Address: Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9251 5600
After 5 months of waiting for a table at this highly-coveted Sydney restaurant (voted #26 of San Pellegrino's Top 50 restaurants in the world), the day has finally come for me to sample the delicate works of genius of Chef Peter Gilmore.
I first witnessed the frustration and technique involved in his delicate creations, more famously his signature dessert "Snow egg" on Masterchef as the contestants tried to recreate a complex dish, encased in a shallow glass. That gave away my pick for dessert.
I love Gilmore's philosophy - he doesn't like to create things that diners can cook at home - and in that simple statement, he backs up with intricate and highly detailed unique dishes that appeal to more than the sense of taste.
Before I go any further and you view the appalingly-shocking photos I took in the dim lighting and then my badly retouched photos, I urge you to visit this link which contains much better photos and a inspiration video for some of the dishes reviewed below: http://www.quay.com.au/page/inspirations1.html. That being said please refrain from taking flash photography as some obnoxious diners at another table did because the restaurant walls are either glass (spectacular view of Circular Quay, Opera House & Harbour Bridge) or paved with mirrors and will blind other patrons.
Below: Mocktails - virgin Pina Colada (left) and Lychee (right) which was lychee syrup with a squeeze of lime juice in soda water. They weren't great value but they weren't bad value with considering you'd pay the equivalent at any other random CBD bar.
Below: Amuse Bouche - this is a tradition for most fine dining restaurants - the literal translation meaning "mouth amuser" in French. The aim is to 'excite' the taste buds and prepare the diner for the chef's approach to cooking. It's hard to describe what this was - it was a mixture of a breadcrumb-like texture with some translucent white jelly blobs inside. The flavour? A slightly salty, very savoury mix which remindly me strangely of the crunchy offcuts of a cheese & bacon roll. A very peasant description I know, but that was the strongest, most overwhelming flavour.
Below: Mud Crab Congee - 'Fresh palm heart, Hand shelled mud crab, Chinese inspired split rice porridge'. You could see the mud crab meat in the centre of the dish - the creamy substance in the middle is definitely a very Western twist on this traditional dish. The congee itself was quite multi-textured - towards the centre of the dish it was quite thick and in the outer circumference the consistency became more watery. The crab flavour was present but not overwhelming - I've had seafood congee before and I think a white fish could have perhaps lifted the flavour to become more intense.
Above: Signature dish - Sea Pearls: "Sashimi tuna, sea scallop, crab, smoked eel, octopus".This is the beginning of a long-obsession with circular things and all-things shaped like balls. Each of those balls encased a creamy filling - each unique and richly moorish in their own right. I was quite suprised by this dish - I am not usually a fan of raw-ish octopus and eel, but these little pearls were almost melt-in-your-mouth. Definite props to the chef hollowing out a scallop! The 2nd one from the left was encased in - what I believe - to be tiny ball bearings of egg white. How on earth they did that I would have no clue. But a splendid exhibit of skill nevertheless.
Above: "Butter poached coturnix quail breast, pumpernickel & ethical foie gras pudding, walnuts, quinoa, truffle custard, milk skin". This was an interesting dish as it was quail, cooked medium rare. When it came out I thought it looked awfully like a raw piece of pig's kidney, and cutting through it made me more apprehensive (the sinewy consistency had me alarmed) but the combination of purees and what not made for a unique dish combination. I was especially impressed with the use of toasted quinoa (which reminded me of rice puffs) that added a lovely nutty flavour and added texture to this multi-dimensional dish.
Below: "Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil" - guess what a pig jowl is? Pig Chin! Or as I like to call it - 'Pig's double chin'. I was advised just to take a few moments to 'inhale the aroma' - think pork belly but more tender, more fatty and the meat slightly leaner & stringier. The caramelised pork crackle/fat was such an intriguing combination - really lifted the dish to become something spectacular (and different). The prune was a fresh, fruity accompaniment. Who knew such a small piece of pork could do so much damage - I got through half and the heaviness was too overwhelming. So I hijacked the lamb instead...
Below: "Confit of Suffolk lamb loin, smoked white carrot cream, fennel infused milk curd, Pantelleria capers, nasturtiums, fennel pollen". I really enjoyed this - the lamb was cooked medium rare (but perfectly!) with a slighty salty flavour. It didn't retain that horrible lamb-y smell & taste like some undercooked rendition do and it was only towards the end it had that lamb aroma which was pleasant as opposed to gamey. I think I was genuinely pleased with how well it was cooked (not under or overcooked) and seasoned.
These were some knockout desserts - the best courses of the night!!!
Below: "Quay's Eight texture chocolate cake" - four words: BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER. My sister who was my fellow dining companion on this occasion never eats chocolate cake. In fact, she hates chocolate. But I saw her devour this devilish creation - it must have come straight from hell it was that good. It is served with a chocolate tasting sauce, that, upon impact with the created an amazing sinking hole in the cake. I didn't count all 8 layers but there was biscuit, paper thin layers of chocolate, a spongy cake, mousse. I loved the bitterness of chocolate - to me, that dessert epitomized how chocolate should taste and showcased all the chocolate sins in one neat little package.
Above: Apple Custard & Guava Snow Egg - this dish was what inspired me to try Quay - it is a meringue ball, encasing a apple custard icecream/cream, with a sliver of toffee blowtorched over the meringue ball, topped with icing sugar - resting on a bed of guava sorbet. I'm not a huge fan of meringue and the toffee kept getting stuck in my teeth but this was one of the 'lighter' desserts which cleansed the palate. The dallop of guava nectar that held the ball to the sorbet was the highlight for me. Lovely fruity flavour, but you gotta love your toffee to have the patience to tackle this...
A sensational culinary & sensory experience - the smells don't overwhelm, all the dishes are delicately packaged and the skills involved just wow.