|Venue name:||Quay to the City|
Circular Quay West
When you think all-star restaurants you don’t necessarily think Quay – Sydney’s most underrated fine diner. And why would you? Peter Gilmore gets none of the press some of Sydney’s more celebrated chefs receive, nor does he chase it. You don’t see him with his own line of salt, mayonnaise or smoked salmon and he certainly doesn’t do airline food. But for nine years, Gilmore’s food has been unique: imaginative, beautiful and delicate – each brush stroke perfectly executed, beauty colliding with flavour and lightness and texture triumphing over protein, carb and bulk. In person and on the plate, the man’s an artist. Gilmore makes the little things count. Edible fl owers, grown especially for the restaurant, are placed carefully around two figs carved down to their deep scarlet core. In their company are two bright green raw pistachios and a cigar of thin pastry enclosing a matchstick of light, smoky goat’s curd performing a balancing act on top. It tastes just as good as it looks. Elsewhere, a mix of pink and white radishes the size of fi ve cent coins are scattered around pieces of twice-poached quail breast topped with rippled sheets of milk skin. This dish is more about the texture than anything else – it quickly melts on the tongue while the radishes add pepper to the butter-soft quail. Since Quay’s old multicoloured carpet has been replaced with a rich aubergine, it’s no longer like dining in a Gold Coast nightclub with the lights on and has become a beautiful room showcasing views of the harbour from every seat in the house. Floor-to-ceiling windows guarantee that no matter where you are in the room you’ll be able to look at the Opera House, Bridge and ferries chugging along through the harbour. And if you can swing it, the tables at the very front of the room make you feel like you could topple straight into the swim. Very Sydney. Perhaps the most interesting dish on Gilmore’s current menu is the ethically-fished shark’s fin soup. Traditionally, the shark’s fin is cut off the still-living shark which is thrown back to sea to die, but Quay uses a Western Australian company whose shark fin is a by-product of the fish and chip industry (sharks account for the majority of fish in Sydney’s chippers albeit under the guise of ‘flake’). Here, Gilmore serves it as a little pile of needles that look like cellophane noodles nesting on top of a single confitted duck egg yolk surrounded by rounds of gold-flecked white turnip. This is served then covered in a duck consommé at the table. The result? A textural masterpiece. A spoon of the cartilaginous needles with some of the yolk-enriched consommé and turnip is rich, heady and mouth wateringly more-some. If desserts are your thing, Quay is a happy hunting ground. Gilmore is a master of sweets. Fine shards of white peach granita are served atop creamy vanilla ice cream while nesting at the peak is a “snow egg” – a ball of white peach ice cream wrapped in fluffy meringue, coated in toffee then dusted with icing sugar. Quay may not be a restaurant whose praises are sung from the tree tops by the world at large, but it deserves to be. It has spectacular views, attentive service and interesting wines (there’s even a separate beer menu) but most of all, some of the best food Sydney has to offer.