Review: Quay, Sydney

After a great start to our “wedding gifts from generous friends” dining adventures with a high tea in Coogee, our next stop was a romantic Valentine’s Day lunch at Quay. Gifted by my wonderful colleagues at JDRF, the surprise was organised by my wonderful manager who had messaged K with “We’d like to get you guys a wedding present, but mainly the present is for Amanda not you, so where do you think she would like to eat?”

It was a wonderful surprise, and not one that I had anticipated – a meal at one of Australia’s top restaurants!

quay-01

Quay is well known in Australian culinary circles of course. Peter Gilmore is known for wanting to take each of his diners on “a journey” and is renowned for his meticulous planning and preparation. He’s so earnest about the importance of pre-preparation in fact, that someone I knew was once turned away as she had hoped to do a walk-in but had some rather challenging dietary restrictions that Peter felt he couldn’t cater for on short notice. That’s dedication to his craft!

quay-02

While it can be difficult to get an evening booking at Quay unless you book months in advance, we managed to get a lunch booking on Valentine’s Day without much hassle. There was a cruise ship in port on the day which hampered the view to the Opera House, but we were still in prime position with a beautiful view across to the Harbour Bridge.

quay-03

Seating us with a flourish, our waiters for the day (we had three or four different waiters serve us which was a little bit strange) came out with menus, orders, a dainty beetroot amuse bouche and drinks all in quick order. It was to be honest, quite a bit more brisk than I’m used to at similar ‘fancy’ restaurants – though not rushed, a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend lunch certainly wasn’t enjoyed at the leisurely pace that I would have wished.

Raw smoked Blackmore wagyu, horseradish soured cream, fermented rye crisps, raw funghi

Raw smoked Blackmore wagyu, horseradish soured cream, fermented rye crisps, raw funghi

K and I both opted for the full degustation, though without the matching wines option. I’m still not drinking alcohol, and K wanted to stay sober enough to enjoy everything in full. I enjoyed two of Quay’s mocktails though, and K had two glasses of wine that were suggested by the sommelier as good matches.

The first course of the degustation was a raw (smoked) Wagyu tartare-style dish, with a good serving of lightly spiced horseradish cream and shaved funghi that imparted a strong earthy flavour to the dish. Beautifully presented, and even me with my usual aversion to raw meat enjoyed it!

Congee of mud crab, palm heart, egg yolk emulsion

Congee of mud crab, palm heart, egg yolk emulsion

The mud crab congee was definitely my choice of the day! The strong but clear seafood broth, tender mud crab, soft rice grains and slightly salty egg yolk emulsion combined into a dish that was a pure indulgence of flavours, while still showing elements of the simple home-cooking style of congee.

I make a lot of fish and seafood congee at home for K and I, but never ever have I ever been successful in making congee as simply delicious as this dish. Peter Gilmore, teach me your secrets!

quay-06

The XO marron is a real piece of theatre in an otherwise conservative meal. A bowl of lightly cooked marron is set in front of you, with thinly shaved baby radishes and other garnishes. It looks simple, until another waiter comes along with a small iron kettle, in which is brewed the strongest XO sauce mix I’ve ever tasted. With a theatrical flourish of the wrist, the XO sauce is poured all over the marron.

XO marron

XO marron

What’s left in front of you is a once-simply garnished dish of top-quality marron, now a rich seafood dish that delights the senses with the rich spicy sauce blend. The tender marron meat is superbly enhanced by this addition, especially when eaten in a single mouthful with some of the crispy radish garnish.

quay-08

Now this I found unusual – the top-quality sourdough bread is only brought out to your table with a little curl of butter and sea salt on the side when you’ve finished the first three courses. I’m more used to enjoying my bread at the start of the meal, but I guess the benefit of having bread a little bit later is that you don’t fill up too quickly after only the first few courses.

Smoked and confit pig jowl, roasted koji, shiitake, kombu, sesame, sea scallop, milk curd

Smoked and confit pig jowl, roasted koji, shiitake, kombu, sesame, sea scallop, milk curd

Quay’s hatted version of a ‘Surf and Turf’ is as good as you would imagine – the pig jowl has been slow-cooked to tender melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and the thinly sliced scallops almost dissipate on your tongue as soon as you place it in your mouth. The roasted rice and seaweed lends an interesting crunchiness to the dish, and surprisingly, the broth is not too rich – a nice contrast to the rich XO marron course.

quay-10

At this point, I look at the time and I’m surprised by how quickly we’ve gotten through the first few courses. Our dining neighbours on another table have already left, but we’ve already finished four of the final eight courses. It’s only 1.30pm, and I feel a little bit rushed.

King George whiting, native coastal greens, hatsuka radish, smoked oyster crackling

King George whiting, native coastal greens, hatsuka radish, smoked oyster crackling

Our next is a lightly (poached?) piece of whiting which would be all-around unremarkable if it wasn’t for the interesting small ‘native coastal greens’ that garnished the dish. I don’t know very much about edible native plants, but I know that they made a remarkable addition to this dish. Unfortunately the rest of it was less than impressive – the whiting itself wasn’t anything remarkable, and the smoked oyster crackling on top was actually a bit too strong especially when eaten with the strong oyster sauce on the base of the dish.

Slow cooked duck, black rice miso, celery heart cream, black garlic, ice plant buds

Slow cooked duck, black rice miso, celery heart cream, black garlic, ice plant buds

The duck was another matter! I’ve never had duck quite this succulent before – tender, strongly flavoured and lacking any of that dryness that can mar most ambitious duck dishes. The ice plant buds were an interesting garnish as well – the tiny frozen droplets on the buds were extremely beautiful.

Snow egg

Snow egg

The famous Quay Snow Egg is on the must-try list for many people. It’s been on Quay’s menu almost since it first opened, but the legend of the Snow Egg really hit the mainstream when Peter Gilmore appeared on Masterchef over five years ago and set the Guava Snow Egg as a challenge for that year’s contestants.

It’s a piece of dessert engineering that leaves most in its dust – something of true beauty that has to be seen in person to be fully enjoyed. The flavour changes with the seasons – we were the first to try the plum snow egg on its first day on the menu (previously cherry over summer), and I can report that I nearly wept with happiness as I ate it. The custard cream, the granita, the smooth gelato…it’s a masterpiece.

Chocolate ethereal

Chocolate ethereal

The Snow Egg is a hard act to follow, and I find the Chocolate Ethereal that comes out as our last course just that little bit lacking as a result. While I’m sure Peter Gilmore has his reasons for sending the Snow Egg out as the first dessert, I would have suggested that it would make a more appropriate show-stopping final course that really sticks in the minds of his diners.

That’s not to say that the Chocolate Ethereal was a bad dish – it certainly wasn’t! I’d be absolutely over the moon if I was served it for dessert at any other establishment…but it does seem very ordinary after the remarkable snow egg.

Cappucino

Cappucino

With our meal over, we kick back with a cappuccino for K and a jasmine tea for me to enjoy the view and to share our excitement over the meal that we just enjoyed.

Jasmine tea

Jasmine tea

While it’s certainly not late as it’s only 3.30pm by my watch, we can sense that the mood at Quay is changing. We’re one of only a few tables left still sitting back and enjoying the view with leisurely sips of our beverages.

quay-17

Even the beauty of my jasmine tea bud expanding in the glass teapot can’t shake the feeling that the wait staff are waiting for us to leave. Maybe it’s the clearing of tables and tablecloths around us, or the young waiter ironing the new tablecloths at a table right next to us, or the regular check-ins from another waiter (is there anything else I can get you?) but there’s certainly the hint that our romantic Valentine’s Day lunch is coming to a rapid close.

Petits fours

Petits fours

We can take a hint! We quickly eat our petit-fours, call for the bill and make our way away from Quay.

quay-19

Despite the sourness of the final rushed ending of our meal, there’s no denying that Quay is a wonderful experience. The views can’t be beat, and there are more than a handful of standout dishes on offer on the elaborate degustation menu – from iconic dishes like the snow egg to quiet champions like the mud crab congee.

It is a big price to pay for a meal that lasts only two and a half hours though – at over $300 per person for the degustation and two drinks, you could reasonably expect to have the opportunity to stay longer, linger over your meal, and continue enjoying your hatted dining experience.

As lovely as Quay is, I don’t think we’ll be back unless the menu was to change dramatically. My favourite hatted restaurant in Sydney is still Ormeggio at the Spit – at around $200 per person for a seven course degustation and drinks, service that allows you to linger over your meal for four hours, and one constant waiter who you get to know rather than a rotating door of different wait staff…well, it’s no contest really.

Quay on Urbanspoon


Review: Gazi, Melbourne

Continuing the culinary education of my father, I decided to introduce him to Greek food on my last trip to Melbourne. He was a little more inclined than he has been in previous years to try Greek cuisine, especially as my cousin has recently started dating a Greek boy who my father just loves. After all if George, my cousin’s boyfriend, is such a catch, the food of his culture must be pretty good as well right?

I met him for dinner at George Calombaris’s Gazi early one evening after I finished work. We were there at 5.30pm and were amongst the first diners in the restaurant. As we sat down, I explained to my dad that Gazi was a relatively new restaurant, and that a famous TV chef had chosen to shut down his celebrated fine dining restaurant in order to open up a more casual eatery showcasing the food of his country.

“Well that makes sense,” my dad said. “As people get older, they become more in touch with their culture.”

There’s a truth of a kind to my father’s statement. As a child, I used to want nothing more than to fit in with my predominantly Anglo classmates. I would bemoan the fact that my parents would pack my school lunchbox with Chinese snacks, rather than Twisties and muesli bars. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve become more comfortable with celebrating who I am and where I come from. I studied overseas to become more comfortable speaking in my native tongue. I cook traditional meals at home. I’ve become vocal about issues of race in our society. I wonder whether George Calombaris has gone through a similar personal cultural revolution himself?

House-made grapefruit & lavender soda, $6.50 Fix pale lager (from Athens), $10 Golden Axe cider, $10

House-made grapefruit & lavender soda, $6.50
Fix pale lager (from Athens), $10
Golden Axe cider, $10

We started off with drinks around the table. It was a hot day, so Dad told me to order him a light beer, an Athenian pale lager. My brother is a big fan of cider, so ordered the locally made Golden Axe cider. Still on my alcohol-free jaunt (it’s been over a year now!), I treated myself to a house-made grapefruit and lavender soda which is wonderfully refreshing and the perfect mix of slight tartness and sweetness. I finished my soda halfway through the meal and was tempted to order another before deciding to save space for food, rather than another fizzy drink.

Taramosalata dip with prawn crackers, $9.50

Taramosalata dip with prawn crackers, $9.50

Dad’s unable to read the menu, so leaves it up to my brother and I to order. We started off with a dip to share, to whet our appetites. The Taramosalata Dip caught my eye on the menu, especially with the addition of the Prawn Crackers on top – the perfect aerated cracker to go with the fishy dip. This was the first time that Dad had tried flatbread before, and he couldn’t get enough of it, even asking the waiter to bring more bread out so that he could eat it with every other dish we ordered!

Cheese (Saganaki, balsamic honey, figs), $14.50

Cheese (Saganaki, balsamic honey, figs), $14.50

The Saganaki was a big hit at our table. We’re not a big dairy-eating family at the best of times – being slightly lactose-intolerant will do that to you! However, as soon as the iron skillet was delivered to our table, wafting in delicious cheesy aromas overlaid with caramelised sweetness, we dug into it with gusto. Even my Dad went back for seconds of this more-ish creamy caramelised cheese after initially declaring “I’ll just have a small taste!”

Greek salsa (Tomato, capsicum, cucumber, red onion, feta,  olives, sesame & fennel lavosh), $12.50

Greek salsa (Tomato, capsicum, cucumber, red onion, feta,
olives, sesame & fennel lavosh), $12.50

The Greek Salsa was my brother’s choice, and proved to be a good palate-cleansing dish to finish off the entrees before we jumped onto mains. The crisp sesame and fennel lavosh was definitely the highlight of this dish, and it went surprisingly well with the Taramosalata Dip as well.

Crab (Soft shell, mint, coriander, honey, mayo) and Duck (Chips, parsley, onion, pear, mustard mayo) Souvlakaki, $12 each

Crab (Soft shell, mint, coriander, honey, mayo) and Duck (Chips, parsley, onion, pear, mustard mayo) Souvlakaki, $12 each

We order two of Gazi’s famous mini-souvlakis to share. Known as souvlakakis, they’re about half the size of a normal souvlaki and offer a lot more than your usual chicken, beef or pork options at a 3am souvlaki joint. We ordered the Soft Shell Crab Souvlakaki, and the Duck Souvlakaki. Both were great hits. The light batter on the soft shell crab leaves the souvlaki surprisingly light on the palate and refreshing with the mint and coriander. The duck was a favourite – as my father said, “This duck is so tender, it’s much better than Peking Duck!” And that my friends, is high praise indeed.

Grains salad (Barley, lentils, quinoa, pomegranate, cumin  yoghurt, cauliflower, puffed grains), $12.50

Grains salad (Barley, lentils, quinoa, pomegranate, cumin
yoghurt, cauliflower, puffed grains), $12.50

The Grains Salad also met with plenty of praise. Having never tried quinoa before, Dad was really intrigued by its nutty taste and texture, especially when paired with the fruity sweet pomegranate seeds. The whole dish worked really well, and it’s definitely one that you could easily replicate at home. I’m encouraging my brother to take up some of the cooking duties at home now that he’s out of school and has a bit more time on his hands to help my Dad out around the house – I’m hoping that this will be one of the first dishes he makes for dinner!

Karpouzi salad (Watermelon, pickled cucumber, feta, mint), $13.50

Karpouzi salad (Watermelon, pickled cucumber, feta, mint), $13.50

Plagued by a cold sore that day, Dad also requested that we order the Karpouzi salad. It’s very simple and more like a jazzed up dish of watermelon than a salad in the traditional sense. Having never had watermelon in any other way other than ‘as is’ however, I was surprised by how well it paired with a bit of feta sprinkled on top and a dash of mint leaves too. The juice of the watermelon really cuts through the creaminess of the feta, and the mint helps to enhance the subtle watermelon sweetness as well. Simple, but effective!

Greek coffee, $4.50

Greek coffee, $4.50

Now that’s all the entrees and mains we ordered…because I knew I wanted to save space for at least a few of the desserts on the menu! First though, Dad tried a Greek coffee for the first time. Not being a coffee drinker myself, we asked our waitress for some advice on what Greek coffee actually is, and she recommended a coffee style and weaker strength for my Dad to try. He still found the little espresso shot much stronger than his usual Chinese-style milk coffee, but enjoyed the rawness of the coffee.

Chocolate peanut butter ice-cream cone, $4.50

Chocolate peanut butter ice-cream cone, $4.50

Unfortunately that night they were out of the ice-cream flavour that I was hoping for (baklava I think?), but my brother’s second choice was just as nice; a homemade Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ice-Cream mix that tasted just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but more intensely chocolate-y. The crisp waffle cone was delicious as well!

Loukoumathes (Honey Nutella, crushed hazelnuts), $10.50

Loukoumathes (Honey Nutella, crushed hazelnuts), $10.50

Dad wanted a dessert that was had less dairy in it as he felt that he’d already had enough dairy that day with the delicious Saganaki that we started our meal with. The Loukoumathes it was! Now I always order Loukoumathes at street festivals whenever I see a stall, but these were just on another level altogether. Drizzled in honey and Nutella and sprinkled with crushed hazelnuts, these were sinfully more-ish – I could have ordered another serve!

Pavlova (Seasonal fruit, white chocolate sorbet, curd), $12.50

Pavlova (Seasonal fruit, white chocolate sorbet, curd), $12.50

Gazi’s Pavlova is the pride and joy of the menu though. When it comes out on its big plate, you can’t help but ooh and aah at the sheer size of the light and fluffy meringue shell with its gorgeous peaks and rose petal decorations. The waitress will give you a spoon, and tell you to smash the meringue shell as hard as you can. Be warned – it will make a mess!

gazi-12

Once you smash open the meringue shell, you find the most beautiful scoop of white chocolate sorbet and fresh fruits underneath. You might finish the gelato and fruit quickly as you won’t be able to stop yourself from bringing spoonful after spoonful to your mouth…but you will find yourself seated at your table constantly nibbling on little pieces of the meringue after you finish your meal. It’s strangely addictive!

gazi-13

I’m really pleased with the experience that we had at Gazi. Each dish we ordered gave my sheltered father a new culinary experience, and I think that it has opened his eyes to some of the possibilities of Greek cuisine. I’m delighted that George Calombaris has taken it upon himself to offer authentic, reasonably priced hearty and homey Greek food to Melbournians…and hope that a Sydney branch is on the cards for the future!

I’ll definitely be back to Gazi…but first, a German hofbrauhaus as my Dad has expressed an interest in German cuisine!

Gazi on Urbanspoon


Review: The Boatbuilders Yard, South Wharf

Nowadays when I catch up with my girlfriends in Melbourne, the first requirement I have of a lunch venue is whether or not it’s child-friendly. With one toddler and one infant now a part of our regular catch-ups (I can’t believe my friends are having babies!), room to maneuver a pram in-between tables is as important a requirement as good food.

Luckily, the Boatbuilder’s Yard in South Wharf delivers on both counts – big open alfresco dining areas that are pram-friendly, and an ambitious menu that’s a bit more challenging than your usual brunch fare.

Smashed avocado with lemon, mint, coriander, goats feta, chilli on multigrain, with mushrooms on the side, $19.50

Smashed avocado with lemon, mint, coriander, goats feta, chilli on multigrain, with mushrooms on the side, $16 + $3.50

My friend Beth never goes past avocado on toast, and the Boatbuilders Yard are certainly not stingy with their servings! It comes topped with goats feta cheese which gets a nod of approval from Beth. With a side order of mushrooms for a bit of protein ($3.50 for a serve), this meets all the requirements of a healthy, herbed, hearty breakfast to start the day off right.

Grilled house-made cornbread with maple bacon jam, watercress salad and poached egg, $16.50

Grilled house-made cornbread with maple bacon jam, watercress salad and poached egg, $16.50

Esther ordered the cornbread which I had originally considered. It’s an interesting dish, and not all the elements gel together. The highlight is probably the maple bacon jam, which is oh my god mind-blowing.

Ricotta and goji buckwheat hotcakes with organic quark, pure maple syrup, blackberries, chia, $16.50

Ricotta and goji buckwheat hotcakes with organic quark, pure maple syrup, blackberries, chia, $16.50

I was dying for a naughty treat (I had gotten up at 5am that morning for the flight down to Melbourne!), so ordered hotcakes to help fulfil my “bad food” craving. Luckily for me and my waistline though, these were healthy hotcakes made of ricotta, goji berries and buckwheat. Topped with quark (similar to a cream cheese), blackberries and chia seeds, this was a virtuous breakfast dressed up as something a bit more sinful. While the buckwheat mix resulted in a hotcake texture that I wasn’t quite familiar or comfortable with, all the elements on the plate worked really well together. Pure heaven in a single mouthful.

Potato and parsnip latkes, $2.50

Potato and parsnip latkes, $2.50

Having missed my opportunity to grab a McDonald’s hash brown at the airport as I had to run to my gate to make the flight, I settled for a side order of potato and parsnip latkes to fulfil my need for fried potatoes. These were incredibly fluffy, and surprisingly light for the amount of frying involved. Very more-ish, and quite a large serving as well – best shared between three people!

Summer Bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes, whipped ricotta salata, herbs and vincotto with poached egg, $16

Summer Bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes, whipped ricotta salata, herbs and vincotto with poached egg, $16

My friend Katy showed up a little bit later with her newborn Selena and ordered this beautiful plated Summer Bruschetta with wonderfully coloured heirloom tomatoes scattered around the plate. It became even more beautiful when she sliced into the perfectly poached egg, and the yolk came oozing out over the bruschetta!

We finished off our meal with a few desserts from their dessert cabinet…and in actual fact, we actually got two serves, as the waiter accidentally brought out the desserts twice! He was going to take the second lot back until we said to him, “You know, if you just leave those here, no one will ever know we got a double serve of dessert.” He deliberated for a half-second before placing them on our table with a wink. High five to that waiter!

The Boatbuilder’s Wharf is a great location for a casual brunch with friends in the city, especially if you have little ones in tow. The menu puts a twist on the usual brunch options, and executes well without unnecessary fanfare. Prices are reasonable, and service is friendly and generous with an extra serve of dessert! It does seem like a location that may possibly get a little rowdier later in the afternoon and night, so don’t take your kids along then. My girlfriends and I will be back for brunch though!

The Boatbuilders Yard on Urbanspoon


wholesale car news