Jun 19, 2013

Australia's Best Restaurant

Overseas Passenger Terminal, 
5 Hickson Road, The Rocks, NSW

Lunch: 3 course menu for $130 per person or a 4 course menu for $150 per person.

8 Course degustation for $225 with the option of a standard wine pairings for $95 per person or premium wines for $175 per person.  

I am unashamedly a fan of Chef Peter Gilmore. His restaurant Quay has consistently been rated the best in Australia for over 10 years, making the San Pellegrino "World's Best" list for 5 years running and thats just the tip of the awards iceberg.

Gilmore's food looks amazing, and manages to encapsulate textures, flavours, and an attention to detail that is way beyond the majority of restaurants. Every dish is so consistent that it looks like a food stylist has had a couple of hours to arrange the plate.

Best of all they all taste the way food should.

I find this an incredible feat given the amount of transformation that each dish element undergoes before being assembled onto the plate. If you have a look at Gilmore's book, you will understand what I mean.

Which is also why that I admit that when we visited, I ordered a lot of his best known dishes on the day. Partly because I wanted to taste for myself why they have become so popular, but more so because they sounded really good. I was not disappointed.


A tiny shot glass of bronze fennel, goat's curd, capers, tomato and rye crumbs (see image above). A tiny promise of the meal to come.

1st Course

Fragrant Poached Chicken

After Masterchef, this has become a signature dish, and it's not hard to see why. It was elegant. The ginger curd was light and aromatic. The scallops, to me, felt like an afterthought, but the chicken was unique. Little flourishes like the petals from the pea flowers and the pearl of egg white adorn it. Seamless.

Mudcrab Congee

Ondine chose the mudcrab congee with palm heart and egg emulsion. She was quoted as saying she will never order congee again after this. It was the classic peasant rice dish elevated to the point where anything else was mere porridge.

2nd Course

Braised Goose

A riff on a Teochew dish that I've had before, this was a piece of braised goose, matched with forbidden rice, black miso, and hatsuka radish. I found it to be strangely coarse; the rice very salty, crunchy and hard work to eat, out of character with the delicate textures of the previous dishes. It was so packed with intense flavours, though I enjoyed every bite. A surprising dish that was more about texture than art.

Eight Mushrooms

One of the highlights of the meal was Ondine's eight mushrooms dish. A light truffle custard, and a chestnut and mushroom consommé bathed the fungi, some of which were hand foraged in the Blue Mountains.

Each mushroom variety had been cooked individually, and the whole assembled. The photo above is the result of separating out the different varieties just to see what they were. At least four of them we had never heard of, and all were cooked so well that their unique flavours remained intact. All were delicious.

The staff we very amused when we did this, and this is one thing that set Quay above every other restaurant we visited in Sydney. While the front of house seemed a little stand-offish when we arrived, the wait staff and the sommelier in particular were more than happy for us to take photos, ask questions, and just have fun.

3rd Course

Pig Jowl

The stand-out protein dish of the day had to be the Berkshire pig jowl, with maltose crackling, prunes, and cauliflower cream.

Perfumed with prune kernel oil, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a pastry on top of prunes and cream, but it's an outstandingly balanced and flavoured savoury dish. The maltose glaze, glass-like. Sous-vide pork, tender, and wonderfully flavoured. The prunes - amazing. I'll never ask for pork belly again if this is available.

I ordered something I'd never had before - Partridge.

Slow Cooked Partridge

While I cannot say that I was disappointed by the slow cooked game bird, with its porridge of malted grain, hazelnuts, flakes of milk skin and summer truffles, it couldn't hold a candle to the pork dish. This was a subtle, and crafted plate, reminiscent of something very provincially Scottish, but the pork - it just blew everything away with one taste.


Guava Snow Egg

The problem you have visiting Quay for the first time, will always be. Do I try the snow egg? There are 3-4 other great desserts available, but what if I never manage to come back? I had to do it. 

I'm not sure what I can say about this "iconic" dessert that hasn't already been said. I will say, unless you are allergic to guava, do try it. Even if it means ordering a second dessert.

Ethereal Sheets

Ondine, not a big dessert fan, as usual managed to order the best dessert on the menu. I present to you, Jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, walnuts and ethereal sheets.

Gilmore demonstrates with this dessert why he is a master. Individual layers of caramel, chocolate (two kinds), toffee glass, and milk skin sit above a puddle of salted caramel and a ribbon of prune purée.

We were instructed to smash it up before eating, and that was definitely the best way to eat it. Those flavours and the quickly melting textures of the sheets made for one of the richest, most overwhelming desserts I have ever experienced.

Stunned, we pondered coffee and the petit fours.

Petit Fours

Ondine and I walked out of Quay very happily full, slightly tipsy and absolutely glowing with pleasure. Not a single thing on a plate left the diner questioning why the chef had done it. The wine list, while not covered in this post, was extremely well thought out and interesting and there really was not a single bad dish or foot put wrong in just under the three hours we spent there.

Many chefs are good at just one thing. They often hire an excellent pastry chef for the desserts and design the rest of the menu themselves. A rare few specialise on the second half of the menu. Justifiably, Peter Gilmore's Quay is the best restaurant in Australia because he does it ALL well and that makes this place special.

Highly recommended. 90/100

Quay on Urbanspoon


  1. What an incredible meal. I have never eaten there but your post has me totally inspired. Those ethereal sheets are really something, aren't they? Gorgeous photos by the way.

    1. Thank you. It was an outrageously good meal.