniel in Manhattan, yet his menu is beautifully chill.
There is a little bit of everything at Laissez Faire. The one constant is the polished finish and superb plating that gives away the finesse and pedigree his kitchen is capable of consistently firing out.
We started with a delicious pair of purple cocktails, the gorgeous violetta Empress gin take on a collins dressed up with mint and cucumber, and the beetroot mule, a tart, clean spin on a classic cocktail. All the juices behind the bar are made in house, and the freshness and depth of flavour almost tricks you into thinking you’re sticking to your juice cleanse, and not out for a drink on Friday night. For the more adventurous drinker, there’s the classy, smoke-laden Monsieur Mezcal and the pretty-in-pink, tequila-based Watermelon Picanté.
Laissez Faire offers an ample selection of vegetarian options, with choices for vegans as well. For apps, we started with a scrumptious porcini truffle arancini – a mushroom forward version of the deep-fried snack served in a simple tomato sauce with crisped basil leaves and sharp pecorino.
Our second plate is a beetroot tartare, which looks almost too perfect beside the lavender and purple cocktails. It is served with a quartet of crunchy twills made from Forno Cultura bread and a rich house-made crème fraîche spiked with horseradish.
Our first intermezzo, cauliflower steak, is a hearty vegan option that could double as a main – for the fussy vegan in your life who doesn’t like to share. Another impeccable plating, crunchy chips and toasted pine nuts spill over the tender bulb of florets onto a generous serving of an incredibly flavourful romesco.
Next up we’re served a stunningly plated albacore tuna crusted in sesame with an avocado mousse, vinaigrette and a pinch of alfalfa sprouts that add an earthy layer to the sea first plate.
We share two more plates, partly because the kitchen is putting out the kind of instant classics that make you want to gorge on, and partly because we need to keep nibbling while we plow through the impressive list of wines by the glass.
The squid ink tagliatelle is a stark, smart plating, a pompadour of black pasta with a mohawk of clams, mussels and shrimp. The instantly recognizable garlic and dill flavour profile with seafood makes the dish a winner, the kind that will surely attract a set of regulars among the after work crowd; have your server recommend a dry white to pair.
For protein, we have crisped cubes of pork belly served with a restrained drizzle of sherry gastrique and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. It’s another perfect share plate: luscious, fatty, melt in your mouth meat, and enough for a bite each for a larger table or a good split for a couple.
Dessert is too good to skip at Laissez Faire, especially matched with a nightcap espresso martini.
Panna cotta made from brioche infused Harmony milk is served with a pour-over plum sauce and poached frills. The not too sweet, buttery bread flavour is reminiscent of the Christina Tossi cereal milk infusion that made her name at Milk Bar, and is truly the icing on the cake after an awesome night of cocktails and nosh at Laissez Faire.
On our next visit, we’re going to bring a crew and book the Chef’s table, where Zachary Barnes’ creative freedom is allowed to shine throughout an 8 to 10 course meal. It’s served Thursday to Saturday ($80 – $100 a head, pricing based on market ingredients) with cocktail pairings. Make sure to book well in advance.
Laissez Faire is upstairs at 589 King Street West on the corner of Portland and is open from 5pm to 2am, 7 nights a week.
Visit their website for more info.