When Dylan and I were deciding what to do for our 6th anniversary we ummed and ahhed for quite some time. For our 4th anniversary we dined at 4 restaurants (4 for 4), for our 5th anniversary we spent two weeks travelling from Sydney to the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne. We ate a lot of food. This year we were a little more budget conscious and decided just to go to our favourite restaurant, Quay.
Earlier this year Quay was voted 26 on the coveted S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and was awarded Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Australasia. Who am I to argue with that?! Quay is simply my favourite restaurant in the entire world. Granted I have only dined there twice but that is completely beside the point, right?
Dylan was somewhat sceptical about the pedestal we had Quay on, believing it had been so long between visits that there was no way it could still remain at the top. I suppose it was a case of not wanting to get his hopes up. But I could never have convinced myself that it wasn’t going to be amazing… my hopes were very high and if it didn’t live up to expectations my world would definitely come crashing down!
Being such an amazing restaurant, Quay books out on Friday and Saturday nights six months in advance. As we only booked four months ahead we booked in for lunch, took the day off work and made a long weekend of it. We were lucky enough to get the best table in the house up in the tower with the most stunning views of the Bridge and Opera House. It also worked out that we were one of the earlier reservations so we were really lucky to have the tower to ourselves for quite some time. Lovely.
Our anniversary falls at the beginning of spring and although the sky was speckled with clouds throughout the morning and threatening rain, the sun made an appearance just in time for lunch. Ahhh I love spring, it’s not too cold, not too hot. It suits my freckly fair skin perfectly. And what could be better than making the most of the sunny lunchtime with a few cocktails.
I love a fruity cocktail and immediately the Cane Storm grabbed my attention; a rum based raspberry cocktail with lime. Refreshing and summery, it took me right back to our last summer holiday in Thailand. Bliss. Dylan chose the Barbados, a rum based citrus cocktail which packed a punch and was a little heavy on the triple sec for my liking.
Quay offers Peter Gilmore’s tasting menu and à la carte at lunch time. The tasting menu is $220.00 per person (plus $90.00 for matched wines or $190.00 for matched premium wines). The à la carte is available as 3 courses for $115.00 per person or 4 courses for $135.00. While a degustation is always tempting, we decided to stick with the à la carte this time around.
Lunch Menu – 4 courses $135.00 per person.
The à la carte menu offers a choice of four dishes per course. Here is the menu from Friday 2nd September 2011.
- Course 1
– Sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums, Tasmanian wasabi
– Salad of rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi, goat’s curd, pomegranate molasses, violet
– Black winter truffle, roasted hazelnut, jamon de bellota, salsify, shaved raw mushrooms, juniper, pea flowers
– Mud crab congee, fresh palm heart, hand shelled mud crab, Chinese inspired split rice porridge
- Course 2
– Poached King George whiting, winter melon, lettuce heart, native sea parsley, native angasi oysters
– Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, pumpernickel, walnuts, quinoa, truffle, chestnuts, milk skin
– Gentle braise of black lipped abalone, rare breed pig belly, shiitake, native warrigal greens, ginger scented milk curd, wakame juices, Tasmanian wasabi flowers
– Organic heirloom carrots, cumin, fennel & celery seeds, comté-infused curd, almonds, amaranth
- Course 3
– Bass groper, young vegetables, smoked butter, fennel pollen, white carrot cream, pea flowers
– Milk fed Suffolk lamb leg, artichoke emulsion, Pantelleria capers, confit lamb belly, citrus marmalade, nasturtiums
– Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil
– Roasted new season chestnuts, grain, nut & seed risotto, truffle cream
– Poached Wagyu beef, oxtail, morel, black pudding, farro, buckwheat, hazelnut, ezekiel [$10.00 supplement]
- Course 4
– Ewe’s milk ice-cream, caramel, roasted walnuts, prune, Pedro Ximénez, chocolate bark, pulled toffee, vanilla milk skin
– Jackfruit snow egg
– Quay’s eight-texture chocolate cake
– A selection of cheese, raisin and walnut sourdough
Amuse bouche of cauliflower puree, smoked salmon jelly, ocean trout and ocean trout roe.
When Dylan and I first dined at Quay in 2007 the amuse bouche was cauliflower based and it changed my opinion on cauliflower forever. So I was thrilled when the waitress began describing the amuse bouche as a cauliflower puree. The puree was delightfully creamy, the smokiness of the fish quite subtle and just added another level to the dish. Smoked salmon jelly cubes were nice and light while the roe added a lovely textural contrast. Peter Gilmore sure knows how to get the taste buds dancing.
Sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums, Tasmanian wasabi.
My first course was art on a plate. And a gorgeous plate at that, Dylan and I wanted to take these plates home. The dish was light with many subtle flavours and textures. The blue mackerel sashimi just fell apart as my fork touched it, so fresh and delicate in flavour. My favourite element was probably the smoked eel flowers. The petals of the flower were slivers of celeriac, the centre of the flower a smoked eel brandade covered in tiny egg white pearls. I wonder how long it takes to make them?
Black winter truffle, roasted hazelnut, jamon de bellota, salsify, shaved raw mushrooms, juniper, pea flowers.
Visually stunning – I had food envy. Couldn’t I just have my sashimi and Dylan’s truffle? Lucky for me we were sharing so I got to taste a little bit of everything. I began with a sliver of truffle just on its own and savoured its intensity, rich in umami. Of course the jamon was of such an outstanding quality I wanted to go and steal the rest of the chef’s stash. Then combining the ingredients in a single bite I was just blown away, such a brilliant combination that I really did not expect.
I had to remind myself to eat only one slice of bread as I usually get carried away and fill up on it. Today Dylan and I both chose the organic white sourdough. It was of course crispy, chewy and totally moreish. And that was even before I slathered it with the creamy butter. Whoever invented bread and butter really is a god. Oh and check out the butter plate, it looks like a UFO, love it!
Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, pumpernickel, walnuts, quinoa, truffle, chestnuts, milk skin.
I knew before we arrived at the restaurant that I was going to order the quail. Our waitress checked I was ok with medium rare and though never having had quail medium rare I had no qualms with going with the chef’s recommendation, it is after all one of his signature dishes (currently found on both the à la carte and tasting menus). The quail was extremely tender having been poached in stock and then bathed in butter. The blanket of pumpernickel pudding took me by surprise with its soft texture but had a lovely richness to it. Both the chestnut and truffle custards were lush and creamy. The walnuts and puffed quinoa brought a welcome textural contrast that finished the dish off beautifully and made this dish one of the highlights of the meal.
Gentle braise of black lipped abalone, rare breed pig belly, shiitake, native warrigal greens, ginger scented milk curd, wakame juices, Tasmanian wasabi flowers.
Dylan fancied the quail as well but didn’t want to order the same as me so he chose the abalone instead. Hours of cooking ensured the pig belly was soft and incredibly tender while the wonderful texture of the abalone was a real standout. Highlights of zingy ginger milk curd and punchy wasabi flowers were inspiring and the rich consommé anchored the dish beautifully. Another winning dish.
Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil.
As the pig jowl arrived at the table I was encouraged by the waitress to take a moment to breathe in the aromas before tucking in. It was the rich prune kernel oil that first grabbed my attention, with hints of almond or marzipan to the perfume. Then the sweet scent of Pedro Ximénez took over and I couldn’t wait to dig in.
Pig jowl (the lower part of the pig’s cheek) has too much fat to be able to produce a regular pig skin crackling, so Peter Gilmore created the maltose crackling instead. The maltose crackling looked beautiful and cracked at first touch, then shattered and dissolved in the mouth. A clever concept but having only recently discovered the joys of regular crackling I don’t think this compares. The jowl’s thick layer of fat made the pork incredibly tender it just fell apart. The macerated prunes had a great depth of flavour and the smooth cauliflower puree cut through the richness. This was an absolute pleasure to eat.
Poached Wagyu beef, oxtail, morel, black pudding, farro, buckwheat, hazelnut, ezekiel.
There was really no point in Dylan reading the four options on offer for the third course. As soon as our waitress described the special we both knew what Dylan was having. Wagyu. Served medium rare, the poaching resulted in a different texture to a fried steak, with none of the rich caramelisation flavours but a more natural beef flavour. Dylan loved the earthy, nutty, smoky mushroom flavour that only morels can give. I found the oxtail consommé accentuated the succulent wagyu and the black pudding was subtle enough to allow the beef and mushroom combination to really sing. Dylan was a little unsure about the ezekiel crust – it wasn’t a disappointment but just not his style. A minor comment on yet another amazing dish.
Quay’s eight-texture chocolate cake.
Peter Gilmore has been making a version of this chocolate cake for over 15 years and it is easy to see why. It was a five-texture cake when I first had the pleasure of trying it. In celebration of his eighth anniversary at Quay, Peter adjusted the cake to be an eight textured chocolate cake.
Seven textures are presented on the plate with the final texture being added at the table in the form of hot chocolate sauce. A little bit of theatre in the dining room, the eighth texture melts through the dark chocolate disc and creates a little crater in the cake. It looks spectacular. The first time is always the best, but third time around it is still an impressive sight.
I couldn’t identify all eight textures by taste but that doesn’t really matter. An amazing dessert like this should be enjoyed not over-analysed. Friends have asked if it is too rich. Not in my opinion. The bitter dark chocolate works its magic and balances the sweetness, the mousse is light and creamy and the base is suitably crumbly.
I love reading the recipe and looking at the pictures of the chocolate cake in Peter Gilmore’s cookbook ‘Quay’. Though I doubt I’ll ever attempt to make it myself, there are a lot of elements and stages to this dessert – I’ll just have to head back to Quay when I need another fix! But if you’re wondering what the eight textures are, they are (1) chocolate mousse, (2) caramel, vanilla and chocolate ganache, (3) chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise, (4) cake base, (5) milk chocolate praline discs, (6) chocolate caramel cream, (7) dark chocolate top disc and (8) hot chocolate sauce.
Jackfruit snow egg.
Admittedly I was rather disappointed the cherry dessert wasn’t on the menu. I had already decided I would have the chocolate and Dylan would have the cherry. I could finally taste the dessert I’ve heard about for way too long and still get to have my beloved chocolate. It was not to be, the cherry wasn’t on the menu. Although Dylan had the snow egg on our last visit, nothing else took his fancy so he again opted for the snow egg, this time made with jackfruit.
I’m sure everyone has seen the snow egg thanks to Masterchef. Fame aside the snow egg will always be a beautiful sight. Cracking through the maltose layer to reach the meringue and ice cream centre is almost as cool as seeing the final texture of the chocolate cake work its magic.
Jackfruit is somewhere between banana and pineapple in flavour, resulting in a rather refreshing granita. Perfect meringue is all we’d expect from Quay, soft and spongy with just the right amount of sweetness. The ice cream centre was rich and fruity but not as sweet as anticipated. However Dylan thought the real winner was the vanilla bean and jackfruit base layer combined with granita – reminiscent of a Splice and refreshing in every possible way. Dylan was pleased as punch with his light finish to lunch.
Macchiatos and petits fours are the best ending to a meal. The macchiato to help digest and the petits fours one final surprise and delight. Today we had a roasted hazelnut encased in milk chocolate ganache and rolled in palm blossom as well as an Amedei chocolate from Tuscany with a ganache centre, muscatel grapes and amaretto chocolate crispies outer.
Smiling from ear to ear I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. Dylan agrees, we’ve had Quay on a pedestal for a reason. It really is a world class restaurant and I can’t wait to go back.
Overseas Passenger Terminal
The Rocks NSW 2000
(02) 9251 5600