It almost seems as if every fine dining restaurant in Sydney is touted as an institution. However, for Est, this rings true. It has been winning accolades for as long as I can remember and the chef Peter Doyle is one of the true fore-fathers of Modern Australian cooking.
Est is located right in the middle of Sydney CBD. An air of exclusivity is exuded as you swan on through the side door into a lift. High ceilings, Grecian columns and floor length windows set the scene. I imagine that the large windows would give off a beautiful light and airy look during the day, but at night the lighting was somewhere between dim and dark, making it really difficult to take good photos.
Since we had flown all the way from Melbourne we went all out with the Chef’s tasting menu.
As always, it’s important to start a good night out with drinks. I sampled two of the signature cocktails; the celestial which was fresh and fruity with a strong kaffir lime taste, and also the chamomile cocktail. The chamomile added another dimension to the drink, especially aroma wise. It was sweet but pared back by the chamomile and liqueur.
Hand picked spanner crab, pickled radish, apple, shellfish powder, trout roe, coastal greens. If I were to sum up this dish in one word, it would be contrast. The sweet and soft spanner crab and shellfish powder were the complete opposite to the incredibly sour and sweet pickled radish. Although this contrast was initially a little bit jarring, it was also unbelievably moreish. I found myself puckering slightly and then going back in for another bit of sweet and sour.
Beetroot, smoked eel, raspberry, aged balsamic, duck foie gras, hazelnut, pepper leaf. This was the most creative dish of the night. The foie gras is actually the powder on the side of the dish. From memory, it had been freeze-dried into a fine powder. Interestingly enough, it melted on my tongue leaving me with the distinct taste and smooth texture of foie gras. Although this was certainly innovative, I wasn’t too sure on it. It so closely replicated the experience of foie gras when we could have just as easily had a piece of foie gras instead. The raspberry was also an odd sweet after thought that didn’t really belong anywhere.
Western Australian marron, pearl oyster, yuzu jam, grilled cabbage, ink cracker was my favourite dish of the night. The marron was sublime. It was sweet, tender and oh so juicy. The thin sheen of sauce that coated the marron just made it look even more beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of grilled wombok as it is one of my favourite vegetables. The yuzu jam provided a slightly bitter and sweet counterpart to marron meat.
Murray cod fillet, shaved abalone, snow peas, black fungi, ginger – green shallot vinaigrette. When you read the ingredients, you notice that this is a classic Chinese combination for steamed fish. Having grown up with this combination we all commented that it was very delicately prepared and well cooked but nothing special. In fact if anything it made appreciate the unfussy traditional version of this dish just that little bit more.
Blackmore wagyu rump cap, fermented shiitake, miso mustard, burnt onion puree, baby leek. Although I love miso, shiitake, onions and leeks, I hardly remember them because the wagyu was so delicious it totally blew away my memories of the rest of the dish. Every bite of the wagyu was juicy and bursting with beefy flavour. Even without the miso mustard, the juice was sweet and perfectly seasoned. The salty shiitake mushrooms almost seemed like a distraction in comparison.
Frozen sheep’s yoghurt mousse, blueberries, strawberry juice, fennel, dill. Strangely enough, the presentation of this dessert reminded me of a Caprese salad with its prominent greens, reds, and whites. I’m not too sure what I was expecting, but this was much milder than I thought it would be. The yoghurt mousse was creamy and smooth rather than tangy. The more assertive flavour came from the green fennel and dill rather. A light hand with the herbs gave the sweet elements a more complex flavour.
Coconut rice pudding, pineapple sorbet, mango, kafir lime, meringue. When deciding between desserts, it felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place as I dislike chocolate desserts but also rice pudding. At the last second, I settled on the rice pudding and prayed that it wouldn’t remind me of congee like rice pudding usually does. It turns out that my fears were completely unfounded as soon as we were presented with this sleek piece of art. This was so far removed from any rendition of rice pudding that I have ever seen that I wondered where the name had even come from. The bits of rice were present in the bottom layer, providing an interesting textural contrast to the softer jelly and meringue.
Petit Fours. I love the whole idea of petit fours. You’re stuffed beyond comparison but there’s this little sweet surprise that you can’t say no to. These were a jelly, egg yolk macaron, and banana chocolate truffle. They were all unswervingly sweet and a very rich way to end the meal.
The French waiter who was with us for most of the evening was one of the most charming wait staff that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was very forthcoming with drink recommendations and we even had a lovely chat about dining in Melbourne versus Sydney. Not to mention that gorgeous accent.
When evaluating Est I think that it is skillful but unsurprising cooking. The strongest dishes such as the marron and wagyu are those that carry the flavour of the beautiful produce. I wouldn’t say that Est is a somewhere that you absolutely have to dine at, but it is a faultless choice for any special occasion.