Making a Marque

27 Feb

As we enjoyed Mark Best’s restaurant, Pei, in Melbourne, it seemed like a good idea to entertain yet another zillion course menu at his Sydney flagship, Marque, in Surry Hills.

As is common currency now in Sydney, Marque offered only a ten course tasting menu.  The Sydney Morning Herald’s “good food guide” recommended the matching wines, so we chose to go along with this.

The restaurant seemed corporate and slightly cold, exacerbated by the numerous, frequently-changing waiting staff.  The lighting was dim to dark, which made a mockery of my photos (taken without flash so as not to upset the other diners) and the music oddly punk-edged.  In keeping with the punk club image, the sommelier looked like Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters.  Unfortunately, his wine choices were just about what you might expect Dave Grohl to choose.  Fortunately, the food was largely fabulous.

The Sommelier

The Sommelier (not really!)

 

The meal started with Potato Maxims with Oyster and Wakame.  Interestingly we had not yet been offered bread.

 

Potato Maxims

Potato Maxims

These were thin potato crisps, with Oyster puree and dark green dust made from salted dried seaweed.  It was an interesting starter if a bit salty.

Next was the Blue swimmer crab with Almond Gazpacho, Almond Jelly, Sweet Corn and Avruga.  I found the crab flavour very fresh and full.  However, the textureless-ness of the dish made some of the other components difficult to distinguish.

 

Blue Swimmer Crab

Blue Swimmer Crab

 

It was at the point when the Pickled Diamond Clams arrived that Marque began to distinguish itself from the other top end restaurants that we had been to.  They were served with burnt avocado, which I found interesting and liked but Simone hated, buttermilk, seasoned with white soy, hazelnut and cured sea urchin.  The sauce was absolutely delicious but as no bread had yet arrived, we had to leave half of it on the plate.

 

Pickled Clams

Pickled Clams

 

South Australian Calamari with Goat Cheese, Sea Banana and Tomato Consomme. 

The Calamari was shredded in thin strips like linguine. It was tender, delicious and perfectly cooked.  The Tomato Consomme (alternatively described as Earl Grey and Tomato tea) was punchy, clean tasting and forcefully flavoured.  The Goats cheese was like a warm, liquid cheese wrapped in milk skin.  It was strong tasting and creamy – a perfect foil for the tomato tea.  The green “sea bananas” added some crunch to the dish.  The bread situation began to get annoying.  I was considering licking the plate….

 

Calamari

Calamari with Tomato tea

 

Striped Trumpeter with Green Tomato, Verjus, Potato Paper, Fish Milk and Roe.  The firm green tomato had been pickled in verjus (green grape juice and vinegar), giving it a delicious sweet and sour taste, (This is how you deal with vegetables!), which complemented the fresh delicate fish flesh perfectly.  The dish was cleverly seasoned with the creamy fish milk and salty roe. Still no bread – I feel tearful as the verjus is being cleared away.

Where's my BREAD?

Where’s my $%*#! bread?

 

Organic Free Range Chicken with Leek and Liver parfait.  This was my least favourite dish.  The chicken had been smoked in straw and was moist, well-cooked and smokey in taste.  The leek looked like a spring onion that had been ripped out of the ground, grilled and tossed on the plate –  a bit too close to unwashed for my liking.  I found the parfait revolting as it tasted like semi-molten blue cheese.  Greg and Simone both loved it though.

 

Chicken with Liver parfait

Chicken with Liver parfait

 

Mandagery Creek Venison with Smoked Beetroot, Egg Yolk, Cured and Jam

This was the star of the night, which, given the number of contenders and the fact that the venison was raw, was no mean feat. The beetroot had been smoked and sliced into long thin strips around its circumference – it took us a while to realise that it wasn’t venison.  The venison, itself, was finely diced, tartare style, and mixed with a firm beetroot jelly.  It was absolutely delicious.

 

Pyengana Cheddar with Lady Finger Banana, Spinach, Oat biscuit and Pepper

This was another interestingly assembled dish and was like a cross between a cheese cake and a cheese course.  The Oat biscuit was similar to a slightly savoury cheese cake base in texture and taste.  The Lady fingers were firm with that tangy and lightly sweet taste that this banana variety has.  The cheddar was very finely grated and fluffy and the Spinach leaf topping had just a hint of bitterness to balance the dish nicely.  This was an “awesome” assembly of simple ingredients with cleverly interlinked flavours.  What a triumph.  What a stunner.  Awesome.

 

Cheese

Cheese

 

At this point, Greg had had enough of the sommelier’s weird but not wonderful wine matches and asked that we not jump back (again) to white wine but stick with red…  Our relationship with Dave Grohl began to deteriorate…  And yeah, I bet everyone had money on me being the first to lose it with him!!

 

Apricot with Coffee and Lemongrass

Although this was a delicious dish with tasty components, I was not convinced that the three ingredients went well together.  It was like a man on holiday with both his current and former wives.  Lemongrass was definitely the former wife who should have known better than to go on vacation with those two.

 

Apricot

Apricot

 

Cherries, Blood and Chocolate

The chocolate was slightly salty, which gave it a savoury feel.  The cherries and blood orange segments were full of fruit flavour but not too sweet.  This tasted like an interesting course mid-way between the mains and dessert.  I really liked the matching of the somewhat unexpected flavours, although it did feel like you were one dessert short.

Cherries

Cherries

One discordant note was the terrifyingly awful cherry beer matched with this dessert – this was taking the savoury nature of the dish way too far!

Sauterne custard

This was a smooth and delicious custard, flavoured with Sauternes wine and served in the emptied and cleaned egg-shell.  Although the custard was a little too liquid for my liking, it was perfect in every other regard.   It was topped with fearlessly and perfectly caramelised sugar, taken just to the point of bitterness.

 

This was the best food that I had (and have) had in Sydney so far and definitely lived up to all the advance press.  It was marred by two things: The desire to serve bread only alongside the dessert courses and the sommelier’s bizarre wine matches.  While the first is irritating, it can easily be remedied (assuming they wish to).  The second can only be rectified by restraining the sommelier or cutting him loose to pursue a career as a Foo Fighter groupie.

One Response to “Making a Marque”

  1. john February 27, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Nicz, the food critiques are quite fascinating but I’m still in no danger of becoming a ‘foody’.
    I could, however, quite easily become a ‘wine-oh’.The earlier wine tours are something I could get used to.
    ‘Palate fatigue’ must be setting in.

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