With unparalleled views of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, along with some of Sydney’s best food by head chef Peter Gilmore, Quay is definitely a place best reserved for a special occasion.
This is exactly what Sir D and I did one weekday lunchtime, when we headed to Quay to celebrate our anniversary. We were greeted by friendly waitstaff who took us through the spacious dining area, where the afternoon sunlight beamed through the glass walls of the restaurant, revealing a clear blue sky and stunning views of Sydney Harbour. Whilst settling in at our table, who should I spot but the lovely Ellie from Almost Bourdain! If you haven’t already, check out her spectacular tiramisu inspired by one of Quay’s signature desserts :)
Although it is definitely not cheap, Quay offers what is said to be one of the best value lunches in Sydney, with 2 courses for $75 or 3 courses for $95. We opted for the 3 course lunch and as we made our choices from the menu, my stomach was already quivering in excitement for the gustatory pleasures to come.
We began our meal with the amuse bouche – a tuna tartare with smoked eel tapioca and horseradish cream. The tapioca had subtle flavours of smoked eel, not too much to overpower the delicate flavour of the fish, but enough to make its presence known. The horseradish cream added a smoothness to the dish and provided a bit of tang to complement the other flavours. I savoured every last bit of this and only wished that there was more.
But not to worry, because the entrees were coming. And what is a visit to Quay without trying their infamous sea pearls? These handcrafted gems of the ocean are delicate, each with their own unique flavour. The tuna one is soft and yielding, studded with herbs and filled with a touch of the horseradish cream from the amuse bouche. The smoked eel and octopus sea pearl is quite chewy and has a unique texture and smokey flavour. The abalone sea pearl is combined with dashi, a Japanese stock made from konbu and bonito, and we find that it very strong on the dashi flavour making it quite salty and masking the taste of the abalone. My favourite by far is the scallop sea pearl encasing lime cream and topped with edible silver. The scallop is sweet and the lime cream imparts a bit of tartness.
We order the mud crab congee as well, served in a large bowl which houses a broth bounteous with crab meat, split rice and topped with a circle of creamy egg emulsion. Definitely not your usual congee, but it is a beautiful take on a traditional Chinese dish with fresh, clean flavours from the crabmeat and the broth. The egg emulsion is a welcome addition of rich creaminess from an otherwise light dish, and the split rice at the bottom of the bowl is delicious, having absorbed the flavours from the broth.
Entrees like that are hard to beat, but the mains don’t fail to tantalise our tastebuds either. The roasted fillet of New Zealand pink snapper sits on top of a colourful seafood, vegetables and flowers. The fish is cooked to perfection, remaining juicy on the inside with a crisp outer layer. Underneath lies a myriad of flavours and textures, including some tiny mussels in a rich tomato sauce, tender octopus pieces with a creamy mayonnaise-like dressing as well as wilted rocket and other crunchy baby vegetables. The dish is well-balanced allowing all the flavours to shine through and not having any that are too overpowering.
Ask Sir D about the duck confit at Quay and he will wax lyrical about it, about how scrumptious it was and how it was his favourite dish of the meal. Despite it looking quite dry when it was placed in front of us, we were blown away by how tender the shredded duck flesh was and how crisp the skin was. The vegetables were crunchy and especially delicious with the duck juices, and the scallops were soft and sweet. Sir D was very reluctant to hand over my half of the duck and I can totally see why – it is quite possibly the best duck I’ve ever had.
After a brief respite the desserts arrive and this is what I have been waiting for all day. We order the eight texture chocolate cake and it is truly a spectacle when the waitress pours the hot chocolate sauce on top of the cake as its eighth texture.
The chocolate sauce melts a hole into the cake like hot lava and although I’ve already tried the seven-textured version of this cake before at the Sydney Food and Wine Fair, the eighth and final texture really brings another dimension to the dessert, adding a bitterness to an otherwise sweet and sugary cake. The cake has a melt-in-your-mouth tempered chocolate disc on the surface, underneath there are layers of chocolate in mousse-y, fudge-y, crunchy and biscuit-y textures. A truly indulgent and decadent way to finish off a meal.
If you’re after something a bit lighter, then why not try another of Quay’s signature desserts, the snow egg. A white peach snow egg was our other dessert and it was a pretty pink dish with the ‘egg’ surrounded by granita ice crystals and sitting on top of a creamy vanilla anglaise.
The snow egg itself is a masterpiece of malt encasing a soft, fluffy poached meringue. Inside the meringue is yet another surprise of a small ball of ice cream. The dessert is very refreshing and the white peach flavour is delicate but manages to permeate through the whole dish.
We manage to sit and enjoy the views, the food, and the company for 2 hours, and at no point did we feel rushed or unwelcome. The service was informative and courteous and there were enough waitstaff for us to easily flag someone down if we required anything. We even caught a glimpse of Peter Gilmore himself – it’s always good to know that the head chef is actually there at the restaurant when you dine. It was an amazing experience to dine at one of Sydney’s best restaurants and we’ll definitely be back (once we save up some money!).
Overseas Passenger Terminal
The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9251 5600
Lunch: Tuesday to Friday, noon – 2.30pm
Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 6pm-10pm