Before even entering the restaurant, Quay comes with a bit of a reputation.
I’ve had a number of foodie friends visit this iconic Sydney property — some have thoroughly enjoyed the experience (placing the meal in the upper echelons of remembered meals), and others have thought it was a bit overrated (praising the view and not much more). Where, exactly, would our opinion lie?
Let’s first start with the positives — the view from the dining room is among the best in Sydney. Full stop. Given that we dined during Vivid, we had a front row seat for the brilliant lights of the festival, which were at times absolutely show stopping. Additionally, I thought the service staff (and all front of house) were highly professional and involved and appreciated the ability for the kitchen to adhere to Hubs’ no gluten or dairy preference.
Unfortunately, friendly staff and a beautiful view do not make a meal. When the best dish is the first plate (a salad) and there are no pre-meal snacks (a must to me for a venue of this caliber), no direction, and almost no texture (in any dish), the degustation slowly became a strange (and relatively expensive) experiment.
Overall, my biggest issue with the menu came from not a micro view, but more the macro. Mainly, this menu went absolutely everywhere, with no clear direction. I’m not saying tasting menus like this one need to follow some exact transition from one course to the next, but any amount of continuity or connection between dishes is appreciated. In this instance, the salad (although delicious) had nothing to do with the mud crab and broth that followed or the smoked confit of pig jowl in the next course. Perhaps I missed the bigger picture of this menu, but given the amount of meals I had throughout the trip, in addition to the many other menus I’ve had at similarly styled restaurants, I was left confused as to why a kitchen would put forward these dishes in this order (click here for the breakdown).
Visually, I also can’t say I particularly connected with many of the dishes (‘milk skin threads’ are probably three words I don’t enjoy reading together, no matter what they taste like). Moving away from the strange almost intentional lack of texture and the disconnected meal was the bizarre choices in background music (i.e. adding less than nothing to the atmosphere) and the overall breakdown of the dining room. The interior space (placed on top of downright ugly carpeting) is divided into a number of tables in the front room which seemed — on the evening we dined at least — to be focused on what I might consider ‘serious diners.’ The remainder of the restaurant was full of tourists (yes, I realize I was one, but I at least dressed for the occasion). The ‘alternate’ dining room was a strange disconnect to walk through, such that it felt like an entirely different venue.
Finally, for the tasting menu to start at AUD$245 per person (we opted for the additional AUD$105 wine pairing), I quickly failed to see what or where any sort of value occurred when the bill arrived. Given that the following night we dined at a lovely 5-course tasting menu for AUD$85, it put even more a focus on just how out of touch the pricing at Quay was.
Would I go back? Sorry friends, I would not. While there were many luxurious ingredients and a beautiful view, I can’t see too much to get excited about at Quay.
Do you have a favorite fine dining venue in Sydney?