Lunch at Quay
Originally I was just going to jam this into my Sydney post but after looking at all the photos I realised that it wouldn’t do justice to the meal that we had at Quay. Some of the menu items have changed since dining at Quay but most of my favourites are still on the current menu. I think.
After coming all the way to Sydney and getting a booking at Quay there was no way that we weren’t getting the tasting menu. After we made our decision they thoughtfully left behind the menu with the day’s dishes. I’m still too self conscious and unorganised to take down notes at restaurants, so without this photo I would have totally forgotten exactly what we ate!
To start, we had some celebratory cocktails. I’m not sure what we were celebrating, but it felt like we should congratulate ourselves on being at Quay and our great table overlooking the harbour bridge! My favourite type of cocktail is refreshing, fruity and not too sweet. These two cocktails were absolutely perfect in that regard.
Although I said all that stuff about the photo helping my memory, this starter wasn’t on the menu so I’ve forgotten what it was. I believe it was smoked fish or eel with some jelly and mouse at the bottom. In spite of being smoked, it was rather refreshing and not too salty. Served in the cutest bowels, that looked almost like Japanese tea cups it made me hungry for more.
Raw Tasmanian striped trumpeter, smoked oyster cream, native coastal greens. I’m always a sucker for any sashimi style dish at nice restaurants. This was no exception. It was also the first time I tried trumpeter; which reminded me of Kingfish. The coastal greens; which had a variety of unusual and interesting textures, were also new to me. The smoked oyster cream was a real surprise. It tasted very distinctly of oyster, but wasn’t fishy or slimy like oyster can sometimes be.
Raw smoked Blackmore wagyu, horseradish soured cream, fermented rye crisps, raw funghi. This was another dish that was full of interesting textures. This time from the raw funghi and rye crisps. I feel that when wagyu is eaten raw like this, it sort of loses its distinct fatty taste, which almost seems like a shame for such top class beef. On the other hand, as a real mushroom fanatic, raw funghi is definitely something I want to see more of.
Uni, koshihikari rice, salted yolk, fish maw, sweet prawns, umami broth. I overheard the wait staff talking to an older couple sitting next to us recommending this dish, so I had high expectations. They certainly weren’t lying when they said that these were sweet prawns. In fact these were some of the sweetest prawns I have ever tasted. As for the rest of the dish, I couldn’t really pick apart where the uni and fish maw was, however as a whole it was delicious.
Bread and butter. I wonder why some places chose to put bread and butter in the middle of the degustation instead of towards the start. Being offered bread was a bit of a relief, as I was at the end of my cocktail and hadn’t eaten breakfast or eaten anything substantial enough to soak up the alcohol. Can’t fault crusty warm bread with butter!
Now for a little intermission. Remember the older couple that I had talked about earlier? Well, throughout the course of our meal a very interesting, and dare I say, cute interaction was going on. A little bit into their meal, one of them accidently spilt water onto the table! Shortly after, this was noticed by the waitstaff, cleaned up and napkins were laid onto the tablecloth, so that it was no longer visibly damp. However, by the next course the other half of the couple spilt the water again! Once again this was promptly cleaned up. During the next course, this time, the waiter accidently knocked over the glass of water. Once again, napkins were laid out. By the end of their meal, there was a substantial layer of napkins on the table, and the table cloth was almost completely hidden away by this patchwork. During this whole thing, the wait staff continued to be in good spirits and actually very humorous about the whole thing. Although I imagine this would be rather embarrassing I think the personable but professional manner of the wait staff really helped smooth everything over.
Let’s continue with the meal. Slow cooked abalone, smoked confit pig jowl, fermented shiitake chawanmushi, bamboo, koji cultured grains. This was the richest dish of the entire meal. So rich that it almost bordered onto being oily. That said, this was totally different to how I imagined this dish when I read it on paper. The smooth chawanmushi was hidden between the finely sliced pieces of abalone and pig jowl. The pig jowl was incredibly tender. As for the abalone, I can now say that this is the only way I want to eat abalone. Usually my parents are really big on having abalone for special occasions but I usually find it to be rubbery and relatively flavourless. These slices had the perfect amount of chew and it was enough to just get that slight taste of abalone without needing to chew for ahes. However, this was one of those dishes where I loved all the elements separately, but together I found that it didn’t work all that well, as the pork was a bit overpowering and the grains soaked up the oil.
Another round of drinks was ordered. My friend had a variation on a pimm’s cup, which like our first drinks was also refreshing and fruity. I opted for something more citrusy and with a hint of lavender, something that I am discovering that I really like in drinks.
Steamed King George whiting, sea scallop, southern squid, white turnips, hatsuka radish, citrus anchovy butter. Well cooked fish sets my heart a flutter. Also, let’s have a moment of appreciation for the beautiful white turnips and flowers. I really loved the light breezy colours of this dish, and the plate that it came on. The ribbons of squid and tender white meat captures the light Summery feeling of the dish perfectly.
Roast masterstock duck, scorched pickled cucumber, native coastal greens, orach, barletta onions. When this was put in front of us, I did a bit of a double take. The dark outside and pink just screamed beef rather than duck to me. The coastal greens also made a re-appearance. Albeit this time they were vastly different. The clear bits that looked like water droplets were surprisingly crispy. I think my biggest quibble was that I could have done with more duck and less cucumber, because the duck was just that delicious.
Cherry Snow Egg. I think it’s safe to say that thanks to Masterchef this is Quay’s most famous dish. Consequently I had some pretty high expectations. Thankfully this was just as good as I imagined it would be. Cracking open the egg part of the snow egg was a sheer delight, akin to cracking the top of a crème brulee but more delicate. Watching the molten cold centre come oozing out was like yolk porn, but even better. Every element from the granita to cream was well done by itself, but when everything was mixed together the flavours and textures just clicked. I could seriously have another one, or ten, of these right now.
Cream, honey, almonds, muscovado, caramal, prune. I had pinned all of my hopes and dreams on the snow egg, so to be honest I didn’t expect much from this dessert. Moreover, it just didn’t look very inspiring from just reading the menu. So it was a real surprise to be presented with this pretty little plate that resembled a blooming flower. Once again, the textural contrast between the caramal, nuts and cream was on point.
Coffee, Tea and Quay Petits Fours.To be honest, one of my favourite aspects of this degustation was that tea and coffee were offered as part of it. Maybe I’m just too used to dining in some Asian countries, but I really appreciate it when drinks are offered as part of a set meal. I had some peppermint tea to aid with digestion. On the other hand the chocolate petits fours did not aid with digestion. They were very rich and unswervingly chocolatey.
And so concludes the longest dining experience of my life. To illustrate just how long this was, we started lunch at around 12:40 and we didn’t leave until around 5:20. During this time, the cruise ship next to us had gathered all its passengers, given a safety briefing and sailed off into the distance where we couldn’t see it anymore. By the time we left the restaurant we had an amazing view of the harbour bridge where the boat and its passengers had been. That being said, time went by really quickly. I never felt that I was waiting too long for food. Although that may have also had a lot to do with the excellent company as well.
I can safely say this was one of the most memorable meals that I have ever had. It wasn’t just the food, but rather the whole leisurely afternoon atmosphere made it a great experience. I’m happy that we managed to tick Quay off our dining list together. I just wish that we were rich and free enough to do this sort of thing all the time!