When you get the chance to partake in a gastronomic adventure in one of Sydney’s top restaurants, say at Quay, whose executive chef is Peter Gilmore, the experience is always memorable. Eateries such as this are so sought after, you need to make reservations weeks or months in advance.
As part of the Malaysia Airlines Enrich Luxe Retreat to Sydney in March, three couples were rewarded for their loyalty to the national carrier with a luxurious escapade to the city, which included impeccable food adventures.
Sydneysider Gilmore’s desserts are legendary. His signature Snow Egg has become a household name around the country – you might know it as one of the tougher challenges from the Masterchef Australia TV series. Through the stemless wine glass sits the artful sculpture of a poached meringue on a bed of guava granita and guava fool.
It is somewhat a theatrical affair at Quay, with the combination of Gilmore’s food inspired by nature and the stunning backdrop of the Sydney Harbour.
The dinner at Quay was nothing short of exquisite, as the menu made clever use of Australian bush food. It was like having an enchant-ed garden on your plate – think salads with fresh native muntries, fresh pistachio nuts, goat feta cheese, nasturtiums, sorrel, clover and white cucumber.
Does that sound like Greek to you?
Muntries are also known as emu apples and grow on the plant Kunzea pomifera that is indigenous to the southern coast of Australia while nasturtiums are edible flowers. Both ingredients were pleasant explosions of fragrant blossoms in the mouth.
This is to be expected at Quay as Gilmore is known for his fondness for using many edible plants species and the freshest ingredients in his menu.
Being a huge fan of duck, I was ecstatic when the slow-cooked duck with black rice miso, celery heart cream, black garlic and ice plant buds made its appearance on the table. Visually, it was not a colourful dish but the flavours were sultry and harmonious.
Rocks and markets
Near the Quay restaurant on the harbour is The Rocks, a dockside area that grew into a very busy maritime industry.
This little pocket of sandstone walls, located on the western side of Sydney Harbour, is now a modern and vibrant tourist spot near Circular Quay and the iconic Harbour Bridge, which also houses more than 50 cafes and award-winning restaurants.
The Rocks Walking Tours office located at Clocktower Square at the corner of Argyle and Harrington Streets, is where you can enquire about going on a tour of this charming precinct on foot.
Within the vicinity of the bustling Sydney Fish Market lies Vic’s Meat Market – the ultimate treat for carnivores.
I tasted the best wagyu here. Teppanyaki chef Eric Chan is the maestro behind the Wagyu Bar where he dishes out exquisite cuts of Blackmore Wagyu, Marble Score 11, Tenderloin and Emperor’s Cut. As described on its website, it’s like a cellar door – just with meat!
A house on a hill
The original property of Jonah’s restaurant on Whale Beach was bought by an English lady in 1928. At that time, there was nothing there but bush and a few dirt roads. But she could see that, with such a view, it would make a great tearoom and boutique accommodation.
It has a reputation for being a great place to go for a day trip or overnight stay. It’s unique to be a hotel in the middle of suburbia, said Jonah’s head sommelier Luke Collard. “Jonah’s got its name because of Whale Beach, and also from the biblical story of Jonah and the whale,” he said.
The menu is modern Australian with a strong Mediterranean influence. The seafood tastes amazingly fresh and combined with the use of locally-sourced produce, it is no wonder chef Logan Campbell can work his magic with dishes like Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, the popular Jonah’s Fruits de mer (which means raw and cooked seafood served cold on a platter), Grilled Marron and Salt-crusted Baby Barrumundi.
While Port Stephens is not known as a food and wine destination because they don’t have many award-winning restaurants, they make up for it with fresh seafood, an avocado farm and fresh produce. The nice thing about the region is that it is only an hour from Hunter Valley.
The Anchorage Port Stephens resort is where executive chef Luke Carpenter uses the best ingredients, all sourced within Australia.
As far as high-end dining experiences go in Hunter Valley, one restaurant that encompasses class and comfort is Muse Restaurant at Hungerford Hill Winery. The outside looks ultra modern but the interior has a warm, ranch/mountain resort ambience.
I had the Mandagery Creek Venison and Muse Coconut dessert – both were not just easy on the eyes but on the palate too. Yum!