Quay Restaurant

ewe's milk ice cream

Since it’s my blog, I can do what I want. So I’m going to start with – what else? – dessert. At one of the opening dinners for the visiting chefs who came from around the world for the Crave Sydney Food Festival, four Australian chefs got together and made dinner for us. Tasting menus can be hard because for one thing, they’re a lot of small dishes and it can be hard to appreciate things when blitzed by a bunch of different foods and styles of cooking. And for another, by the time you get to dessert, your taste buds can be wiped out from the multitude of things that came before. And believe it or not, some people even wave off dessert. I know, weird.

But when this dessert was set down in front of me and I dug my spoon in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but found a dreamy dish of ice cream made from ewe’s milk spread over a layer of caramelized walnuts and macarons, a bit of prune, and Pedro Ximénez sherry. It was a delightful contrast, the crunchy, nutty base with a layer of cool ice cream. And on top were scattered shards of pulled caramel, chocolate, and vanilla milk skin that you kind of broke off as you wished, to customize and change the taste of each spoonful.

sydney harbor carrots with cumin and amaranth

So I was excited to go to Quay later in the week, which overlooks the Sydney Harbor. The only problem was that I’d been eating a lot between that chef’s dinner and my lunch a few days later at Quay, and I didn’t think I could face a big meal. Since I was going at lunch, there was a choice between a three-course or four-course meal, so I figured I could take it easy. While I was scanning the menu, my server probably read that I was a bit overloaded, yet suggested, – “Actually, the meal is meant to be a four-course tasting menu, but you are welcome to only have three courses.” And since I felt I should experience the cooking of Chef Peter Gilmore as he intended, I demurred.

I did go easy on the wine, but was fascinated by the wine list, which made for good reading. There were a lot of natural and biodynamic wines on the menu, with informative descriptions. One biodynamic wine was made by Claude Courtois, a French winemaker who almost died because he drank wine with sulfides, and the wine list notes “His doctor now forbids him to drink wine other than his own.” (And yes, that is a real allergy as I have a relative who had a similar near-fatal reaction when he ate lettuce at a restaurant that washed the greens in sulfides, which prevent browning, and the server wasn’t aware of that. That practice is now banned in the US.)

Quay the egg

I am certain they don’t need to use any preservatives at Quay because the food, especially the fish and the vegetables, were sparkling fresh. But before we leave the wine list, I also noticed that there was “The Egg Project“, which was priced at $700 AUS. I asked the very friendly sommelier what that was all about and she said the wine was a Hunter Valley Semillon that was divided into three separate clay eggs. Each was stored under separate conditions: Love, Strong, and Isolation. The Love wine listened to the sound of a heartbeat during storage, Strong remained in the dark, and listened to “amplified” guitar music, and Isolation was left in sand, removed from the rest of the world.

I didn’t order them, but did start my meal with a ruby-red Aperol Sour, which I couldn’t resist since it contained all of my favorite bitters – Aperol, gentian, and rhubarb – shaken with gomme and egg white. Soon after I was brought a shot glass of smoked eggplant puree topped with a tiny dice of local tuna sashimi that sounded like it would be weird, but was exquisite. And I knew that any chef who could pull that off would create a wonderful meal.

cocktail blue makerel sashimi

To keep it light, I ordered mostly fish and started with Sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums, Tasmania wasabi, then decided to try the Organic heirloom carrots, cumin, fennel & celery seeds, Comté-infused curd, earth & sea consommé, wasabi. (Yes, I like wasabi.) I’m not really one to order anything with a big dose of cumin in it – cumin can quickly overwhelm anything if even a smidgen too much is used – but I wanted to see what the chef would do with a humble carrot, since I was so impressed with how he used eggplant to its full advantage with the amuse-bouche.

cumin carrots

And sure enough, it was terrific; perfect and pinky-sized little carrots, each roasted and dusted with not-quite fine spice powder, sitting on crunchy amaranth with teeny slivers of almonds discreetly mixed in. I had a small glass of Pennyweight gamay, which the sommelier suggested because she said it had “spicy” notes and would compliment the carrots, (which she said was her favorite dish on the menu) but I found it more herbaceous, with the aroma and aftertaste of Chartreuse, an herbal liqueur produced in the French alps.

butter-braised fish

Before I could dive into dessert, I had one more course to go; Roasted line-caught cod, spring vegetables, oyster & wakame seaweed reduction, native sea parsley. There was a wagyu beef course available off the menu which I was tempted to try, after seeing all the well-aged beef previously at Victor Churchill butcher shop. But I was glad I chose my courses lightly because I ended up getting two desserts, which happens when you’re me. I don’t mean to rub it in, but it’s a professional courtesy. Because we all know what each other has gone through so it’s kind of a reward for working in a restaurant kitchen, like “Here, you deserve to it.”

snow egg at quay snow egg at Quay

I was told by just about everyone who knew I was eating at Quay that I had to try the famous Snow Egg, which in its present incarnation, was served on a bed of jackfruit granita. The Snow egg is considered a must-have dessert if you are in Sydney and it’s a ball of soft meringue filled with custard, then just before it’s served, a caramel tuile is draped over the top then warmed until it’s melted and envelopes the round of meringue where it hardens and forms a brittle crust. So when your spoon goes into the egg, through the powdered sugar, you get a few textures when you dig deeper into it. If you want to reproduce it, the recipe and technique is detailed in Peter Gilmore’s cookbook, Quay and online.

I liked it, but was surprised because I had also asked for “just a spoonful, to taste” of the ewe’s milk ice cream that was also on the menu. I am a really big fan of fresh goat and sheep’s milk ice creams and although I can’t find either all that easily in Paris – if at all – I guess Sydney is closer to farms because they have them more readily available. So I always try to order ice creams made from them if I see them on a menu here, or anywhere. Yet they decided not to take me at my word and brought me the full-on dessert, and I was (very) happy to see that it was the exact same dessert I’d had a the chef’s dinner a few nights prior. Eating it a second time inspired me jot down in my notebook “One of the world’s best desserts”, which it truly is.

(Although one of the servers went into a rapture when she told me during other seasons, they do a version with almonds and sour cherries, which sounds like something I need to plan a trip around. As well as the Eight texture chocolate cake.)

ewe's milk ice cream with caramel

Speaking of trips, when I was finished, I was in a bit of a dessert daze, and decided that I needed to see the Sydney harbor up close since I’d been dining at a restaurant that overlooked it. So I hopped onto one of the city ferries just down the quay and took a spin around the city by boat. The city was quite an impressive sight when seen from the water, but I had a hard time concentrating on anything, except that dessert.



Quay
Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, 5 Hickson Road
Sydney, Australia
Tel: 9251 5600



Related Links

Sydney, So Far

In-Room Coffee

Bourke Street Bakery

Kylie Kwong at Billy Kwong

Quay, Circular Quay (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Quay, Sydney (Doublecooked)

Quay Restaurant, Sydney (Grab Your Fork)

40 comments

  • That looks amazing! I’ve never had sheep’s milk ice cream before. How would you say it’s different than cow’s milk ice cream? Have you ever tried to make ice cream with it? I imagine that would make for an interesting project.

    • I’ve never seen fresh ewe’s or sheep’s milk in Paris, so haven’t tried making ice cream with it. I love goat’s milk as well, but can only find sterilized versions here, which don’t taste like anything. (Although interestingly, one can find horse milk.)

  • I’ve never had the same desire to go to Australia most people seem to have, even when I spent 2.5 years in the Philippines and the flight would have been so much easier, but now, after reading these posts, I’m kicking myself. Must. Go. To. Australia. Soon!!!! Thanks for the insight.

  • I’m totally intrigued with The Egg Project. I’ve got this image of Prince Charles-like clone playing music to his wine in an eccentric fashion. (I hear that Prince Charles does indeed play music to his vegetables).

  • I watched Top Chef Australia this past summer (there is 6 episodes per week for 12 weeks) and one of the challenges was to make that snow egg. It was a lot of fun :) Very famous chefs from Australia (and elsewhere, too) participated in the Top Chef episodes and it really taught me a lot about food in Australia (wines, meat, cheese, famous chefs, sustainable restaurants, etc.). I already wanted to go visit Australia one day but that season of Top Chef Australia totally made me want to go live there!

  • Pleased to hear they’re still going strong… Had an amazing dinner there 10 years ago!!

  • This post and Quay book in my bookshelf makes me feel like start planning the trip to Australia. Thanks for sharing

  • An inspired meal! Totally envious!

  • Yeah Dave… It had to be ewe………It had to be ewe………… Sorry, couldn’t resist .. Great pics and great prose.. Thanks

  • Oh my. That all looks amazing.

  • would love to taste those desserts! I get massive migraines from sulfites in wine so have to drink mostly organic wines. I can drink a quarter of a glass once every few weeks of wine with sulfites, but it is a gamble. I usually stay away from it. Also can’t drink caffeine(including decaf), and can’t eat chocolate since it has caffeine :(

  • Quay is such an amazing restaurant. And such a distinctive style. You can always tell it’s a Peter Gilmore dish just from a photo. I had a dinner there a couple of years ago. Fabulous. So glad you got to go there too and make the most of your Sydney experience. The views are sensational aren’t they? And Sydney Harbour is one of the best in the world.

  • The snow egg is superb, but for chocoholics the 8 texture chocolate cake is magic!

  • That dessert is a WORK OF ART! And the cod dish looks phenomenal! What a wonderful trip you’ve been having. :)

  • @dr.caso
    i think u mean masterchef australia. and yes they are like super gods of food..(um no offence david but i do like australian chefs better than the chefs from ur adopted land).

  • anuja: Australian chefs aren’t as bound by tradition and their cooking is more ingredient-based than their French counterparts. I noticed many of them, from high-end chefs to smaller cafés in Sydney, that they are really keen on sourcing local and sustainable products.

    Reemski: I did want to try that but since I was all by myself, I could only handle two desserts (!)

    Margaret: Chocolate does contain some caffeine, but a pretty small amount. (See Amano and there’s a pretty interesting chart on the Hershey’s website.) Maybe someday, someone will come up with a decaf chocolate?

    Gary: I think it’s pretty interesting and there’s more pictures and text at the Egg Project website, that I read when I got home. The sommelier said it’s not a big seller ; ) but they’ve done dinners with the winemakers at Quay and paired food with the wines, which would be fun, I think.

  • All of these dishes are gorgeous!

  • are you heading to melbourne?
    you must!

    • As noted, I was invited as a guest participant in the Crave festival in Sydney, so it would have been impolite to leave and go elsewhere.

  • @anuja you are right :)

  • I love hearing you describe Sydney and its food. It’s always so refreshing to see it described in the eyes of someone new. And it makes me even more glad and grateful to call Sydney home :)

    Thanks so much for the link to my Quay post too :)

  • All the food presented here looks so extremely delicious and creative. Think it’s time to go back to Australia for a culinary week.

  • Hmmm. Ewes milk ice cream. I’ve had goat’s milk in my day, and ice cream made from it. so same taste I’m guessing? Thanks for sharing the visit to Sydney.

  • pass the spoon, I need to taste-test these beauties ;)

  • Hi,
    I love the Quay story. I would love to try the ewe’s ice cream dessert, too. Since i make goat’s milk ice cream and goat’s milk cheesecake!

    I love your blog. Thanks!
    kathleen

  • What an extraordinary and beautiful dessert. That definitely merited having the photo at the beginning and end. Gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.

  • Although I live in Sydney I’ve really enjoyed your journey around the city as it’s helped me to relive memories of my husband’s courtship. Our first date was at Quay. We lived in Surry Hills in our first home, so Bourke Street Bakery, Bill’s and Billy Kwong used to be our “local”.

    My husband proposed in Paris as he thinks it’s the most romantic city in the world. It’s ironic that through your posts that you’ve brought some of that Paris romance right into my computer and into my own back yard!

  • What is vanilla milk skin? As I was reading, I wondered if it was, literally, the skin that forms on milk when you heat it, but if so, how does it become shards? David, thanks for your great blog. I enjoy it in every iteration, whether you’re writing about restaurants and bakeries as you’re traveling (like now, in Australia) or whether you’re home in Paris drawing my attention to another French food triumph.

  • Iam the owner of Grandvewe Cheeses in Tasmania and it is our sheep’s milk that is used in this desert. Peter has been working very closely with us in developing not only our milk but he also uses some of our sheep milk curd and maybe soon to create a sheep milk butter! Look out for that on his menu :)

  • When i was in Sydney recently a few months ago i had a dinner at Quay and I agree, the Snow Egg is truly an amazing dessert. Unfortunately i felt i didint feel the same way with the rest of the meal although, yes, there were a couple of very good dishes but the Snow Egg did leave the best impression of the night. Honestly though, i felt the 8 texture chocolate cake was overwhelming, mind you if they reduced the portion of the cake to half or so i think it would have been better. Conceptually though, brilliant.

  • @Ryan
    Great! I just had a blinny topped with young goat cheese and quince jelly for breakfast and wondered if there was such a thing as sheep milk butter, sheep milk being creamier than goats milk. I’ve never seen it here in France while there are many breeds of milking sheep about. If you like I can send you some photos made at sheep show/fair in the high country here in the Loire.
    Could be a health market too if the lactose is more easily digestible than that in cows milk.

  • Looks great. I hope I will ever make it there.

  • OH MY GOD YES. QUAY! I went there for my birthday at the beginning of the year. Best restaurant experience ever! EVERY dish was amazing and the flavours were incredible. My whole family had nothing bad to say about it. We’re all dying to go back!! But our wallet’s aren’t!

  • The Egg Project, hmm. I don’t know whether to think it’s interesting or trying way too hard. For $700 I guess I’ll never know.

    Those desserts look amazing, truly inspirational. It’s not often you find extravagant dishes like these that seem so approachable. Or perhaps it’s just the way you write about them, which you do so very well. :)

  • What a trip you’re having. Thank goodness for your photos and your gorgeous descriptions of the food you’ve been enjoying. Otherwise, I’d be totally jealous for missing out. xoxoxo Can’t wait to read more!

  • Amanda: There are a number of wine-aficionados that will spend that (or lots more) on a bottle of wine. I think it’s kind of interesting because a lot of biodynamic wine is held in high regard in the wine community. (But not all.) Still, people have different price levels when it comes to enjoying wine – some will spend €13/bottle, and some will spend €300. That said, it would be interesting to taste these wines.

    (Tip: You can buy them direct from the producer via their website, which is linked in the post. Like all wine sales in restaurants, the price is less when purchased outside of a restaurant wine list.)

    Jennifer: I have seen sheep’s milk butter but you have to go to natural food stores to find it.

    Brooke: Sounds like you folks had fun on your trip as well : )

    Judy: I’m not sure but I think it may be the skin that forms on warm milk, then pulled off and left to dry. There may be a recipe in Peter Gilmore’s cookbook, Quay, but I’m not sure.

    Ryan: Thanks for working so hard to produce that lovely milk and to get it to markets and restaurants, who transform it into wonderful desserts like this!

  • Love your blog chef! I have the same as you. I like to start and finish with dessert. Today for thanksgiving we actually did it, start with a bonbon and finish with pumpkin pie, can’t go wrong with that on thanksgiving. I just started blogging this year about my experiences in pastry school.

    Rene

  • I started following your blog after reading your wonderful book The Sweet Life in Paris, because you filled my need to reminisce about the three years we spent in Paris when my babies were little. (Youngest daughter was actually born there.) And now you have hit the sweet spot again with your trip to Sydney, our first married home. IT IS YOUR BLOG and you can do what you want because it suits me just fine. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks a lot for this post. On January we’ll visit Australia and I was wondering where to find a list of good restaurants in Sydney.
    Again, good job!

  • Looks like an amazing trip.