After the mop-up from my time on the high seas, my employer, who had been away at the same time but on a different P&O ship, wanted to take me out for lunch to celebrate our hard work that had resulted in a very happy client. I was thinking we might be taking an hour off for a slap-up Chinese at the local suburban restaurant but found (to my delight) that we were off to Quay, a three hatted restaurant no less, at the International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.
When my employer, Lisa, phoned to book she was advised that the view across to the Opera House would be blocked by a cruise ship and would that bother us. ‘Not a bit’, she replied, ‘We’re quite used to looking at cruise ships’.
We arrived at lunchtime on a beautiful Sydney day and were warmly greeted and shown to our table that was in a fairly quiet and private corner of the restaurant where I sat on a very comfortable upholstered swivel chair and Lisa was seated on the banquette. We may not have been able to see the Opera House but we certainly had a wonderful view of the Harbour Bridge.
We both started with a gin and tonic and then we were told how the menu worked. You could order three courses for $135.00 or four courses for $145.00. We decided, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’, we’d have the four courses. What I noticed as I read through the menu is that every dish contains a number of interesting ingredients I had either never heard of or had not yet tasted and it is so refreshing to go to a restaurant and be amazed, intrigued and inspired.
For my first of four courses I had a salad of preserved wild cherries, albino and chiaggia beetroots, radish, creme fraiche and violets. Look at how pretty it is and have you ever had a dish with that combination of ingredients? The dish had a great variety of flavours and textures.
Lisa had sashimi of local lobster, bergamot, green almonds, grapefruit and elder flowers. We wondered who the poor person out the back was who had the task of peeling each grapefruit segment as only the insides of each segment were plated.
My second course was also vegetarian and it was carrot seedlings, white lentils, almonds, Reggiano emulsion, cumin daylilies, Job’s tears and coriander flowers. I wondered what ‘Job’s tears’ are and it’s barley. This was another dish full of multiple textures from puree to firm crunch.
Lisa had line caught iki jimi Tasmanian squid, squid ink custard, society garlic and pink turnips. This was so pretty on the textured plate. Just look at the colour of those turnips!
By now we were enjoying a glass of Riesling but we switched to Pinot for the main course. I had Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil. This was absolutely amazing and probably the most melt-in-the-mouth tender pork I’ve ever had. The pork did not need to be carved, it fell apart with the touch of the fork.
Lisa had Hawkesbury free range chicken cooked in Vin Jaune and cream, steamed brioche, egg yolk confit, Albra truffle. She said this was incredible with the chicken being beautifully poached, very tender and full of flavour.
My last course was the now very famous (thanks to its appearance on Master Chef) and very well blogged, White Nectarine Snow Egg. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? There is a nectarine fool at the bottom of the glass topped with a nectarine granita. A meringue ‘snow egg’ sits delicately on top and cracks when tapped with the back of the spoon. This was something I’ve been longing to try for a very long time and it was as amazing as everyone has previously said. The sweetness of the meringue is cut by the iciness of the granita and then there’s the creaminess of the fool and the inside of the egg.
Lisa had the jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, walnuts, ethereal sheets. This was so pretty on the plate and I loved the super-thin layers of ‘sheets’ that were in an enormous variety of flavours. What a work of art. The waitress suggested she smash them and then enjoy little pieces together on her spoon.
By then it was heading towards early evening and the restaurant was closed to set up for the dinner service. We were invited to sit outside on the balcony while the interior was vacuumed and the tables re-set. We were in no hurry to leave and thought it would be remiss not to try the cheese platter that was a mix of blue, cheddar, a smoky cheese and a goat’s cheese. I can’t remember the names of all these cheeses but I do remember the waitress saying the goat’s cheese came from Switzerland and had ‘alpine flavours’.
It’s hard to imagine how but we managed to finish off that cheese platter while sipping a full-bodied red and chatting endlessly about our plans for Christmas. A taxi arrived and we were whisked away with just one quick glance over my shoulder wishing I was staying on for the dinner service.
There’s nothing worse than a gushy post so I did have to find one thing to fault. It was a challenge but I did find it – in the bathroom – just look at the over-flowing used towels!
Used towels aside, this would have to be the best dining experience I’ve had in a very long time. Thank you so very much Lisa for choosing Quay, your generosity and company and an incredible start to my Christmas celebrations.
Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, 5 Hickson Road The Rocks NSW 2000
|(02) 9251 5600|