|Sydney Opera House - View from outside Quay|
We were greeted at reception with a smile and taken to our table. Fortunately it was in the area of the restaurant that offers the best view of not only the harbour but also the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the touristy restaurants at Campbell Cove. Drinks orders were taken and I requested a Hendricks Gin & Tonic ($15) which is turning out to be quite a ritual when dining these days whilst we socialised the menus and had small talk about the wonderful Sydney weather. Although an a la carte menu was available, most of the dining options articulated were also part of an eight course degustation menu which we quickly agreed was the best option moving forward. Of course the client knew that I was on the hook to pay so he was happy to agree to anything I would imagine. There were also two options for matching wine, we opted for the more expensive "premium" wine match, so the total degustation with matching premium wines was a reasonable $400/pp. This is on par with the higher end tasting menus available at Jacques Reymond and Attica so I wasn't too surprised by the cost.
Salad of albino and chioggia beetroots, preserved wild cherries, goats curd, scorched beet leaves and violets were then matched with a 2010 Revendy 'Terre de Maimbray' Sancerre from France. Revendy is a very small producer but has the most awards for Sancerre, and like the small producer, the theme knocks on to the small yet delicate wild cherries, cold morsels of goats curd and smatterings of leaves, beetroots and edible flowers. This is a very pretty dish and the both the curd and beetroot brought out the flavours inherent in the wine. The dish properly matched with the view of the harbour as an aside. This is one of the few restaurants where you will find that visual stimulation is taken just as seriously as evoking your other senses.
Red claw yabbies with a garlic scented custard and yabby velvet was then matched with a non vintage Gosset Grande Rose from Champagne, France. A rose that was made intentionally as opposed to being thrown together as an aside was a great choice to match with the yabbies as it gave the allure of being a bit sophisticated, but not too sophisticated as not to outclass the yabbies. Yet another visually stunning dish that was full of flavour, further complimented by the choice of wine made this another contender for "favourite" further enhanced by the sommelier being generous with the refills allowing us to take the pain away from discussing business and action items.
I was most intrigued by the next dish as I had never had goose before. Besides calling one of my best mates this waterbird and seeing them chase children in various parks, I have never been offered one to eat. Roasted with "forbidden" rice, a black miso and hatsuka radish, it was matched with a 2010 Bass Phillip 'Estate' Pinot Noir from Gippsland, Victoria. In ancient China, black rice was considered the finest grain and only served to the Emperor, thus the name "forbidden" rice which was a novel touch to accompany a bird that is not commonly consumed by the masses. A subtle gaminess was enjoyed but the black miso really made this a special and a different taste that defined why you go out to eat - to try new things and I am now hooked on goose. I will never look at my mate the same way again. It was nice to see a wine from Victoria represented in this tasting menu and I can't think of a nicer match. This fruity Pinot Noir really complemented the goose and they both turned into a conversational highlight.
Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallops, Jerusalem artichoke leaves, bay and juniper followed with a 2010 Algueira Merenzao from Riberia Sacra, Spain. This is a decadent dish - a fatty dish with an amazing texture. I am so used to eating parts of the pig at Movida however I had never experienced the pleasure of the pig cheek. The scallops and artichoke leaves really added to the mystery of this dish as my palate didn't know what to make of it at first but then when you pair it with the bold Algueira, it made for a complete contrast to the goose and really took you on a trip from Australia to Spain. This was my dining partner's favourite dish and nearly mine.
Pasture raised veal with a bitter chocolate black pudding, green walnuts, slow cooked wallaby tail, salsify, smoked bone marrow and chestnut mushrooms was the final savoury dish matched with a 2010 Luke Lambert 'Reserve' Syrah from our own Yarra Valley. What a cornucopia of tastes that all jostle for position across your palate. The wallaby tail,
Andalucia citris and almonds along with a 2011 Joh.Jos. Prum 'Wehlener Sonnenuhr' Auslese Riesling from Mosel, Germany essentially acted as a palate cleaners and first sweet course and was followed by a Guava snow egg and a 2009 Pegasus Bay 'Aria' Riesling from Waipara, New Zealand. A simple dessert that had a controlled amount of flavour that effectively acted as a denouement and brought my senses back to earth. I liked that a rich and bold dessert was not served to finish off this experience and that the biggest and boldest tastes were left to make an impression with the last savoury dish along with the black pudding that paired with the wallaby tail and the Yarra Valley Syrah.
After petit fours, we clocked up nearly four hours enjoying both conversation and this tasting menu. It proves that business can not only appropriately mix with pleasure but when you add a venue such as Quay and a wonderful degustation menu, time can literally get away from you.
The Quay ambiance has always been a matter of contention for me. Sure, you experience a great view and you are effectively distracted from the minimalist surrounds which I think is appropriate for the restaurant. The view of the harbour is first and foremost and can lead to distraction from your guests (as I have noticed in the past) but it certainly does add a certain amount of tranquility to the experience as you watch the ferries and tourist vessels move back and forth. When you make a booking in the summer, I would advise you to confirm that a cruise ship will not be docked in the harbour otherwise you will have the pleasure of looking at the side of the boat however in the past I have equally enjoyed dining experiences at Quay without the view as in the end, I at least am there for food, wine and conversation with a view as an afterthought. This is why I was a bit sullen when Shannon Bennett moved Vue de Monde from the humble Normanby Chambers on Little Collins Street to the opulent top floor of Rialto Tower in Melbourne so he could truly get a view of the world. Both Jacques Reymond and Attica have not fallen into that trap, or even gimmick, and in the end manage to excite your senses by having them focus on the matters at hand instead of what is happening outside.
Service throughout the four hours remained attentive, consultative and kind. I have frequently been caught out holding Sydney service to a different level than you experience in Melbourne and once again, I thought although service was great and for Sydney standards and it was top-notch, however when held against my Melbourne standards, it was just above average. I have always found the "top" restaurants to be a bit more service-focused in Melbourne and I noticed the small nuances once again at this trip to Quay. The dining area also became a bit warm. I noticed this on all of my previous visits when dining in this same area including in the evening also so it just wasn't because the sun was shining brightly in. I can only imagine what it would be like on a hot 40c sunny Sydney day.
I did really enjoy my trip to Quay and have always considered it one of my favourite restaurants in the city that I used to call home. Would I choose it over the Melbourne three hat restaurants, Vue de Monde, Attica or Jacques Reymond if I was given a complimentary free night out or if I won the Lotto? The easy answer is no however I do still rate this experience as one of the best that I have had in 2013 so far.
Quay received three chefs hats in the SMH 2012/2013 Good Food Guide and won restaurant of the year in 2011 and 2012. Quay was also ranked #48 in the world according to the 2013 San Pellegrino "World's Best" list.
Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
5 Hickson Rd The Rocks NSW 2000
5 Hickson Rd The Rocks NSW 2000
(03) 9251 5600
My Rating: 17.75/20
Value For Money: 4/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com