It’s Monday evening and I am on my way towards Circular Quay to join Y, M and Mitch for a World Chef Showcase dinner with Sebastiean Bras at Quay restaurant. On a day where most of are cursing the start of yet another work week, it is the unofficial day off for the lovely people in the hospitality industry. This partly explains the rather festive atmosphere floating in the air the moment I stepped through the door and noted the presence of food critics and chefs alike, but regardless of who you are that night, you were there to worship at the altar of gastronomy.
The event was part of SIFF’s World Chef Showcase. A first of its kind in Sydney’s gastronomy calendar, it partners some of Sydney’s best restaurants with world class chefs from around the world for an unforgettable dining experience. Priced at around $300 per head, it wasn’t the cheapest of dining experiences, but when considering the fact that you are able to eat at one of the top ten restaurants in the world without leaving the city it was an amazing deal.
My dining experience can be best summarised by Uhh:
Sebastian Bras at Quay
Bras, the restaurant he and his father Michel run in the centre of France is considered that country’s finest and one of the top 10 in the world. There they gather amongst other things local vegetables, herbs and flowers and combine them to dizzying effect. Sydney’s Quay is arguably Australia’s finest restaurant and it too has gained a worldwide reputation based on chef Peter Gilmore’s understanding of the natural. Those lucky enough to afford it will be treated to a six-course menu by these two like minded souls.
We started with a fresh apertiser consisting of vongole, burghul and goats curd. This simple, but beautifully balanced dish was a perfect introduction to the rest of the evening.
Next was the signature Gargouillou of young vegetables, with grains, herbs and grilled almond eggnog. Also known as the most beautiful combination of vegetables and petals on a plate, I’m sad that this photo did not it any justice aside from capturing the endearingly tiny baby radish. Each vegetable was braised individually to bring out its flavour, and it was unbelievable how much flavour each piece of piece packed in every bite.
Next was a feast of colours with juicy sauteed scallops on sugar -loaf cabbage, white apple and garden cress, apple juice and almond prune oil.
Next was the rather surprising orange dusted king prawns wit a vegetable broth and touch of coriander. I could barely remember the coriander from this dish, but I still remember the sweet orange dust on the side of the plate like edible fairy dust that burst in my mouth.
I should mention that although wines were not included as part of the meal, matching wines were thoughtfully recommended within the menu. I decided to have a glass of the 2007 Ramon Bilbao, Viura, Rioja, Spain with the next dish. Aptly named Earthly Flavour it consisted of green asparagus crusted with black truffles, toasted barley and ham. It reminded me of a mini haggis in appearance, but the flavour was smoky, green and very earthy. A complete turning point to the previous light and delicate flavours.
Next was the roast rack of lamb on the bone: chopped aromatic herbs, Mexican tarragon with salted lemon and slightly spiced sauce. It was beautifully done, but not the most memorable part of the meal. I wonder now if I had ordered the wine, it would have made the pairing more interesting.
There was a noticeable lag as we waited for the longest time for our cheese. During this time both Sebastien Bras and Peter Gilmore wandered around to say hello to all the diners. Too star struck to say anything I just watched them walk closer and closer to us.
Dessert could not come soon enough with the first being meringues shaped into the sails of the Opera House garnished with a palette of local fruit, rose petal and gentian. It was unexpected and eventhough shaping food in the form of the Opera House is sometimes trite, it seemed fitting this time around. I am not a big fan of meringue as a rule, but found this version not too sweet and matched brilliantly with the fruits and sugar coated rose petals.