Our hotel was located in the city within walking distance to Circular Quay so we walked down and ordered a Hendricks martini in a little bar where there were lots of trendy types enjoying after work drinks as well as tourists and joggers enjoying the boardwalk. No sooner had we got inside, the heavens opened scattering the tourists. Within a moment, the boardwalk around the quay was an inch deep with water. It was raining so heavily the water had no time to drain away. We sat and looked out at the opera house with lightning streaking across the sky just above the skyline of the buildings. As quickly as it started it stopped and (Sydney being designed to receive a lot of rain all at once) the water drained away very quickly - perfectly timed with the end of our drinks!
We arrived at Quay at 6:30 and were shown to our table right in the window on the furthest point out along the pier, right over the water. An influential Sydney friend of ours had organised a glass of Bollinger for us on arrival. We had a quick look through the menu, which is based on an interesting idea, similar to Piccalilly with the small dish concept geared towards 4 dishes per person. The menu folds out into four separate pages and you select one dish from each of the pages, three savoury and one sweet.
We opted for the degustation with matching wines... why not make the most of it?
The first dish arrived at the table. A little heavy-based glass containing a layer of horseradish creme fraiche in the bottom, with smoked eel tapioca, Toro tuna belly and a tiny violet sitting on top. It was all soft and beautifully flavoured. The tuna was the best we've ever eaten. They poured a Cava to go along with it, the yeasty dry palate was a great contrast to the creamy fattiness of the cream and tuna.
Second dish was chef, Peter Gilmore's famous sea pearls dish. A beautiful glass plate arrived at the table with five small spheres arranged on it, each very beautiful. The waiter explained what each was and the order in which to eat them. 12 o'clock was the same toro tuna we had eaten in the amuse bouche sliced very finely and enveloping the same horseradish creme fraiche. There was a little dollop of caviar on top. As before the tuna was perfect and with horseradish being similar to wasabi you can imagine how good it was.
At 2:30 was smoked eel brandade enrobed in tiny spheres of egg white that has been cooked by dripping it into clarified butter at exactly the right temperature to set it but not allow it to form back together. This sphere looked as though it had been rolled in tiny pellets of artificial sweetener. The brandade itself was soft and packed with eel.
The next sphere was octopus rolled in tapioca. Again the tapioca was perfectly cooked and left a lasting starchiness in the mouth.
At 7 o'clock was a gell of dashi stock containing some slices of slow-cooked baby abalone. The jelly was set so perfectly that it broke apart as we cut into it.
And, finally at 10 o'clock, raw scallop sliced finely and formed into a ball studded with tiny cress and some silver leaf. An excellent dish and everything good you hear about it is true! Presentation, flavour and creativity perfectly combined.
The third dish along with a rose was a sous vide squid with finely sliced red skinned radish in a carpaccio style fanned around the inside of a bowl. There was a roasted squid consomme poured over the top at the table and garnished with the tiniest radishes, smaller than your little fingernail.
Next up was sous vide partridge breast with Quay's chocolate and walnut black pudding and a little disk of perfectly set truffled custard. A very pretty dish as you'd expect with perfectly cooked partridge, soft and pink. The black pudding was the most interesting part of the dish it had a crunch and was scattered rather than as a chunk or disk like we were expecting. it added a richness. Beautiful!
Confit of pork belly with its skin crisped and cut into little cubes and chequer-boarded with house made tofu with asian mushrooms. The tofu was exquisite, soft and naturally sweet and paired with the mushrooms it was an earthy delight!
Lamb belly rolled and placed in the middle of a large plate with fresh peas, asparagus tips, leek hearts, spring onions and broad beans scattered around it - the essence of Spring. Along side was a fresh jersey milk curd set into a petri dish with a line of crushed nuts and grains scattered across the top. The curd added a rich creaminess to the freshness of the vegetables around the lamb.
The first of the sweet dishes arrived in a stemless balloon-shaped glass. custard apple ice cream with jackfruit granita. They had matched it with a moscato frizante. There was a tropical note to the wine that perfectly matched the over-ripe pungency of the custard apple.
Fresh and perfectly ripe raspberries were the star of the next dish - vanilla cream, raspberry sorbet, white chocolate pistachios, violets and croquantes. Presented beautifully and such a treat to get fresh berries of such good quality at this time of year.
Lastly petite fours in the form of a paper-thin chocolate tuille in the shape of a cigar filled with an orange mousse and a tiny disk of hazelnut chocolate coated in white chocolate. The tuille was amazing, it just melted in the mouth.
Chef Peter Gilmore came out to the table to say hello and ask how everything was. He had just returned from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide awards where he had been awarded Sydney's Chef of the Year, Quay had kept it's "three hat" rating and Quay was named Restaurant of the Year. The first time ever a restaurant has won best restaurant in the Gourmet Traveler and the Good Food Guide two years in a row!
We finished with a pot of green tea and wandered back out to Circular Quay where there was no evidence of the downpour from earlier on and back to the hotel to pack our things ready for a 6:30 departure.
Overall impressions of Quay were that everything we had heard about the place and all their awards is very, very well deserved!