25 Feb 2016
Peter Gilmore’s philosophy is all about simplicity and purity. That’s all it takes. Well, almost.
We’re the lucky country. Australian produce is some of the most desirable the world has to offer. It’s not a coincidence that international big gun chefs want a piece of restaurant real estate on our shores. David Chang summed it up in an interview with Details magazine: “…holy shit, the produce, the proteins, the fish. This place is insane. Why wouldn’t you want to open a restaurant out here?” Flavour of the decade, Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma has jumped on that bandwagon with his 10 week Noma Australia popup at Barangaroo being the most prized piece of food real estate Sydney has seen.
And whilst all the big gun international chefs cash in on our beautiful produce, Quay’s head chef Peter Gilmore has been doing this since he joined in 2003. Quay serves quintessentially Australian cuisine. Every ingredient comes from Australia and is showcased in a pure and textural way, making it a multi sensory experience.
Staff are dressed formally, and yet they’re relaxed and happy to indulge in their clients daggy jokes. “Got any seats with better views” I ask sarcastically as we’re lead to the table smack bang in front of the Opera House. “I’m afraid this is as good as it gets,“ says our merry waiter with a smirk, “but let me bring you the cocktail list and see if that enhances it somewhat.” What a brilliant idea.
If the 3 chefs hats Quay has held for 13 consecutive years weren’t clue enough, the calibre of the first plate alludes to the perfection this kitchen is known for. Elements are often kept in their simple state. What makes the dishes so special is the combination of layers, flavours and textures that over all look like something from Alice in Wonderland’s garden. The first entree on our visit is a smoked eel, jamon jelly, eggplant cream and shaved green walnuts. They are all delicately layered one upon the next. Each texture and layer is clearly definable, has it’s own distinct flavour, which combined awakens much more than just your taste buds. Throw in a perfectly matched glass of 2014 Two Cells Rosé from Beechworth, blue skies across a sparkling Sydney Harbour and endorphins will explode like fireworks in your brain whilst your palate does the samba.
Smoked eel, jamon jelly, eggplant cream, shaved green walnuts
Smoked and confit pig jowl, roasted koji, shiitake, kombu, sesame, sea scallop, milk curd, smoked broth
To finish off this spectacle of a meal, there are two more dishes to satisfy the sweet receptors and release yet more endorphins. Dessert! The famous (thank you, Masterchef!) snow egg appears. There’s a reason there’s so much talk about this dessert: it’s really rather awesome. Our version is a guava and strawberry snow egg. It combines all my favourite desserts in one very pretty glass. There’s granita, there’s custard, puree and ice cream, and there’s meringue which is encased in a sugar crust. It’s fun cracking your spoon into the sugar exposing the soft meringue whilst you explore all the flavours individually and then all together. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s playful and textural but most importantly it’s mindblowingly delicious.
Quay, Flinders Island lamb, native coastal greens, hatsuka radish, eggplant, capers, smoked oyster crackling
Guava and strawberry Snow Egg
Gilmore is very loyal to his simple philosophy which he describes in his latest book: “Organum”. “Just four elements are required to create perfect unison in a dish: nature, texture, intensity and purity.” And that, ladies and gents – is the Quay to being Sydney’s, if not Australia’s, best restaurant.
The short and sweet:
THE GOOD BITS: The food, the view, the service, the wines. Did I mention the food. Yep, the food.
THE NOT SO GOOD BITS: The purple carpet.
STANDOUT DISH: Most of the menu. The Snow Egg for surpassing the hype. The Congee of mud crab for being so delicate. The XO Marron for being bouncy and swimming in stunning sauce.
COST PER HEAD: $390 including a welcome cocktail, tasting menu with accompanying classic wine match and a tip.
Location: Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks