Molecular gastronomy doesn't capture the food at Marque. Prog-French, perhaps? "The reason I enjoy cooking so much is because I have a thorough understanding of classic French cuisine and that keeps me grounded," says owner/chef Mark Best of his new wave cooking. "I'm a bit of a magpie in that I take these bright and shiny things and integrate them into my food without letting them dominate."
Freshly renovated and reinvigorated since reopening on July 4 (after a spring clean from interior designer Mark Coulston), Marque's dining arena has gone from muted elegance to noir opulence - all lacquer, matte blacks and dark wood and now with a 007-esque electronic sliding door at the entrance.
To really appreciate what Best and Head chef Pasi Petanen can do, go the eight course degustation. From the pop and sigh of a beetroot macaroon filled with foie gras to the creamed egg served in the shell topped with Avruga (a caviar-like product) served with grissini soldiers, the rollercoaster of texture and flavour hits hard and fast. Never mind the Coffin Bay oysters topped with grilled ‘sea foam' (a little like getting dumped by a big wave and swallowing a fish along the way and, for our crowd, a real table divider) or crab custard with frozen foie gras that melts like a river of creamy liver in your mouth.
Here at Marque, you can try a Nicola potato baked in white clay. Sitting on a bed on Manjimup truffle mayonnaise, it's about the strangest dish we've eaten this year. Eat the clay (yes, really; we thought it was a trick too. In fact we're still not sure if Best's just having us on) and in the middle you'll find a fairly dour potato that beds the rich mayonnaise, stinking of truffles. The entire thing feels so wrong but tastes so right.
'Risotto' of South Australian calamari and Yamba prawn sees tiny tender grains of squid twice braised and giving in the mouth while duck ‘ham' is a sleight of hand cut to look like jamon or prosciutto with braised witlof and the tiniest hint of parmesan custard. Our favourite, though, is a buttery, mouth-melting piece of twice poached veal served with a fine dice of truffled root vegetables and a perfect blob of pureed potato.
Did we mention the wine? Sommelier Peter Healy is a genius with all fruits of the vine and even manages to pair something with the warm chocolate ganache punked up with rosemary and lemongrass. It sounds more herbal than hell tasty but works a treat with this house-mix of Rutherglen muscat and ginger beer. Strange but true.
Slices of blue cheese are topped with a sweet apple jelly and toasted mustard seeds that snap, crackle and pop in the mouth, while a caramel Sauternes custard slides by like a dream. Even the petit fours are exciting - salted caramels burst in the mouth leaving an, um, salty, slightly bitter aftertaste.
Marque is an occasion and a half. Yes, it can be expensive (though they now offer a $45 fixed lunch on Fridays), but you're paying for the entire experience from food to wine to staff to fun. And it's incredible.