Dining at Quay
One of (if not the) most famous restaurants in Australia is Quay, which has three hats (sort of the equivalent to three Michelin stars in Australia) and is continually on lists of the best restaurants in the entire world. Obviously, it’s just a bit pricey (the minimum amount you will spend is about $165 per person). The question is – is it worth it? Well. Depends on the kind of person you are, I think. I went for Christmas Eve and was treated to the meal by my wonderful mother as an incredibly generous Christmas gift, and it was really special. If you are a foodie at all, it’s obviously a place you have to try, and the sheer excitement of getting a table in the restaurant (it’s booked out for tables of 2 six months in advance consistently) is fun before the meal even begins.
The food is elaborate, of course quite pretentious, very local and influenced by Australian nature (which is super cool), and I must admit, at times a bit odd…definitely requires a bit of adventurous spirit and willingness to try things that are certainly an acquired taste. The service is spectacular and the setting is unparalleled – a turret on one side of Sydney Harbour so that you have sweeping views of the Opera House and Bridge as you dine. Yeah, it’s pretty spectacular. But enough of the background – let’s get to the main attraction. Of course, you have the option of a degustation, but my mother and I opted for the four course prix fixe as that way we could get a variety of different dishes and try each other’s and also to get the chocolate cake at the end (much more on this later). They are shown in the order they came out, along with standard pretentious delightful titles verbatim from the menu.
Sashimi of local lobster with preserved lemon and almonds. Ok, so the first thing that surprised me about this dish was the lack of colour. That in itself was visually striking and almost unnerving since I’ve never seen that before in a really fancy place. Also, I have to say, sashimi of lobster doesn’t taste very different from other white fish sashimi, and this was rather shockingly cold. However, the preserved lemon at the bottom of the dish was incredible.
Salad of preserved wild cherries, albino and chioggia beetroots, radish, crème fraîche, violets. I don’t even know what those types of beetroots are but damn they were good. I wasn’t as big a fan of the creme fraiche even though it was frozen and thus provided an intriguing difference in texture. There were incredible croutons that tasted like astronaut food – must have been some sort of dehydrated beets. All in all, amazing textures and colours and the clear winner of the two first courses.
Poached breast of squab, anchovy and seaweed broth, young garlic, daylillies. This was definitely heavier, and a bit meaty for some people’s tastes. I’ve never had squab but it just tasted like an edgier version of chicken if you ask me.
Line caught iki jime Tasmanian squid, squid ink custard, society garlic, pink turnips. This is their new dish as they just formed a relationship with the squid catchers or something. It was intriguing but the squid ink custard was a bit much. I was particularly fascinated by how they basically made the squid into pasta-like ribbons so it almost tasted like a pasta dish, but obviously radically different – very confusing/awesome for the taste buds. I could have done with less of the custard though (it’s the black peeking out) as it just felt quite heavy when the rest of the dish was really light.
Hapuka poached in creme fraiche, Tasmanian pink potatoes, and almonds. After a less than 100% second course in my opinion, the third courses bounced back with intensity and delightful surprises. Hapuka is a basic white fish, but it was truly elevated here in its simplicity here, and the pink potatoes were amazing.
Poached Rangers Valley beef, bitter chocolate black pudding, morel, ezekiel crumbs, shaved mushrooms. This was SO good. It was wagyu beef and there were elements of dark chocolate in the sauce, and the stuff on the top (yeah, those crumbs they mention) tasted like a truly spectacular version of rice krispies that also went really well with meat. Weird, I know, but it worked 100%. Probably my favourite dish of all the savoury items, although the hapuka gave it a run for its money.
DESSERT TIME! Which of course is what I was looking forward to the most. This is the snow egg, which has been a signature dessert of Quay’s for years and years and changes flavours with the seasons. At the moment, they are dishing out white nectarine flavoured ones. Do not be fooled by its relatively innocuous appearance – in the food world, this dessert is known as perhaps one of the most complicated ones to make in the entire world of pastry. There are at least ten components (to get a feel for what it would be like to make one of these babies go here) and each part of it is surprising and exciting. Basically, the “egg” part is a meringue-esque outer layer (somehow both crispy and feather-light) that surrounds a sorbet center, and it’s served over a granita that is also white nectarine flavoured. It was incredible and every bit as exciting as I was hoping for. It was also the PERFECT contrast to…
Quay’s eight texture chocolate cake. Guys, I need to wax poetic about this dessert for a little while. I recently watched a little video on how it is made and it reminded me just how truly heavenly the experience of eating this dessert was. Now, I have eaten a LOT of chocolate and chocolate desserts in my life. Pretty much not a day goes by where I don’t eat chocolate, so I do consider myself somewhat of an expert in the field. I can say without a doubt, this was hands down the best chocolate dessert I have ever eaten. Layers upon layers of chocolate perfection. The way it was presented was amazing – they take a spoonful of hot chocolate ganache sauce and drop it right in the centre of the cake, where it melts into the cake and creates another layer of gooey chocolate heaven. To have such a dark and sinful chocolate dessert matched with the snow egg was truly to have died and gone to dessert heaven. It does not get better than that.
So obviously, the meal ended on an utterly perfect note, and it was an amazing night. But for those of you looking to get equally high quality food for a bit less steep prices, I’d head over to Sepia, whose reputation as an up and comer restaurant is more than deserved. And there is plenty of amazing food to be had in Sydney for much cheaper, but if you want the view and the overall unbelievably high quality experience, there will always be Quay.