I really enjoyed dining at Quay last night, not least of which because of the amazing venue. We ate in the Upper Tower, and it was like eating in a glittering jewel on the edge of the harbour. We had views in almost 360 degrees, spanning from the row of restaurants in the Rocks (whose menus according to Craig and ms_victoria haven't changed in ten years) to the bridge, to the Opera House, and round to Circular Quay. You even got a view if you looked up, as the shiny ceiling reflected water, fireworks and your cleavage back at you... there was much cleavage dancing when I pointed this out. I tried not to look down, as I hated the carpet (loud, garish, multicoloured and reminiscent of the 1960s)... but that was about the only thing. It really is a glamorous restaurant, perched on the tip of the third and fourth floors of the overseas passenger terminal.
Incidentally, the room we dined in seated 32 people, and cost you $700 per head to eat in on New Year's Eve (making the minimum spend over $22,000). You can also hire the room on other nights for a minimum spend of $3000. It would be a party to beat all parties, and you can even toddle up to the observation deck to take in the view, or smoke, if the mood takes you.
Our menu was four courses of heavenly delights, by three-hatted chef, Peter Gilmore. For our first dish we got Sea Pearls which came as three spherical items on a large white plate. My favourite was the smoked eel, wrapped in a white soy jelly. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted, and was the first time I had ever liked eel. The most extravagant item was the pearl meat, which they wrapped in tiny pipetted spheres of egg white, so it looked like a pearl encrusted jewel. I cannot imagine the woe of the poor chef who had to hand pipette these, as the whole restaurant was being served them... The final sphere was some lovely sashimi style tuna - delicate in colour and flavour, and perhaps had I not recently eaten the best tuna of my life in The Cook Islands, I probably would have found it very memorable. To wash it down there was a lovely 2000 Kreglinger Vintage Brut from Pipers Brook in Tasmania. It tasted of crisp green apples, and was lovely both with, and without the food. More and more I am starting to find champagne and Tasmania connected - we recently enjoyed both Jansz and Tigress as well.
After a great start, our group was energised for the next dish, incidentally served with what I considered to be the wine of the night, a 2005 Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. We first tried this wine when we dined at Guillaume at Bennelong, and it is simply the softest (lightly) wooded chardonnay I have ever tasted. Chef Gilmore chose to serve it with a simply heavenly Mud Crab Congee. I barely know how to begin to describe this dish - there was large chunks of mud crab, from the claws, a silky broth, an emulsion I cannot identify, Asian flavours including lemongrass, and some split rice at the bottom. The taste was divine, and we all wanted more.
Though it would be hard to top that, I believe he did with the next dish, a Poached 300-day grain-fed fillet of beef, Japanese mushrooms, spinach puree with smooth, creamy potato mash. Despite me being a heathen, and getting it cooked to medium, it was the softest piece of fillet I have ever had the pleasure of putting into my mouth... pure sex. The mash was so creamy Craig remarked that it was what Deb should be... I guess, if Deb ever started with real potatoes! The spinach puree was a bright green silky delight, and most of us bemoaned that we didn't have enough of the delightfully flavoured Japanese mushrooms. The plate was also a visual pleasure to look at, and the chef balanced the brown and green sauce elements to perfection. Not a scrap of sauce was left on any of the plates, though I wil stop short at explaining the uncouth methods we resorted to. Maybe we can blame the 2004 Heathcote Estate Shiraz from Heathcote in Victoria for our misbehaviour - it filled our noses with the heady scent of tobacco, and cherries, and chesterfield couches, and left a peppery edge on my tongue.
We got to meet Chef Peter Gilmore as we were eating our beef, and we asked him about the cooking method he used. He said that the most credit goes to the produce - black Angus cows from Armidale, who are fed on grain for 300 days, which is much longer than most other producers do it for. He explained that since we asked for medium, the cooking method changed to seared quickly at high heat, then finished in a low heat oven, which incidentally is how Craig is cooking fillet at home, though I am sad to say, without the silky perfection we experienced at Quay.
I recall reading somewhere that Peter Gilmore also spent some time making ice-cream during his illustrious career. Perhaps that explains how exceptional the dessert of Almond Semifreddo, Cherry Sorbet, Cherries and Cream, Florentine was... either way, it was well appreciated by all at our table. It arrived piled into a ring of chocolate - first a base of light sponge, then a creamy, dreamy almond semifreddo, littered with brittle and crisp almonds, mixed with plump cherries, and the topped with a blood red ball of cherry sorbet, that tasted of the essence of cherries, with no additives at all. It was well complimented by the three glasses of 2003 De Bortoli 'Noble One' Botrytis Semillon from Riverina, New South Wales that our favourite waitperson managed to scrounge up for us. She was awesome, and made for a very value added experience!
It was a wonderful night, full of gastronomic and social pleasure, spent in a visually spectacular restaurant. Thanks to ms_victoriaand gigglznwrigglz for accompanying us.