Time Out Sydney

Peter Gilmore’s palate and palette know no bounds as he creates food that’s almost too beautiful to ruin with cutlery. Almost.

Even the bread and butter is beautiful at Quay. The food is sophisticated, forward-thinking and made with ultra-seasonal and rare local produce. The smallest flowers. The weirdest peanuts. Berries that grow in the dung of camels in outback Australia. 

It's certainly technique-driven stuff. John Javier, an apprentice here and one of 2012’s Time Out Taste Test finalists, describes picking the meat for the mud crab congee – a loose rice consommé filled with big hunks of Queensland mud crab – as “a day of paper cuts”. You can taste the screams in every bite.
It’s the gear that Gilmore doesn’t use that makes Quay the restaurant it is. You won’t find spoonfuls of caviar, imported foie gras or French truffles here. Sure, he could get it all if he wanted to, but it’s the local produce he’s using like fresh white walnuts (again – we’re pretty sure we can hear an apprentice whimper every time someone orders these) that sets Quay apart. They sit like jewels on top of a little roast breast of partridge.
And while we won’t go back on our truffle jihad, the bright yellow steamed truffle brioche with fresh shavings of truffle over the breast is pretty special. And that’s because they don’t make a big deal about it here. It’s just another fresh local ingredient. Truthfully, we’d rather more of the walnuts.
It’s not just the meats Gilmore has a handle on. His vegetarian gear’s really going off – namely the party of shiitake, chestnut and nameko mushrooms on a sort of semi-set cheese custard spiked with crisps that encapsulate crunchy, crushed white lentils and perfectly turned baby parsnip ends.     
Service is rocking it at the moment, too, which is not something Quay can always readily boast. Often, despite the food and the setting, the service here can let the rest down. Oh, and that view from the pinnacle of the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay. It’s pretty amazing.
It’s best to go for lunch. Not just because the views are at their best – the Sydney Opera House, the ferries chugging through the bay, the Harbour Bridge crawling with tiny bridge climbers and the sun glistening off the water through those floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s the fact that you’ll want to be able to see the food on the plate – eating at night is a waste, unless Quay can start supplying mining lamps. Even then, it’s the shades of white and cream and the subtlety of texture that you won’t catch at dinner.
There’s the infamous snow egg. And you should order it if you haven’t had it before. It’s a beauty of a thing. Soft seasonal granita (at the moment it’s guava) sits on a little pool of crème anglaise and then nestled on top is a ball of vanilla ice cream covered in soft meringue encased in a crisp sugar maltose shell then dusted with icing sugar.
But go for the ‘ethereal sheets’. It’s about the most stunning dessert set in front of us ever. And that’s saying something when you eat here, because everything is beautiful. Thin sheets of milk skin, dehydrated prune, toffee sheets and salted caramel sheets is like sticking your spoon into delicious, sweet, salty, rich and bitter strata.
We’re a little bit in love with Quay and we hope you will be too.

Sydney's best French restaurants

Updated on 24 Apr 2014.

By Myffy Rigby   |  

Quay details

Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks 2000

Telephone 02 9251 5600

Price per person including drinks $101+

Open Lunch: Tue-Fri noon-2:30pm; Dinner: Mon-Sun 6pm-10pm

Quay website

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