With the reputation of being Australia’s most awarded restaurant and one that prides itself on using locally sourced food, Quay was one of the must-eat-at places during a recent trip to Sydney. Having already exhausted ourselves with the degustation at Tetsuya’s, we were glad that we had only booked in for lunch, and went with choices from the four course menu rather than another degustation.
Before I get to the food, I must mention that the view from the restaurant is amazing. With large expansive windows, there’s a clear view of the harbour including both the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It amused me to watch the ferries and water taxis bob along the water, as well as the endless stream of tourists, even a wedding party or two. The restaurant itself was light and airy, with plenty of space. We were lucky enough to have a relatively private booth (even if the seating itself was a touch awkward) and thoroughly enjoyed just being there. When a slightly inconsiderate patron wandered over and started a phone conversation during our meal, it wasn’t long before a staff member gently ushered her outside so as to not disturb anyone else.
Moving on to the actual meal, all in all, I was quite impressed but things were perhaps slightly too fancy for my tastes. So much was going on with every dish that there were moments of confusion as to what exactly you were eating. None more so than perhaps the appetiser. I didn’t hear the waitress very well, and so wasn’t even sure what we were eating. Jelly perhaps? It was very pretty, but tiny enough that I barely tasted what I was eating. Maybe my palate just isn’t good enough in that case.
I enjoyed the entrée a lot more. Being somewhat unadventurous, I ordered the sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple and nasturtiums (similar to watercress).
Sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums
The dish was beautifully presented. The mackerel was pleasantly oily, the eel certainly interesting (if lacking a little in flavour) but I absolutely loved the softly delicate scallops. Always curious, M ordered the Mud crab congee consisting of fresh palm heart, hand shelled mud crab and Chinese inspired split rice porridge.
Mud crab congee: Fresh palm heart, hand shelled mud crab and Chinese inspired split rice porridge
I’m not sure why they specified “hand shelled mud crab” but I guess it always pays to be more detailed rather than less. I wasn’t even aware that machines could shell crabs, but I’m guessing they must exist to speed up large processes. Anyways, that is slightly irrelevant. What is relevant is that the dish was delicious. Comforting and homely, it was at the same time also inventive and exotic.
I’m not sure how to classify the second course seeing as dishes were all slightly heavier than entrees yet lighter than the mains (as expected). In any case, I definitely enjoyed my order of: Gentle braise of black lipped abalone, rare breed pig belly, shiitake, warrigal greens, ginger milk curd, earth & sea consommé.
Gentle braise of black lipped abalone, rare breed pig belly, shiitake, warrigal greens, ginger milk curd, earth & sea consommé
Once again, why “rare breed pig belly”? Was it a wild pig hunted from the forests of NSW? It was undeniably tasty so maybe they’re on to something there. I never find abalone full of flavour, but I do enjoy its texture, but it in this case it was slightly overpowered by the pork. Indeed, everything in the dish tied quite well together except for the pork, but perhaps it was included to ground the dish and distinguish it from a first-course entree.
M ordered the slow cooked coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel and malt.
Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel, malt
Once again, I think they’re being overly specific by identifying the genus of quail used but maybe I should stop nit-picking. The best part of this dish? The crust. With eclectic mix of ingredients, it was crunchy and full of flavour and made the quail slightly bland in comparison.
The mains were stunning though. I ordered the Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil.
Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil
Who knows why prune kernel oil is so special, and why they had to specify the breed of pig again? Actually, don’t answer that question, I’m getting side-tracked again. I loved the maltose cracking in this dish, which, like the top of a creme brulee, shattered so satisfying-ly with a small tap using the cutlery. The pig jowl was tender and full of flavour , and was offset beautifully by the prunes. I’ll be honest, when I returned home after the trip, I searched for a few pork recipes with prunes to make in the future.
M was brilliantly happy with his main course too: David Blackmore’s full blood Wagyu, bitter chocolate black pudding, ox tail consommé.
David Blackmore's full blood Wagyu, bitter chocolate black pudding, ox tail consommé
Once again, the meat was full flavoured and tender. The marbling of fat was as good as you would expect from top quality Wagyu, with the benefit of the cattle being fed a low-grain diet (hooray for being slightly healthier options). The extra $10 surcharge? Justified.
What we had been anticipating the whole meal was of course, the desserts. Eight texture chocolate cake!
Quay's Eight texture chocolate cake
I had an unreasonable amount of fun identifying and counting the layers. I’d think that I had found eight, then recount and only be able to find seven. In any case, it was satisfying and full of chocolate flavour without being overly sweet. The ultimate chocolate indulgence.
Quay's Eight texture chocolate cake
Of MasterChef fame, we present to you, the Snow Egg.
White nectarine snow egg
Impressive! Definitely ordered more for the visuals and the technical skill involved rather than the taste, this is perhaps the dish to go for when a lighter option is warranted.
White nectarine snow egg
The meal was rounded off with coffee and petit fours.
Coffee, Petits Fours
Being royally spoilt by Melbourne coffee, I was once again disappointed with Sydney’s offering but at least it was presented nicely. All in all, a wonderful meal with good food, good presentation, set in sophisticated surrounds. Given the option, I would still pick Tetsuya’s over Quay, but it’s interesting to see how two top restaurants in the same city do things so very differently.
Given the chance, try both and make up your own mind. Just expect to live off instant noodles for a few weeks if you do.
Circular Quay West, Sydney
Lunch: Tue-Fri 12pm-230pm, Dinner: Mon-Sun 6pm-10pm