The Foodish Boy Conquers 'The Tower' at Sydney’s Quay
In between the periods of chaos, senior sous chef Rob, despite sending him a few shoddy starters, did his best to teach me the intricacies of Quay and offer tasters of their dishes. I was even privileged enough to sneak away from service one evening for a private audience with executive chef Peter Gilmore to talk about the Quay philosophy and food, of which three aspects stood out; nature, diversity and texture.
Peter believes in letting nature speak which is why ingredients, rather than technique, take centre stage of his fine dining. (Heston’s ‘meat fruit’ is an example of a technique focused approach because the ingredients are hidden through manipulation of form.) As an avid gardener, Peter works closely with his suppliers such as Tim Johnstone to produce exceptional ingredients that include heirloom vegetables and rare plants.
One of the most striking parts of Australian cuisine is the amount of diversity in their dishes. Not just in the wide range of produce available but also the huge scope of influence from other cultures. Quay proved no exception. Peter taught me about how the Cantonese influenced his texture of sauces, the Japanese his approach to seasonality and old French masters’ use of technique. Quay’s menu represents this melting pot to create exciting original dishes such as their Asian inspired duck breast poached in fermented ume and oloroso master stock, forbidden rice, umeboshi and fresh spring almonds.
On my last night, the pastry chef presented me with their signature dessert, the snowegg – one of the most photographed dishes in the world. On the bottom lies a brûlée cream and white nectarine purée with a white moscato granita. This is topped with a soft poached meringue, containing white nectarine ice cream, glazed in almond praline. There are an awful lot of different textures going on, a signature trait of Quay.
This bowl of heavenly goodness is one of those rare dishes with real theatre about it. Delicately nibbling away, I hadn’t felt this camp since I put on one of my mother’s frocks to perform a Britney song at a rather debauched uni party (the less said about that one the better). Even the toughest bloke would feel like a Disney princess as soon as the snowegg hits his lips.
At the end of my time at Quay, Rob handed me an ice-cold beer, “well done mate, you’ve earned this”. But in all truthfulness, my efforts were barely a fraction of the hard work the Quay team put in to send out plate after plate of total perfection. I said my farewells and stumbled back home, still buzzing and feeling triumphant. Hmmmm, this could be very addictive.